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NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME MATCHUP OF THE WEEK 49ERS QB COLIN KAEPERNICK vs. FALCONS OLB STEPHEN NICHOLAS/SEAN WEATHERSPOON

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 12:28 a.m.
 

49ers qb colin kaepernick vs. falcons olbs stephen nicholas/sean weatherspoon

MATCHUP: San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick put up an impressive performance against Green Bay last week when he rushed for 181 yards on 16 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. The Falcons will need big games from outside linebackers Stephen Nicholas (pictured) and Sean Weatherspoon along with defensive ends Kroy Biermann and John Abraham/Cliff Matthews to contain Kaepernick.

KAEPERNICK: His ability to run the read-option out of the Pistol offense has been difficult to contain this year, especially to the right side of the formation (at least last week). Out of Kaepernick's 181 yards last week, 75 came on designed runs to the right side of the offense. However, for the season, he rushed for just as many around the left, making it even more difficult to defend.

NICHOLAS/WEATHERSPOON: Atlanta's two OLBs are going to be responsible for preventing Kaepernick from getting outside and making splash plays. What that entails is staying in their gaps and making sure tackles. The Falcons typically play a 4-3 defense but are also multiple so it's likely they will play some 3-4. Nicholas leads the Falcons with 97 tackles and Weatherspoon second with 95.

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