Tuesday, March 11, 2014

2014 New York Yankees: The End of an Era

Being a New York Yankees fan isn’t easy.
And now that every Kansas City Royals fan has stopped reading this post, let me explain why.

I get it. You’re laughing at me. How can a fan of a team with 27 World Series trophies make such a ludicrous assertion?

But you see, winning breeds jealously and hate.

This explains why, generally, if you don’t like the Yankees, you hate the Yankees. There is no middle ground. And why? Money. The Yankees have a lot of it—and that makes many fans of other teams upset.

I was seven years old the first time I heard the question.

“A Yankees fan? What the hell do you like them for?” asked a hardened, decrepit Phillies fan.

The answer was easy.

“Because they win,” I retorted.

But then came the response that would soon become all too familiar. 

“But the Yankees buy all their championships!”

And at that moment, I discovered the quintessential comeback to that claim:

“But the Yankees have Derek Jeter.”

15 years later, those words are still my saving grace as a Yankees fan. Derek Jeter has made it easy. But after this season, I’m not sure what my comeback will be...

The captain will be no more. The last of my childhood Yankees will be gone. Never again will we see #2 roaming the area between second and third base. No more beautiful inside-out swings. No more patented jump throws. No more spine-chilling memories from Mr. November.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Lesson in Premature Celebration: How the Worst Loss in Fantasy Football History Unfolded

Premature celebration happens to the best of us. We’ve all been there. Your team blows a five run ninth inning lead, the dreaded yellow flags fly onto the field, or some crazy shit like this happens (sorry Spurs fans), and then all that euphoria previously enjoyed in those magical seconds in which your brain has convinced you that something glorious has happened, is taken away with a soul-crushing reversal of fortune.

Yes, premature celebration has devastating consequences. Worst of all, no known cure for premature celebration exists. And in my experience as a sports fan, I’ve realized that I’m highly predisposed to this condition (the jury is still out on if genetics is a factor). I’ve suffered many episodes of premature celebration in my lifetime, but none more painful and embarrassing than this past Sunday, Week 17 in the NFL.

This tragic tale involves fantasy football, and if you’re looking for a reason to quit this evil enterprise, then you should keep reading. If you’ve won your league championship this season (or ever for that matter) and think you’re better than the rest of us, you’re not. It could have happened to you.

Because for ten triumphant, breathtaking seconds at the end of the Eagles-Cowboys Sunday night season finale I was one of you. I was a fantasy football champion. I let it wash over me. As I was on the verge of passing out, I felt a strange sensation with my tongue. I could literally taste victory, and it was fucking delicious. I couldn’t believe it. It was a fantasy miracle. I had just seemingly won by half a point when the fantasy football Gods smited me in the form of Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.

A great man once said, “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” Truer words have never been uttered. Here’s the saga of the worst loss in fantasy football history:

Episode I:

The Week Before
My fantasy league held a two-week scoring period. So after my team pulled out a huge win in Week 15, I snuck into the championship. I put all my stock on a high scoring Monday night affair between the Bears and Eagles in Week 16 with Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, and Zach Ertz. And it was a high scoring affair (on the Eagles end at least), just not by any of the dudes I just mentioned. My opponent had Foles and McCoy. Heading into the game our scores were reasonably close, with the projection slightly in my favor. And what happens? Naturally Foles and McCoy light up the fantasy scoreboard to the tune of 48 points. Meanwhile Cutler, Forte, and the rest of the Bears team for matter, looked like they forgot how to play football. It’s almost as if the Bears forgot you had to do a little more than just show up to the game. The Eagles put up 55 points and neither Jackson or Ertz accounted for any of them. So, I headed into the last week of my fantasy season trailing 73-112.5 (our league had a 0.5 PPR scoring system).

Needless to say, my team completely choked when it mattered most. An almost 40-point deficit? Fuck it. I was pretty much eliminated already. Sure, it stung, but I was the underdog in this matchup anyway. I had no chance. There was no hope. It was beautiful.

Hope Meter (0-10): 0

The Injury Report
In Week 16, my number one overall pick Adrian Peterson finally shut it down for the season. I was going to have a big gap to fill for the upcoming week. I decided to take Zac Stacy (my best waiver pickup of the season and a consistent producer all year) out of my flex and plug him into the hole left by AP. Sure, Stacy was facing the 5th ranked defense against the run in the Seattle Seahawks, but he rushed for 134 against the very same Seahawks in Week 8. And the waiver wire for running backs was a complete scrub fest by this point in the season, so I figured Stacy was my only option.

