There’s a little giddy-up in my step this morning. It’s the best football day of the year, and I feel like it’s going to be a particularly grand version of it. We’ve got four quality teams, each with their own unique style, and no combination of outcomes would be a surprise. Today can’t miss.


You know what else helps? Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o dominated all manner of media this week, so unless you went out looking for it, you probably weren’t deluged with hype, storylines and overanalysis of these games. They feel somewhat fresh. Also, they’re actual sporting contests to be celebrated, and not dark illustrations of the worst in human nature. So that’s nice.


Dirty, known for loving the Philadelphia Eagles and being dirty, joins us once again this week. Fifteen minutes before kickoff on Championship Sunday, the question on his mind is this: What would the line be if the Chargers and Eagles played in week one next season? I don’t know. Chargers -34. What kind of question is that?


Performing the national anthem before the 49ers/Falcons game will be America’s least objectionable musical act, the Zac Brown Band. It feels like I’ve seen them do 45 national anthems this year.


Okay, maybe it was just one other time. STILL.


Erin Andrews is on sideline duty for Fox. Dirty voices his opinion that Erin Andrews is an attractive woman. Hm. Interesting. Does anyone else feel that way?


I’ll put some predictions down, just so I have something to brag about if I’m right and ignore if I’m wrong: Patriots by 17, and Falcons by a field goal or less.


Matt Ryan is, as Ebby Calvin Laloosh might say, announcing his presence with authority. The 49ers stuff Michael Turner a couple of times, but Ryan’s on point.


And that makes it a bad idea for the 49ers to blow a coverage, but they do it anyway. Julio Jones slips behind everyone, and 46 yards later, he’s dancing in the endzone. 7-0, Falcons.


On the Falcons second drive, Jones is shoved out of bounds directly into the backs of a security guard’s knees. The security guard goes down in a heap, which I guess only looks weird because everyone else I see fall down today will be a world class athlete with superhuman strength. The guy is down long enough that we’re going to commercial. Jim Harbaugh looks pissed off. He’s looking over there like, “Is that guy still down? What a puss. Whatever. Free timeout, I guess.”


Colin Kaepernick takes a sack on a straight four-man rush, resulting in a second three-and-out for the 49ers. Fortunately for them, thus far in the playoffs, first quarter success has been an awful indicator of who will actually win the game.


At the end of the first quarter, total yards are 182 to -2, in favor of Atlanta. Matt Ryan’s just been rubbing his dirty balls up and down Jim Harbaugh’s face. He can’t miss, and the 49ers can’t get anything going. So far, it’s all Falcons.


On the first play of the second quarter, it’s even more Falcons. In the back corner of the endzone, with coverage draped all over him, Julio Jones makes a nearly impossible catch. Now it’s 17-0. Through 15 minutes and six seconds of play, Jones has six catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns.


I guess now’s as good a time as any to do this: In the 2011 draft, the Falcons gave five draft picks to the Browns for Julio Jones. Those picks turned out to be Phil Taylor, Greg Little, Owen Marecic and Brandon Weeden, with the leftover fourth-rounder being part of the trade to get Trent Richardson. Win or lose for the Falcons? Taylor and Little can play, but I don’t know if either are game changers. Julio Jones is changing the NFC Championship game.


Finally, the 49ers are slapping together a drive. After Kaepernick completions on five straight plays, LaMichael James hits painted grass from 15 yards out. Thank goodness.


Some of you swayed me on the Chimay controversy from last week, but this week, I offer you irrefutable proof of The Greek’s pussbaggery. He’s leaving to go take a nap. He was as excited as I was earlier. On the way over here, he actually said the words, “Let’s get in a fight today.” And now he’s going home for naptime. On Championship Sunday. Unreal. Take some responsibility for yourself, head to the bathroom, splash some water on your face and do some coke. Baby.


