This is a completely different Final Four (Ravens, Patriots, Giants, 49ers) than last season (Jets, Steelers, Packers, Bears).
The Ravens (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed), Patriots (Vince Wilfork), and Giants (Kenny Phillips) have ex-Hurricanes starting on defense. The 49ers have defensive starters from just about every other major university – Florida (Ray McDonald), Auburn (Carlos Rogers), Penn St. (Navorro Bowman), Ohio State (Donte Whitner, Larry Grant), South Carolina (Chris Culliver), Tennessee (Parys Haralson), Texas (Tarell Brown), – and their all-pro RB Frank Gore went to Miami.
The Final Four features 2 first round WRs from 2009 (Michael Crabtree and Hakeem Nicks), and 5 second-year tight ends (Jake Ballard, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta).
The 2006 first round draft class has been well-represented during this postseason. Haloti Ngata and Vernon Davis had big games. Mathias Kiwanuka and A.J. Hawk played on opposing teams. What’s interesting is that Donte Whitner (Bills, 49ers), Manny Lawson (49ers, Bengals), Brodrick Bunkley (Eagles, Broncos), Johnathan Joseph (Bengals, Texans), Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys, Lions), and Jason Allen (Dolphins, Texans) all played on different teams than the ones who drafted them. Matt Leinart (Cardinals, Texans) was also on the sidelines, with a collarbone injury, alongside first overall pick Mario Williams.
THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
In the 25 seasons since the post-strike 1987 season, the NFC West has won at least one postseason game in 23 of them. In 1995, the Packers knocked out the Falcons and 49ers. In 2003, the Seahawks lost to the Packers and the Rams lost at home in the divisional round to the Panthers (who used to be in the NFC West).
Jim Harbaugh has won more games this season, 14, than his brother has in any of his first four seasons.
David Akers, who set an NFL record with 44 field goals this season, had three more vs. the Saints.
Drew Brees set a postseason record with 63 attempts vs. the 49ers.
The Falcons vs. Giants game is still the only postseason game with no interceptions thrown, and it did have a safety for one defense and a shutout for the other.
Giants @ 49ers is the first Championship Game match-up to feature quarterbacks taken #1 overall in back-to-back seasons (Eli Manning in 2004, Alex Smith in 2005).
The Giants’ win over the Packers last week was the first time a #4 beat a #1 in the NFC Divisional Round.
THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
The Ravens are 7-0 vs. postseason teams. The Patriots are 2-2, beating only the Broncos twice.
Ed Reed now has 8 interceptions in 10 career postseason games and no rings.
The top 5 oldest receivers – Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Anquan Boldin, Wes Welker, and Lee Evans – in this game, were each on different teams in 2006 (Bengals, Seahawks, Cardinals, Dolphins, Bills) than they are now. The one with the fewest yards, Lee Evans with 6008, was the only one drafted in the first round.
After the Ravens beat the Patriots 33-14 in the Wild Card round in 2009, the Patriots parted ways with four-year defensive coordinator Dick Cass, who is now linebackers coach with the Ravens.
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