The Waiver Wire
I had lost my all-star tight end Rob Gronkowski to a torn ACL a couple weeks earlier. And ever since, my tight end situation had been a complete nightmare. This week, I picked up some dude I never heard of on the Houston Texans (Ryan Griffin) partly because he had the highest projection of available tight ends on the wire and partly because he may or may not be related to Peter Griffin (RIP Brian the Dog). I took a quick peak at running backs for the hell of it. Nothing.

I chose not to start my best receiver, DeSean Jackson, with the theory that the only way to overcome a 40-point deficit is by Nick Foles having an awful game. And if he has an awful game, Desean Jackson would have an awful game. So, I decided to start Jordy Nelson instead after I found out Aaron Rodgers was finally going to return to the Packers. Julian Edeleman on the Patriots was my WR2 and in a desperation move, I decided to move the highly unreliable Marques Colston into my flex.

By Saturday night, I had finally come to peace with the lineup in front of me (sadly it was not rosterbating material) and decided that I wouldn’t even look at it again until the games started. Quick tip: Don’t ever do what I just said I did in that last sentence. Never come to peace, always tinker. Lineups can always be better. Drive your self crazy contemplating which kicker your going to start until 1:04 pm on Sunday. Because if you don’t, it might just haunt you for the rest of your life. (Maybe I’m exaggerating?)

Hope Meter: 3 (The Foles-Jackson Theory got me a little excited.)

Episode II:

Game Day
I woke up early so I could catch the 1pm games. It wasn’t easy, but I somehow rolled out of bed at 12:45. Just enough time to grab a fat bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and wander up to my resting place for the rest of the day: the couch in front of the TV. I put 16 weeks of blood, sweat, and tears into meticulously setting my lineup, and judgment day was finally here: the last Sunday of fantasy football. And I needed a miracle.

The Early Games
In the 1pm games, I had Andrew Luck as my QB, Ryan Griffin as my TE, the Panthers D/ST, and fantasy-stud kicker Justin Tucker. Luck had an average game with 15 fantasy points. The Griffin dude apparently got me 5.5 points. I don’t know how, because there was no way I was watching the worst team in the league attempt to play football. The second-ranked Panthers defense came up huge as usual with a 17-point showing, and Tucker rebounded from the goose egg he put up the week before with a respectable 9-point performance. Four of my players put up a combined 46.5 points, while my opponent had three players (Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon, and Coby Fleener) put up a combined 21 points. It was a decent start, but I still needed that fantasy miracle.

Hope Meter: 5

The Late Games
My fantasy miracle came in a combination form of Jordy Nelson and Matt Forte. Nelson reaped the benefits of a returning Rodgers and rewarded fantasy owners smart enough to start them (remember the Foles-Jackson theory?) with 21 points. His highest fantasy total in nine weeks! In the same game, Matt Forte decides to have his highest fantasy output of the season scoring three touchdowns and an unworldly 35 fantasy points. Meanwhile, Edelman comes up clutch with 12.5 points and Colston puts up enough points (9) for me not to hate myself for starting him. I remember doing something like this. Until, I checked to see how Zac Stacy did.

About Zac Stacy...
It turned out that this week, Stacy was my lineup’s Anna Kournikova: looked great, didn’t play well. I mean this guy had been an absolute horse for me since my stroke-of-genius waiver wire addition in Week 7. He had averaged 17.5 fantasy points for me the past two weeks. There was no way I wasn’t sticking with him. I mean who on the waiver wire could do better anyway? 

Knile Davis could. 

Wait, who the fuck is Knile Davis? 

Well, it turns out the Chiefs decided early Sunday morning (the one time I didn’t bother doing a last minute lineup check) that the man who would be replacing fantasy MVP RB Jamaal Charles that day would be none other than never-heard-of-him-in-my-life Knile Davis. And as it turns out, it doesn’t matter who the Chiefs throw out there at running back, their dude is going to put up fantasy points. Knile Davis went off for 21 points. And my horse Zac Stacy? Five miserable, traumatizing points. Really man, really?