Dirty, meanwhile, is splitting his attention between bar trivia and football. Right now, it’s 98% trivia, 2% football. Some other dude in here is kicking the trivia shit out of him, and Dirty’s become obsessed with beating him. Have I mentioned that this is Championship Sunday? I’m accepting applications for new friends. The only perk I can offer is that I’ll make fun of you in front of a wide audience on Monday mornings, without you having the chance to defend yourself. Sound good?


The next time the 49ers get the ball, the Falcons abandon their “Let’s cover Vernon Davis sometimes” gameplan, and the 49ers close the gap to 17-14. On that drive, VD caught three balls for 49 yards and a touchdown.


Hey, the Pro Bowl is next week. I literally had not thought of the Pro Bowl once, until Fox just showed their little Pro Bowl promo graphic. WHO’S UP FOR A PRO BOWL SMORGASBORD?! Show of hands? No one? Okay.


Having taken possession with just 1:55 left in the first half, Matt Ryan keeps the pedal to the floor and gets the Falcons in the endzone again before the half. On that drive, he was 6-of-7 for 80 yards, and for a guy who can’t play in the playoffs, he’s playing pretty fucking well in the playoffs. That felt like an important score, because the 2nd quarter, to that point, was as much of a 49er beatdown as the 1st quarter was a Falcons beatdown.


Dirty on the young, attractive bartender: “I bet her vagina is like a vise.”


The game’s first turnover, a Matt Ryan interception, sets the 49ers up with good field position, and they quickly get David Akers in position for a 38-yard chip shot. THONK. Off the post. Cameras cut to Jim Harbaugh, who is surprisingly not having a conniption. It feels like I should recognize Harbaugh for this. To this point, the playoffs had really highlighted his bitchcakes hissy-fit side, but he’s held it together relatively well today. Good for him. Good for personal growth.


Oh no. It’s another Matt Ryan turnover. This one comes on a cocked-up shotgun snap, which Ryan handled like he had meathooks for hands. The 49ers fall on it.


Michael Crabtree, after a handsome catch and run, gets up posing and flexing. That’s not an inappropriate reaction, given the high stakes and emotional nature of this game, but if it’s me, I put about a 72-hour moratorium on all attention-seeking behavior after I’m questioned in relation to a sexual assault. Maybe that’s unfair, and maybe Crabtree is 100% confident in his innocence, so a change in behavior never occurred to him. I hope that’s the case. I’m just saying, though, that when I’m a star receiver in the NFL, and I’m in a championship game, and I’ve just been questioned about a sexual assault, I’m going to do things differently.


Also, I will not pose or flex after I’ve fumbled the ball on the goal line, which is the next thing Crabtree does. Man, if that turns out to be the pivotal play in this game, this could be a really, really bad week for Michael Crabtree.


“HARRY DOUGLAS IS WIDE OPEN HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK,” is what I believe went through Harry Douglas’s head when he found himself inexplicably wide open in the fourth quarter. His freak out almost cost him what should have been an easy catch, and did cost him a whole bunch of yards when he stumbled, without contact, to the turf.


They’re reviewing that now. Everyone in the bar, with the exception of me, sees it as incomplete. It looks to me, though, like Harry’s hand stayed under the ball at all times. Here comes the ruling. And here comes this.


Sweet Lord. And you’d been so good today, Jim Harbaugh. How does an adult let himself behave like that? How those officials stood there without laughing in his face, I have no idea. The official on the left side of the screen even reaches out, as if to soothe him, much like a father would when telling his daughter, “It’s okay, honey. Stop crying. The Hello Kitty toys will be in the Happy Meals next week.”


Jim Harbaugh. Really easy to admire as a coach. Really difficult to like when he behaves like that.


It’s 4th down and 4 now for the Falcons, at the San Francisco 10, with just over a minute to play. If this isn’t converted, we’ll have half of a Harbaugh Bowl ‒ a Harb Bowl, with the Augh still to be determined, I suppose. Here’s Matt Ryan, looking for Roddy White, short over the middle, and it’s tipped away by NaVorro Bowman.


The 49ers will play in the Super Bowl, and just minutes ago, I’d have been perfectly pleased with that scenario. The Harbaugh tantrum totally turned me against him, though. Who acts like that?! This guy thinks Harbaugh needs to get himself under control.


