NFL Playoff Schedule: Which QB Will Shine Brightest on Championship Weekend?

Stephen FenechCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2013

In his first big test, Kaepernick had one of the best games in NFL playoff history.
In his first big test, Kaepernick had one of the best games in NFL playoff history.Harry How/Getty Images

With Championship Weekend on the horizon, the play of the four remaining quarterbacks will determine which teams move on to represent their conference in Super Bowl XLVII.

Championship Weekend will see three quarterbacks that have a lot to prove in Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco and one who is already an all-time great in Tom Brady

The careers of quarterbacks are defined based upon their performances on the biggest stages, and there are few bigger platforms than Championship Weekend. 

The legend of Brady began during the Patriots playoff run in 2001, while the way in which Eli Manning was viewed changed forever after the 2008 playoffs. 

Are we on the precipice of watching another all-time great performance? 

It's quite possible considering the talent that is on the field and the immensity of this weekend's games. 


San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons, 3 P.M ET FOX

 Colin Kaepernick travels to face off against Matt Ryan in a matchup of quarterbacks with drastically different playing styles. 

While Ryan does most of his damage from inside the pocket, Kaepernick thrives running the read-option and by giving the defense multiple looks out of the same formation. 

Both signal-callers are coming off big victories, although those triumphs came under different circumstances. 

Kaepernick's performance in the Divisional Round was one for the ages, as he compiled over 400 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns. 

On the other hand, Ryan drove his team 40 yards to set up Matt Bryant for the game-winning field goal to avoid a nightmarish collapse. 

In this game, I see Kaepernick outproducing Ryan for a few reasons. 

First, Kaepernick has the luxury of facing the Falcons defense, while Ryan has the misfortune of handling the ferocious 49ers defense. 

Next, the Falcons defense struggles against mobile quarterbacks, as evidenced by the strong performances turned in by Russell Wilson and Cam Newton this season.

Wilson torched the Falcons defense for 385 passing yards and 60 rushing yards in the Divisional Round, as he had plenty of time in the pocket and had few problems escaping containment. 

In Newton's two games against Atlanta, he compiled more than 700 yards and six touchdowns. 

Kaepernick is a more dangerous big-play runner than either Newton or Wilson, which must be keeping Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan up at night. 

While Ryan has the potential to have the bigger day due to the Falcons explosive passing attack, the smart money is on Kaepernick having a more productive game. 


Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots, 6:30 P.M ET CBS 

This will be Tom Brady's seventh appearance in the Championship round, a feat only matched by Brady's boyhood hero Joe Montana. In order to reach his sixth Super Bowl, Brady will have to lead the Patriots over the Ravens for the second straight postseason. 

While Flacoo has been overly-criticized in the past, a victory over the Pats and a Super Bowl berth would silence the naysayers. 

Based upon reputation, it would be easy to give the Patriots the advantage at quarterback. However, Flacco outplayed Brady in last season's AFC Championship Game, as he threw for two more touchdowns and 67 yards. 

Flacco thrives when throwing the ball deep, which happens to be the Patriots Achilles heel on defense. Another big day could be on the horizon for Torrey Smith, which is a key ingredient in the Ravens upset recipe. 

The Patriots will be without Rob Gronkowski, but they have the weapons to overcome his absence. Aaron Hernandez is capable of picking up the slack at tight end, as Brady targeted him 50 times during Gronkowski's five-game absence during the regular season. 

Brady is familiar with the Ravens defense, with this being his third matchup against them in the last year. The same could be said for the Ravens defense, though, as they should have a good idea what to expect. 

The Ravens are riding an emotional high and will not be intimidated by Brady and his efficient receivers. While a masterful performance from the Pats QB wouldn't shock me, I expect Baltimore's defense to present a tough challenge. 

No matter what happens on Sunday, Brady will walk off the field as the best quarterback to have played on Championship Weekend. However, on a given day, anything is possible. 


I envision Kaepernick having the most productive day, although Flacco may shock the world and emerge as the best quarterback over the course of one game on Championship Weekend. 


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