Zac Stacy aside, I was still miraculously in this thing. I went into the Eagles-Cowboys season finale with a 43 and a half point lead. My team scored 129 points for the week to push my two-week total to 202. My thinking was as long as Nick Foles throws for three interceptions (he had one all season) and DeMarco Murray tears his ACL (ideally in the first quarter), then Shady McCoy could put up a Shady-like game and I could still squeak out a win. But the odds of all that happening most likely weren’t in my favor, so I tempered my expectations. I wasn’t going to win, but it might be close.

Hope Meter: 7 (approaching the danger zone)

Episode III:

Philadelphia @ Dallas
I could bore you with the details of me nervously sitting on the edge of my couch rooting for fantasy favorable outcomes for the first 3 ½ quarters, but I won’t. Lets just skip straight to the insane shit. Foles had underperformed, Murray had fumbled, and McCoy was having an average game. The Cowboys had the ball with 1:49 left in what certainly looked like would be the final drive of the game. As my heart was threatening to explode inside my chest, I held onto the slimmest of leads: a half point. As long as Murray didn’t catch a ball on this drive, I would win. The drive was short lived, however, as Kyle Orton did his best Tony Romo impression and threw an interception on the very first play from scrimmage. I held my breath. My hope meter was approaching eleven. There was 1:43 remaining and the Cowboys only had one timeout remaining. For all intensive purposes, this thing was fuckin’ over. I collapsed on the ground and that’s when the whole taste-of-victory-on-my-tongue thing went down. Was I really about to become a fantasy champion?

All the Eagles had to do was take a few knees and this puppy was over. But then, when the cameras finally switched from a dejected Jerry Jones in his owners box back to the seemingly irrelevant action on the field, the Eagles weren’t lined up in kneel formation. Instead, there was LeSean McCoy (who needed only 10 more yards for one more point) lined up in the backfield. Holy fuck, is Chip Kelly out of his damn mind? Doesn’t he know that there are fantasy championships at stake here?! There’s no way LeSean McCoy is getting 10 yards, even if I have to teleport to Dallas to tackle him myself. 

What happened next is the reason why hope is dangerous and premature celebration is a serious affliction. 

Two handoffs, both to McCoy, 11 total yards, and one crucial fantasy point. Foles finally took a knee and the game was over. 

So was my fantasy season.

The final score? Me: 202, Fantasy Champion (not me): 202.5
Yes, it really happened. Maybe it was karma for my team's name?

This is why you shouldn’t play fantasy football. It takes up hours of your time, depletes you of an unreasonable amount of physical and mental health, and ruins great games like Eagles-Cowboys for the NFC East title.

Oh, and did I mention I’m an Eagles fan?

*Freak Stat Correction Update

The day after I posted this, I checked my ESPN.com league box score in one last desperate hope that there had been a stat correction (I had checked every day since Monday—it was Friday now). There were only two players that had stat corrections for Week 17.

One of them was Demarco Murray. 

The stat correction? A loss of three yards rushing to bring his game total from 51 yards to 48. In our league, that meant a one point deduction.

I stared at my computer screen in disbelief. I had done it. I had won, and then I had lost, and now I had won again? I let out a roar that went down a little something like this

You really can't make this shit up. The final final score? 

Fantasy Champion (me): 202, Other guy: 201.5

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Is It 2017 Yet? End of A-Rod's Contract Can't Come Soon Enough

I am sick and tired of the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. And the little respect I once had for him has disappeared faster than you can say “liar.”

The man hasn’t played in a game all season long. And yet here we are on June 5, and he is still managing to make himself the center of attention.

In case you haven’t heard, ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported on June 4 that Major League Baseball is seeking to suspend roughly 20 players connected to Tony Bosch and the Miami-area clinic, Biogenesis of America, now that Bosch has agreed to open his mouth about this massive performance-enhancing drug scandal.

And wouldn’t you know it? The man sitting at the top of the suspension list with a bulls-eye the size of New York on his back is none other than…

Yep, you guessed it: Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez.

AKA “A-Rod”, AKA “A-Fraud”, AKA “A-Roid”, AKA “the most-overpaid player in the history of sports.”

And now, it appears, he is about to become the most-substantial scoundrel in the history of sports.

