Ranking Top 20 NFL Players in Harbaugh Bowl
The Top 20 Players in Super Bowl XLVII
Super Bowl XLVII is just a few short days away. What a wonderful time of the year.
Although the pre-game hoopla has been all about the Harbaugh brothers and how it’ll be the first Super Bowl showdown between sibling head coaches, we must not forget that there is something more important than quirky side notes: the players.
Both of these teams sport rosters that are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. While the 49ers have an electric, up-tempo offense that has shifted towards the Colin Kaepernick-run pistol attack, the Ravens field a ferocious defense build around a combination of speed and brute strength. Adversely, Baltimore boasts a precision offense that wears defenses down before going for the killshot, while the 49ers defense is all about beating you with speed and aggression.
Regardless of scheme or mindset, it’s the players that make these teams as lethal as they are. Both possess a tremendous group of linebackers who use strength and intimidation to fluster and frustrate opponents. The Ravens are lead on offense by a smart pocket passer who uses his arm to shred defenses while the 49ers let their young, mobile gunslinger make plays with his feet whenever possible.
Heading into Super Bowl XLVII, it’ll be interesting to see how each of these teams takes advantage of the talent available to them. With that in mind, here’s a look at the Top 20 players in the upcoming Harbaugh Bowl and how they’ll go about impacting 2013’s biggest game.
20. Dennis Pitta
Pitta has proven throughout the 2013 playoffs that he’s a valuable part of the Ravens passing attack. On top of making terrific plays, he has become a reliable third-down target for Flacco who consistently manages to move the chains.
19. Mike Iupati
It wasn’t long ago that the 49ers used a first-round pick to secure Iupati’s services. Now, the menacing guard has the opportunity to pave the way to San Francisco’s sixth Super Bowl with his phenomenal blocking abilities.
18. DaShon Goldson
The 49ers’ secondary, who face a huge challenge against the Ravens, will be held together by the hard-hitting Goldson. Although he has a knack for making costly mistakes, he will be the difference-maker when it comes to slowing down the Baltimore air assault.
17. Michael Crabtree
Although a bit inconsistent at times, Crabtree has been a solid receiving threat for the 49ers in their playoff run and will need to put on his big-boy pants come Sunday. As long as he can hold onto the football, Crabtree should make a significant impact in the San Francisco passing attack.
16. Anquan Boldin
Sometimes, the playoffs bring out the best in players who looked to be at the tail-end of their NFL careers. That was the exact case for Boldin, who stepped up in a huge way during January and will be a big factor in deciding Sunday’s winner.
15. Paul Kruger
Not many outside of the Ravens fan community know too much about Kruger, but you better believe that he’s one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the NFL. If Baltimore is to get pressure on Kaepernick, it’ll be because of Kruger.
14. Torrey Smith
Many doubted Smith’s talents coming out of college, but it didn’t take long for the speedy receiver to quiet his critics. Smith has continued to display his explosiveness during the 2013 postseason and will be ready to take the lid off of the 49ers’ secondary come Sunday.
13. Justin Smith
Despite his nagging injury, Smith has shown resilience and is primed for another gritty performance against the Ravens in SB XLVII. When he’s on his game, there aren’t many defensive ends more disruptive. Baltimore better hope he’s hurting big time.
12. Colin Kaepernick
Yes, the second-year star has taken the NFL world by storm and is one chapter away from making a case for himself as the next elite 49ers quarterback. Still, he’s only started nine games and will face the most harrowing test of his football career this Sunday on the league’s biggest stage.
11. Haloti Ngata
When you talk about dominant defensive tackles, Ngata’s name has to be in the conversation. When he’s at 100 percent, Ngata can’t be slowed down. The Ravens better be hoping that's the case on Sunday if they want to slow down Kaepernick, Gore and Co.
10. Terrell Suggs
This year has been a roller coaster ride for the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year. Suggs faced a potential season-ending injury, but bounced back and is starting to look like his old self. Now is the time for Suggs to show the entire NFL just how dominant of a defender he can be.
9. Vernon Davis
It’s been an up and down year for Davis, but he appears to be peaking at just the right time. Coming off of a huge game against the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, Davis could be the X-factor for the 49ers when Sunday rolls around.
8. Joe Flacco
It seemed like the Ravens were close to giving up on Flacco, who couldn’t be counted on when the postseason rolled around in years passed. In 2012, though, the Baltimore gunslinger can completely change his public image by beating the odds and getting the Ravens another Lombardi Trophy.
7. Frank Gore
When the 49ers can’t get the passing game going, at least they know that they have a workhorse running back who can carry the team in the clutch. Gore is the unsung hero of this team, and deserves way more credit than he’ll ever get for helping San Francisco get this far.
6. Navorro Bowman
The other leader of the 49ers defense, Bowman has grown under the tutelage of Willis and has made a name for himself as one part of the NFL’s most lethal linebacker duo. He is one of San Francisco’s key contributors, and will need to stay on track during the Super Bowl.
5. Ed Reed
The tread might be wearing thin on his tires, but Reed is still the type of impact player that thrives when the stage is set and bright lights are glaring. Always in the right place at the right time, look for Reed to make a few key plays that could be the difference between a win and a loss for the Ravens.
4. Ray Rice
The Ravens still haven’t figured out just how much of a game-changer Rice can be when you put the ball in his hands. He has shown it all season long, and could have another huge outing in order if Baltimore remembers to use him early and often.
3. Patrick Willis
The heart of the 49ers defense, Willis leads his team with both his actions and his words. On Sunday, he’ll need to go above and beyond as San Francisco attempts to slow down an electric Ravens offense. If there’s one person for the job, though, it’s Willis. I have no doubt that he’ll be up to the task.
2. Aldon Smith
If the 49ers are going to stand a chance against the Ravens, they’ll need a significant pass-rush. The go-to guy in that department will be Smith, who should be firing on all cylinders as he hopes to cap off a sensational sophomore season with a Super Bowl victory.
1. Ray Lewis
One of the greatest linebackers of all-time, Lewis is heading into his final NFL showdown with a Super Bowl ring on the line. Regardless of whether or not the Ravens win, Lewis’ legacy will never fade.