NFC Championship "LIVE" Game Thread

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's Note: I decided to use this article from the other day as the Game Thread. Clever, eh?

The conference title games are right around the corner. New England will visit Denver, but the game where I think you'll see the pending Super Bowl Champion will take place in Seattle, when the Seahawks face off against the San Francisco 49ers...

The NFC West was the most dominant division in the NFL for 2013, and looks to be again in 2014. The NFC Championship will be an all "West" show, and it's going to be a brutal game. There's no love lost between the 49ers and Seahawks. But if you look at the division, it appears to be a solid fur-ball of rivalries, once limited to the storied series between St. Louis and San Francisco which dates back to 1950. All four teams play each other with blood in their eyes, and their fans swarm when an NFC West division battle looms.

The game between Seattle and San Francisco will be epic, and LOUD! Played in the echo-chamber Seattle calls their home field, their "12th man" will be rocking the Juan De Fuca plate, and bouncing Richter scales. But will it be enough for the Seahawks to gain an edge over the 49ers? I don't think so...

One thing about loud stadiums: for occasional visitors, it's pure hell. But NFC West teams visit each other every year, so the idea crowd noise will tip the scales Seattle's way doesn't really apply. While I don't doubt the 49ers players' ears will be ringing for a few days after the game, it's not going to be a deciding factor for the NFC Championship. So what will be?

Russell Wilson needs to keep moving...

When Wilson gets boxed into the protection pocket, his success rate plummets. The 49ers will be crashing both edges, and their linebacker corp is the best in the NFL. Play action won't save Wilson, so his ability to move will be determined by how he can move the pocket side to side. Look for Seattle's game plan to focus on moving to Aldon Smith's right. Play action straight at Justin Smith, the aging 49ers defensive tackle, will buy the half-second Wilson will need to slide out and back. The danger here, is it will pit the 6'4" Aldon Smith against the vertically challenged Russell Wilson (5'11"). Yes, height could be a key factor in this game, so whip out the short jokes and have them ready.

Peaking at the right time?

Seattle has played solid football all year. Relying on their defense to minimized scoring damage, the Seahawk offense really hasn't had to put up many points to win. The same can be said of the 49ers' defense to a large degree. Both teams haven't been what anyone would call offensive juggernauts in 2013. The thing I've noticed though, is how the 49ers offense has changed in character since the return of wide receiver Michael Crabtree. With both teams having solid front sevens, the run game battle between the 49ers' Frank Gore and the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch is going to be closely held. The best defensive secondary in the NFL award goes to Seattle, but the 49ers aren't all that far behind. So it may come down to which team's receiver corp can seize the day. Here is where one of the most unheralded NFL players in recent memory could tip the scale. Anquan Boldin just seems to appear out of nowhere in a big game, and change the tide. The huge, fast secondary of Seattle will be tasked to defeat Boldin's big game mo-jo.

The biggest key I see in this game though, is the upward swing of the 49ers in the last half of the 2013 season. Like a slow moving mudslide, they seem to be gathering momentum at the perfect time. If this game stays close - and it will - look for the 49ers to ride the stadium's liquefaction all the way to the Super Bowl. If the 49ers lead the game going into the 4th quarter, stadium noise will drop, the ground will stop shaking, and the Seahawks will be in trouble.

There's a great moon rising in the NFC West...

While the two top NFC West teams battle it out of the big stage this Sunday, the St. Louis and Arizona Cardinals will be smoldering. Recent kudos for the Rams Robert Quinn - as he marches toward a possible Defensive Player of the Year Award - may slake fans thirsts in St. Louis for a while, but not for very long. Arizona can be beyond proud of their 2013 season, but you just know feisty Bruce Arians is kicking over the water-cooler every day until the 2014 season starts.

Lost on all but true NFC West fans, is just how close all four division teams really are right now. A tweak here and there, and this division will have M.A.D. (mutually assured destruction) down pat. St. Louis has two high first round picks in the coming 2014 NFL Draft, and Arizona is only an offensive lineman or two away from being down right scary. NFC North teams must have groaned when they saw the opposing team lists come out last month. They'll be visiting the NFC West four times each, and that's got to send chills down anyone's spine. How do you look forward to playing against four defenses that make M.M.A. cage matches look like tea parties? Prediction: The winner of the NFC North goes to the 2014/15 playoffs with an 8-8 record...

Draft pick toys...

The Rams' general manager Les Snead must be like a kid in a toy store. With the #2 and #13 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, the draft hype is in full swing. Fans have their favorite college players, and team needs lists at the ready. but you have to wonder what Snead and Jeff Fisher are thinking right about now? They'll take time off of course, but there's simply no way this NFL Draft isn't oozing into their "me time".

I, of course, know EXACTLY who the Rams should pick. Being all-knowing, though incapable of proving it with cleverly injections of Rock n' Roll lyrics, my Darwinian blend of Einsteinian intellect and Sy Robertson-esk wisdom can't be denied. You've seen my Mock Draft, which had the Rams trading picks, and taking Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA) and Gabe Jackson (OG, MSU). Now that the hate e-mails have dropped to a trickle - most of which came from DC and ramdude, who cleverly disguised his name as "damrude" - I have tweaked my thinking ever so much...

My picks without a trade in the first round? How about Sammy Watkins at #2, and C.J. Mosley at #13? Yes, I know Les Snead has said the Rams don't need another wide receiver. But he was kidding... No, REALLY! Mosley offers a solid sideline to sideline linebacker, who could easily upgrade the back up position for James Laurinaitis at inside linebacker if the need arises, while platooning with Jo Lon Dunbar at outside linebacker.  SEE! I have the whole "smart thing" down pat!

Enjoy the game that really counts today - the battle of NFC West teams. Denver and New England are a "been there, done that" under-card to what will be a battle in the Pacific Northwest. My score prediction: 49ers 31 - Seahawks 24

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