If this was just one man’s career at stake, I could swallow it. But it’s more than that. It is the entire institution of baseball that could be affected, and that makes me gag.

If all these accusations prove to be true and these suspensions are handed down, it will cast a dark shadow over the game of baseball. As if the steroid cloud hanging over this league wasn’t dark enough already.

Fool us once A-Rod, shame on you. Fool us twice, and you should be banned from baseball.

Okay, that’s definitely not how the saying goes, but you get the point.

And if you think I’m overreacting, consider this: the severity of A-Rod’s actions threatens the integrity of out national pastime like never before.

"You know what I worry about? I worry about baseball being affected, as a game, the whole thing, what [baseball’s] been through in the last 15 years," Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi said.

And why, exactly, is Girardi so worried?

Because this is all occurring during what has been assumed to be “the clean era” of baseball.

Here we are ten years after MLB implemented its testing policy of performance enhancing drugs, and baseball fans are slowly coming to the sobering realization that this game will never be entirely “clean.”

There will always be bad apples, like Alex Rodriguez, that, for whatever selfish reasons, believe that they are above moral standards, and that they won’t be caught.

Well, guess what? It seems MLB caught you A-Rod. And personally, I’m glad it happened, because now we, as Yankee fans, can finally have some closure to this dark chapter in Yankee history.

No, there is no language in A-Rod’s contract that could void the $275 million mistake that the Yankees signed him to in 2007. And no, sadly, it's not quite 2017 yet.

But Yankee fans should rejoice in knowing that there is a strong likelihood that they won’t have to see A-Rod in pinstripes for the remainder of 2013.

In fact, Alex Rodriguez, when you return from the disabled list, do us all a favor and don’t come back.

We don’t want you. We don’t like you. The Yankees are better off without you. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Well, Kim Mulkey...This Is Embarassing.

Brittney Griner, the best women's basketball player to ever lace them up, recently stated that she was gay. 

News, sure, but fairly unrelated to her abilities as a basketball player. But what came out after her coming out, now that was news.

Brittney Griner said that Kim Mulkey, her head coach at Baylor, told players not to be open publicly about their sexuality because it would hurt recruiting and look bad for the program.

"It was a recruiting thing," Griner said during an interview with ESPN The Magazine and espnW. "The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn't let their kids come play for Baylor."

Wait...are you fucking kidding me? How did Griner put up with this? 

I mean, how did she smile and stand next her in 2012 after an undefeated 40-0 season and a national championship? How can Kim Mulkey and Baylor University put such restrictions on any player, let alone the baddest chick to ever ball?

I don't care if Baylor is a Baptist institution. And I especially don't care about Mulkey's precious program's recruiting or image.

Damn your image Kim Mulkey. It's tarnished now anyway. You should be fired. This may not quite be blasphemy, but it's certainly ignominy.

I hope the next "greatest to ever take the court", who so happens to be gay, decides to take her talents elsewhere. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Three Reasons Why the 2013 New York Yankees Will (Still) Make the Playoffs

Baseball is back. Yes, the 2013 MLB season is upon us, and with a clean slate at hand and a goose egg in the loss column, all 30 ball clubs can still dream of playoff glory: even the New York Yankees.
Yes, you read that correctly. For what may be the first time since Derek Jeter’s rookie season, the Yankees are not the heavy, or even moderate, favorite in the American League East heading into the 2013 season.
After a quiet off-season, a huge loss of power production via free agency, and a spring training riddled with more A-Rod controversy and major injuries (i.e. Granderson and Teixeira), there are plenty of reasons for the naysayers and skeptics to attack the Evil Empire with predictions of a dark October at Yankee Stadium.
Well, rest easy Yankees fans.
Here are three reasons why your 2013 New York Yankees will weather the storm and nevertheless do what they always do: make the playoffs.