Also, that was blatant pass interference. I get why it wasn’t called ‒ it’s a classic, late-game “swallow your whistle, call nothing unless you see someone achieve full penile penetration” situation, but yes, that was interference.


A Fox camera finds Tony Gonzalez on the sideline, and I’m pretty sure he just said the words “wide open,” as in, he was wide open when Matt Ryan tried to force that ball into Roddy White while NaVorra Bowman was giving him a complete physical. WAY TO KILL A LEGEND’S CAREER, MATT RYAN.


So that’s that, and we’ve got a full half-hour between games. In the meantime, we’ll be enjoying Fox’s postgame coverage, which has been branded the “YIPPEE-KI-YAY” postgame show to promote the new “Die Hard” movie. We do love a good catchphrase. I hope that movie is just 90 minutes of Bruce Willis sitting on a stool saying, “Yippee-Ki-Yay, Motherfucker.”


This next game is the big one. This is the one with something riding on it. Falcons or 49ers, I could go either way. There are enjoyable things about both teams. What I absolutely cannot have, though, is Ray Lewis in a Super Bowl. Two weeks of Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh will get grating, but that’s fine, because it’ll be Super Bowl time, and there’ll always be melodramatic storylines of some kind. I’ve come to terms with that. Two weeks of Ray Lewis’s “The Baltimore Ravens win football games because Jesus loves us more” act, though, and I’ll be at risk for a drinking problem.


Frank Gore is on the Fox set with his son in his arms. Adorable scene, but it strikes me as odd that there’s no 49ers gear on the kid. Frank Gore can parent how he wants to, but I will tell you this ‒ when I’m a star running back in the NFL and I have a kid, he/she is wearing my fucking jersey to my games. FACT. What’s that, son? You’d rather wear Polo? Then you better hope Ralph Lauren feeds your ass tonight, too.


At 6:35, the televisions are finally changed over to CBS. We’re just in time to see Jim Nantz talking about a potential all-Harbaugh Super Bowl while pleasuring himself with one hand.


Oh, for fuck’s sake. Ray is crying during the national anthem. Not just crying, either; he’s bawling his fucking eyes out. There’s just no way that’s real. A pre-menstrual Yemeni figure skater who just won Olympic gold wouldn’t cry this hard on the podium during the playing of her national anthem.


Dirty: “He murdered two men, you know.”


I’m happy to tell you that The Greek is back from naptime. He might have to leave again soon, though, for recess.


Ravens fans are pouring in for the late game, which is a good thing, because no one here seemed to care much who won the early game. Not that I love the idea of being surrounded by Ravens fans, because I don’t really want lice (I kid! Baltimore is a fine city!), but it’d be nice to have some energy in here. Even pro-Ray Lewis energy, I’ll take.


New England is opening their attack with a short passing game, and it’s effective, at least, if you like field goals.  The Pats are on the board first with three, and this seems like it’ll be a much slower-paced game than the previous one.


Rob Gronkowski is in the owner’s box with Bob Kraft and family. He’s the one wearing a zip-up hoodie, surrounded by about 40 other people wearing $6,000 pants. Bless that man’s heart. Pretty smart move by Kraft, too, getting Gronk in the box. This way, you don’t have to worry about him uploading a YouTube video of himself funneling 40 ounces of Hurricane at halftime.


Ray Lewis picks up a 15-yard penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit. His helmet, formed as a weapon against Aaron Hernandez, did not prosper. Hey! Thanks, Bible!


The Penguins vs. Rangers hockey game is on an ancillary television, and before the puck even hits the ice, a couple of dudes are fighting. It’s a pretty good scrap, too. How is there less of a concussion problem in the sport where it’s totally fine to punch another guy in the face?


The Patriots have four possessions in the first quarter. One of them nets a field goal, the others end in punts coming between the Patriots 42 and the Ravens 35. They have 123 yards of offense in the first quarter, with just three points. Not good.


