The AFC is here.
I don't recall the last time I picked the 49ers to go to the Super Bowl; it may have been 1994.
But here we are.
As with the AFC, I'm referencing Bryan Burke/Football Outsiders/Pro-Football Reference when making this analysis.
Vikes at Packers
Offense: Burke Packers 8/Vikes 26
FO: Packers 3/Vikes 15
PFR: Pack 4.9/Vikes 1.6
Defense: Burke Pack 9/Vikes 13
FO: Pack 8/Vikes 21
PFR: Pack 2.4/Vikes 1.8
The Packers are better on both sides of the ball under each of the three analytic systems and solidly so; they're favored by 7.5, that's a no play for me, I'd favor the Pack by 7. The Vikes are the only team in the NFC that it would be a real surprise if they made the Super Bowl.
Seahawks at Redskins
Offense: Burke Seahawks 4/Redskins 5
FO: Seahawks 4/Redskins 6
PFR: Redskins 4.6/Seahawks 4.5
Defense: Burke Seahawks 6/Redskins 24
FO: Seahawks 4/Redskins 17
PFR: Seahawks 7.7/Redskins 1.2
It's a wash offensively, but Seattle's substantial defensive advantage outweighs the home field advantage the Skins have; Seattle's favored by 3, I like them by a point, I'm saying no play to all 4 games this weekend, but if you had to, taking Washington probably provides the most daylight.
So, under that scenario:
Seahawks at Atlanta
Packers at Niners
Does Seattle beat Atlanta?
Atl Offense: Burke 13, FO 12, PFR 2.0 - so Seattle's offense is solidly better
Atl Defense: Burke 18, FO 12, PFR 4.5 - so Seattle's defense is better.
The Seahawks are better, not by a lot, and given the Falcons home field, that's a pick em game. I'm going to take the Seahawks, but you could go the other way, and I might by gametime.
Do the Niners beat the Packers?
49er Offense: Burke 3, FO 5, PFR 3.5 - it's close, you'd give a small edge to the Packers, but it's small.
49er Defense: Burke 3, FO 2, PFR 6.7 - the Niners defense is better.
San Francisco's better, I'd favor them (and by them, I mean us) by 6.
The two best teams in the NFC are, in a pretty healthy reversal of recent history, both from the West. On a neutral field, I think you'd take Seattle, maybe by a point - maybe even two. But in San Francisco, I'm going to favor the Niners by that point.
The image at the top of the page is Justin Smith; for at least the last two seasons it has been evident that he is the pivotal player on the Niner defense; it took a second week for most of the media to catch up - but his leaving the field as the Niners were up four touchdowns in New England led to a complete collapse that didn't slow until we left Seattle a week later.
If you tell me now he's not on the field at all, I'm likely to say we lose in any NFC Championship scenario.
If you tell me he's on the field but only marginally effective, I'm likely to say we still beat the Falcons, but lose to Seattle.
If you tell me he's on the field and largely effective, I'm saying (as I am) that the 49ers are going to the Super Bowl.
My Super Bowl is 49ers/Broncos - a game that, were it to occur, I'd analyze when timely - from a month away that seems like a pick 'em, with Denver maybe a point/two points better.