1.  The Pitching:
With the additions of reigning 2012 N.L. Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, and fireballer in his prime Josh Johnson, the early favorites, the Toronto Blue Jays, figure to have quite the 1-2 punch atop their rotation. But even with these two stud acquisitions, the Yankees 2013 rotation will still be better.
With their projected 2013 rotation, Blue Jays’ starters averaged a 3.80 team ERA in 2012. But the Yanks hurlers were even stingier, pitching to the tune of an impressive 3.43. And if they can stay healthy (always a big if), I don’t see this staff regressing much in 2013. In fact, there may even be room for improvement.
They are led, as always, by their workhorse C.C. Sabathia. Yes, he did have off-season elbow surgery, but he is apparently fixed and good to go for the season. If healthy, Sabathia should, without a doubt, have a C.C.-like season. Something along the lines of 20 wins and a 3.00 ERA is to be expected.
The journeyman Hiroki Kuroda should be a solid number two behind Sabathia, despite his being 38 years old.
Andy Pettitte, 40 years young, looked vintage last season, both before and after his broken ankle. He might regress a bit, though not much, and should be a reliable No. 3.
After Pettitte, is where the rotation gets a bit sketchy, yet still maintains a huge upside. Phil Hughes, whose injury is hopefully nothing more than a missed start, is in a contract year and due for a breakout season.
Perhaps the most promising thing about this 2013 Yankees rotation is their depth. Between Ivan Nova and David Phelps vying for the final spot in the rotation, the Yankees really have not five, but six, effective big league starters.
So even if one of these guys goes down, and they always do, the Yanks can rest assured because of their great starting depth.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to have the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, closing ball games for you. Rivera may be coming off ACL surgery at age 43, but in his swan song season I expect nothing but classic Mo in 2013.
If pitching really does win championships, the 2013 Yankees should at least get a shot to play for one.
2. Homegrown Talent
Once upon a time, a Yankee cynic would love to point out the fact that, “The Yankees are only good because they buy all their players. They have no homegrown talent.”
Well, times have changed, and the 2013 Yankees’ success will rely heavily upon their homegrown talent. Five, possibly even six, Yankee farm-system products could be in the opening day lineup against the Red Sox on April 1st.
Sure, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Brett Gardner will shoulder most of the offensive load.
But Francisco Cervelli, Juan Rivera (yes, the same Juan Rivera who came up with the Yanks in 2002), and even possibly spring surprise Melky Mesa, could all bring something to the table to help this seemingly anemic offense produce enough to win ball games.
The homegrown talent does not stop, however, with the position players.
Seven out of the twelve pitchers projected to make the club, came up through the Yanks farm system.
Pettitte, Hughes, Nova, and Phelps will pace the all-important starting staff, while David Robertson and Rivera should be their usual lethal setup man/closer combo.
The real homegrown x-factor this year will be Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain is coming off Tommy John and ankle surgery, and really failed to impress at the end of last season.
If Chamberlain can somehow return to the dominant form he showed as a rookie in 2007 (1 ER in 24 IP), the Yankee bullpen will surely be solidified and be one of their strongest assets in 2013.
3. Low Expectations
After an offseason where they let 94 home runs walk via free agency and a spring training where they lost another 67 bombs to injury, the Yankees face a major power outage in 2013.
Throw in the 18 homers the corpse of Alex Rodriguez hit, and the Yankees need to replace 179 of the league leading 245 home runs they hit last year.
The only problem is, the Yankees can’t even come close to replacing this kind of power production.
In fact, they didn’t even try to.
With Hal Steinbrenner’s mandate to somehow trim down the payroll to $189 million by 2014, the Yankees didn’t have the economic firepower to reload via free agency like they normally do.
With all this adversity, the Yankees (understandably) come into 2013 as a trendy pick by the experts to miss the playoffs. Heck, even Vegas has the over/under on the Yanks season at 86.5 wins.
The last time the Yankees made the playoffs with 87 wins? 2000. I do believe they also won a world championship that season, but let’s not get carried away.
The point being, these 2013 Yankees don’t have to play with the usual weight of being the heavy favorites. This “Nobody Believes in Us” factor should not be taken lightly. These low expectations are just fuel to the Yanks fire.
Yes, the 2013 New York Yankees have something to prove. But come October in the Bronx, expect the lights to be on. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Live Running Diary of 2013 NFC Championship Game

2013 NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers (-4.5) @ Atlanta Falcons

First things first. I like the Falcons to cover the spread in this one, but not quite be able to pull out the W.

Just about everyone and your grandmother is picking the Niners in this game. 

For christ sakes, their giving 4.5 points and they are the ROAD team. Vegas supposedly gives 3 points just for home field advantage, meaning if this game was being played in San Francisco the Falcons would be 10.5 point dogs. 