The Ravens finally start churning out some offense in the 2nd quarter, with a nice ground/air mix. I don’t know where this Bernard Pierce character came from, but he can eat up yardage, too.


Tom Brady “scrambles” and ends up colliding with an official. The masses love a good referee collision. There are basically two times when people pay attention to officials ‒ when they make a poor call (i.e., one that goes against someone’s favorite team), or when they get run over. They’re like rodeo clowns you can throw shit at.


Aaron Hernandez makes a nice grab, and my buddy Adam says, “I taught him how to do that.” Now, I haven’t mentioned Adam yet because he doesn’t bring much to this particular table (earlier, he asked me if the Super Bowl was on a Sunday or a Monday — I kid you not). Anyway, the rest of that conversation goes like this:

Me: Oh really? How do you know Aaron Hernandez?
Adam: We both pee on people.

No idea.


Tom Brady slides on another scramble attempt, this time with his spikes up, Ty Cobb-style. I don’t doubt for a second that this is intentional and meant to inflict pain. I only wonder if it’s Tom Brady’s idea or something taught by Bill Belichick.


At halftime, CBS announces that Joe Thomas and Jason Witten are the two finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. I guess the committee just hasn’t been paying close enough attention to who cries the hardest during national anthems.


Bernard Pollard gets hit with a 15-yard penalty for hitting Wes Welker in the head. John Harbaugh is arguing the call and gesturing low to the ground, as if to say “Hey, my guy attempted to hit low, what’s he supposed to do if the receiver goes really low, too?” You know what the official did? He shrugged. And I don’t know if any better explanation was available.


A really nice Ravens drive puts them ahead, 14-13. I’m going to have to start saying nice things about Joe Flacco soon. The guy is just putting the ball in the right places, and recent opportunities to call out a FlaccoBoner have been almost nil. His stock is up.


Things have definitely tilted Baltimore’s way, which makes MJD sad. Come on, Pats. This is going to be a really rough two weeks for me if they pull this out. Deadspin was great with the Manti Te’o story, but if this game goes where it looks like it’s going, we’re going to need an even bigger distraction next week. I need Deadspin to keep investigating and find that not only was Lennay Kekua fictional, but so is Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who was only created to throw people off the scent of the man who actually created them both, Lou Holtz.


The Ravens are definitely putting more responsibility in Joe Flacco’s hands in the second half. He’s winging the ball around way more freely than Tom Brady is, and it’s paying off. In the third quarter, Flacco threw the ball 18 times for more than 120 yards.


The first play of the fourth quarter is a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, the unsung MVP of the Baltimore postseason.


Meanwhile, the Patriots continue to call plays as if their quarterback was not Tom Brady, but Christian Ponder. The passing attempts are many, but the risk is nil. Not much is going downfield. “Is there something wrong with Tom Brady’s arm?” asks The Greek.


I know it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the game, but maybe we should wait to see whether or not Stevan Ridley is dead before we start dancing around with the football.


Four plays later, it’s Flacco to Boldin again for the touchdown, and this fucker’s over. I guess it’s of some consolation that Baltimore earned this one, whereas last week, Denver just kept tripping over their own pricks and handed it to them. This one can’t be denied, though. The game was up for grabs at halftime, and one team came out and just took it. Joe Flacco played better than Tom Brady. Joe Flacco’s offense was coached better than Tom Brady’s offense.


Toward the end of the game, the Gillette Stadium clock operator admirably did his best to dick the Ravens. A punt should have taken us to the two-minute warning, but the clock guy timed that punt at just three seconds, giving the Pats an extra play ahead of the two-minute warning. Quality home-cooking. Had this happened to Jim Harbaugh, he’d have kicked an official in the shins and then threatened to hold his breath until he died.


And the last football image I’ll see today is Ray Lewis, on his knees, in the middle of a huge circle of reporters and cameramen. It’s a configuration usually only seen in a certain genre of films. What’s it called… Boo-something? Bu… Bukkake? This just feels like I’m seeing something I shouldn’t see. I’m not sure if we’re calling it the Soggy Ray or the Ookie Lewis.