Lets get to it. 

Falcons receive. Opening drive:

Fox flashes Matty Ice's stats and Joe Buck immediately mentions how this guy has a true pocket presence as a QB. Ryan proceeds to throw a 46 yard deep bomb for a TD to Julio Jones making Buck look like a genius (for once). Matty Ice looks damn good. Look out Niners.

Falcons 7, Niners 0

Niners get ball at their own 20:

Fox shows a close-up of Kaepernick's face. Kid looks nervous.

Maybe thats just his "I'm about to run for 200 more yards" face (but I doubt it). Quick three and out for Kaepernick and the Niners. Kaepernick had absolutely no swag on that drive.

But hey, he threw a pick six on his first drive against the Packers. Remember that? Yeah, I barely did either. Maybe that "I'm about to shit my pants" look will be long forgotten as well. We shall see...

Falcons second drive:

Julio Jones is going to control this game (100 yards receiving already). Hell of a catch to bring the Falcons into field goal range. Falcons offense is clicking right now.

Whoops spoke too soon. Falcons settle for a field goal. Huge stop for the Niners defense after looking like a mess for most of the game. Let's see if Kaepernick can get something started.

Falcons 10, Niners 0

Niners second drive (almost prematurely ended by a LaMichael James fumble):

Wow that fumble would have been devastating. Niners are lucky he was ruled down. James cannot be pulling shit like that at a time like this.

Kaepernick throws first pass right at Falcons linebacker. Terrible pass. 

Finally a handoff to Gore. He is a beast. He also single handedly ended my fantasy football season. So we are not talking about Gore anymore. 

Kaepernick gets sacked. He is finally starting to look like Colin Kaepernick, first year starting quarterback not Colin Kaepernick, video game character. 

This game has been all Falcons. I knew I should have taken the points with the Falcons in this game. If only they hadn't made me lose all my faith (and cash) in them last week against the Seahawks.

Falcons third drive:

Another deep pass to Julio Jones (he cannot be stopped). Falcons knocking on the touchdown door once again. 

However, let's not get all that worked up about the score of this one quite yet. The Falcons, after all, were up 20-0 to start last week (that one didn't exactly turn out to be a laugher).

Oh. My. God. 
Incredible throw and catch by Ryan and Jones. How the hell did Julio catch that ball and keep both feet in? 

This guy is an animal. My fantasy team would have been screwed without him this year. 

I don't know, the Falcons may just have a statement game in them yet. This one might just be over already. 

It is up to you and your tattoos, Kaepernick.

Falcons 17, Niners 0

Niners third drive:

Kaepernick really needs to get something going. Atleast Frank Gore is doing something. (Oh wait, I said I wasn't going to talk about him anymore? Okay, well the "San Francisco RB" is single-handedly making sure this game does not get out of hand). 

Finally a calm completion by Kaepernick. He may be settling down just yet. And another. Complete to Crabtree. That's two in a row. Make it three in a row, another completion to Crabtree. Niners in Falcons territory for the first time all day.

Big 3rd down and 2. Delay of game (cannot win a game like this with penalties like that). 

Now 3rd and 7. Still think Kaepernick is going to run for it. Nope, HUGE completion to Vernon Davis all the way down to the 15.

Almost a TD to Crabtree (out of bounds). Kaepernick's swag looks healthy again. 

LaMichael James (of previously criticized almost fumble) explodes into the end zone for a 15 yd TD run. That's more like it.

If the Niners are going to have three running threats for this game, then the Falcons defense is in some serious trouble. 

We got a ball game again.

Falcons 17, Niners 7

Falcons fourth drive:

Falcons offense still looking deadly. Big 3rd down and 4 on their own 40. Pass attempt too weak to Rodgers. Gigantic first stop for the Niners much revered defense. 

If they can keep this up, then the Niners offense will be able to get the job done. 

Falcons 17, Niners 7

Niners fourth drive (after a nearly blocked punt):

First play of the drive and Kaepernick finds Davis for a huge gain. 

BUT THERES A FLAG!!! (isn't there always?) 

Offensive holding. Nix that huge gainer to Davis. 15 yard penalty. Can you say de ja vu? 

Huge 2nd and long hookup to Davis (again). Looks like Davis is going to be a favorite of Kaepernick in this one.

Kaepernick finally takes off. God damn he's quick. Casual 23 yard gain. 

DUMBASS PENATLY. Personal foul of some line monster throwing down an inferior line monster. 15 yard penalty on Atlanta. 

And wouldn't you know it. 25 yard catch and throw from Kaepernick to Davis. Davis knocked out at the 4. Kaepernick looks like he is in complete control. Hard seeing the laughable Falcon D coming up with a big goal line stop here. Momentum fully in San Fran's court. 

Well I am sensing a trend here...Kaepernick finds Davis for a 4 yard TD pass (naturally). 

What was a 17 point lead for Atlanta is now 3. This one is looking like the Seattle game for the Falcons, except that the Niners are closing the lead faster. 

All terrible signs for Atlanta (starting to feel a little better about not betting on the Falcons).

Falcons 17, Niners 14

Falcons 5th drive:

1:55 remaining. Can Matty Ice somehow lead a 4th scoring drive and regain some of Atlanta's slipping momentum?

A field goal here would be big, a touchdown, however, would be devastating for the Niners. I think a field goal is all you can expect here. 

Matty Ice quickly gets ball into Niners territory to the 31. Man this guy knows how to get down the field quickly.

Huge completion to (yup, you guess it) Julio Jones all the way down to the 16. Matt Ryan may just pull out this touchdown dagger. 

Niners D is really good, though. Still think that field goal is happening. 

I stand corrected (thanks to Tony Gonzalez). Ryan finds the all-world tight end for a touchdown. 

Wow, how is Gonzo still doing this?? Dagger touchdown. Two score game again. 

Pressure back on Kaepernick to somehow turn 19 seconds into points (I would say impossible, but this is Kaepernick. After last week anything goes).

Falcons 24, Niners 14

Niners 5th drive:

Niners don't play for points (a little shocking, as I thought they would take atleast one shot downfield with that monster arm of Kaepernick). 

Hand off to James. End of the half. 

Falcons ability to move the ball this easy has got to be surprising to everyone who liked the Niners and their defense. 

But its a ball game, and it's been a good one so far. 

Falcons need to be feeling good about this one. Uphill battle for Kaepernick and the Niners in the second half, but they have proven they are more than capable of scoring points (and fast). 

I see the Niners pulling ahead late in the fourth quarter. I like this one coming down to another Matt Bryant field goal, but we shall see. 

The Falcons should win this game (does not mean they are going to).

I still like Kaepernick to go off in the second half and the Niners to take this one. 

Half Time (Falcons 24, Niners 14)

POST-GAME UPDATE: Quick 2nd Half Recap

Colin Kaepernick comes out with a statement opening drive in the 2nd half and immediately regains all stolen momentum from late 1st half TD by Matt Ryan.

Either Matt Ryan's twin brother came out for the second half or Matt Ryan completely forgot how to play quarterback. 

A potentially huge interception by Ryan, if not for the missed field goal of Akers (man this guy has had an awful year, and he may just cost these Niners a championship). 

Another excellently orchestrated (too soon to say Brady-like?) drive by first year starter Kaepernick and another "San Francisco RB" touchdown later, the Niners had a 28-24 lead and had regained the lead earlier in the 4th quarter than I thought they would (8:23 remaining). 

After a drive that had taken way too long, Matt Ryan and the Falcons were trapped in 4th down territory, without the luxury of taking the field goal. 

In an ill advised throw to Roddy White across the middle (with a questionable no call for pass interference), Matt Ryan failed to complete the 4th and 4 and turned the ball over on the Niners 10 yard line, essentially sealing the Falcons fate. 

The Niners run out the clock and into Super Bowl XLVII as 2013 NFC Champions.

The Final

San Francisco 49ers 28, Atlanta Falcons 24

(And wouldn't you know it...the Falcons covered that 4.5 point spread. Knew I should have taken Atlanta and all those points). 

Why don't I bet more? Oh yeah, never mind.

Let's hope the Patriots handle their business in the AFC Championship game and help set up a whopper of a story line for the Super Bowl: Tom Brady 2013 vs. Tom Brady 2001 (a.k.a Colin Kaepernick). 

I wonder how Alex Smith is feeling right about now?