NFL Baltimore RavensSan Francisco 49ers

Super Bowl XLVII Game Preview: Ravens vs 49ers

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Super Bowl XLVII Preview

Super Bowl XLVII Preview
Derick Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Super Bowl XLVII Preview

We are approaching Super Bowl XLVII and this slideshow article is a game preview of the HarBowl between the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens and the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers where we will look at each teams passing game, each teams running game and of course the defenses that will be tasked with stopping them. The emphasis in this article will be on the skill positions as I have a slideshow article about both teams players in the trenches RIGHT HERE.

Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh coached against each other last season, and the game was a bit of a dud (16-6 for the Ravens) but I certainly anticipate a great game on Super Bowl Sunday between the teams that these brothers run. John is 62-30 at the helm of the Ravens (including playoffs) and Jim is 27-8-1 running the 49ers (including playoffs).

Let's get the preview started by comparing a few playoff stats from each team (note - Ravens have played three playoff games, and the Niners two).

The 49ers have been awesome on third down conversions in the playoffs with a 52.6 percent conversion percentage, while the Ravens have been average at 41 percent.

Joe Flacco has a playoff quarterback rating of 114.7 (No.1) and Colin Kaepernick is at 105.9 (No.2). On the season Flacoo had four game winning drives, and Kaepernick had a pair of them. One interesting difference between these two is Flacco has played in 92 NFL games with just eight of those coming indoor, while young Kaepernick has already played multiple games indoors including one at the sight of Super Bowl XLVII - the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Ravens are averaging seven penalties per playoff game, while the 49ers have been slightly better at six penalties per game.

In the playoffs the 49ers are averaging 25 first downs per game, and the Ravens are averaging 21.

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Ravens Air Attack

Ravens Air Attack
Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE

Ravens Air Attack

Joe Flacco has stepped up in the 2013 NFL playoffs, big-time. In the regular season he had a pedestrian 87.7 quarterback rating, but in the playoffs he is has the leagues best rating at 114.7, plus he has tossed eight touchdowns vs zero interceptions in the playoffs too. This guy is on fire as he is on a 16 touchdown vs three interception run (10 straight touchdowns), and for the entire season his totals are 30 touchdowns vs 10 interceptions. The fifth year quarterback was averaging just one touchdown pass per game away from M&T Bank Stadium, but in his two road playoff games he has been awesome with six touchdowns (three touchdowns in each game).

Anquan Boldin is the guy who has been targeted the most by Flacco in the playoffs, and Torrey Smith is a guy who is dangerous because he spreads the field. These two have combined for five touchdown catches so far in the playoffs, and it is worth noting that the Ravens are 7-0 when Smith creates a touchdown.

Tight end Dennis Pitta had a breakout season, and he has 10 catches on 14 targets in the playoffs (two of those were touchdowns). Pitta is a valuable third down target for Flacco, and the good news is he is back at practise and it looks like he will play in Super Bowl XLVII despite his current thigh issue.

The offensive line protecting Flacco has undergone massive changes recently, and those are detailed in the trenches article (the link to that article is on page 1 of this article) but I will point out that in three playoff games Flacco has been dropped just four times.

The 49ers safeties are the best safeties that the Ravens have faced, and they will be difference makers on Sunday (especially Dashon Goldson).

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Ravens Running Game

Ravens Running Game

Ravens Running Game

An interesting development to the Ravens rushing attack lately has been the emergence of rookie running back Bernard Pierce. The former Temple Owls star was averaging just 24 yards per game, but in the last five Ravens games Pierce is averaging 72 rushing yards per game. It is worth noting that Pierce has just one touchdown, but he is contributing lately to the Ravens ground game.

We know that Ray Rice is the main man for the Ravens offense, and they are 6-1 in games where he gets at least 20 carries. I would want to note that after no regular season fumbles lost Rice did lose a pair in Wild Card weekend to the Indianapolis Colts, but he followed that up with touchdown runs vs the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. Rice averaged 4.4 yards per carry in the regular season, but that is down to 3.9 in the playoffs. I cannot imagine that 3.9 yards per carry will cut it vs the 49ers so Rice will have to pick it up on Super Bowl Sunday.

The 49ers were third best in the NFL as they allowed a measly 3.7 yards per carry, but in the playoffs they are allowing 4.1 yards per carry to opposing running backs. In the first quarter of their Divisional weekend win over the Green Bay Packers we saw DuJuan Harris romp for an 18-yard touchdown run, but the Niners have not allowed a touchdown on the ground since. All four San Fran linebackers are very good vs the run.

Vonta Leach is an excellent fullback, but the Ravens run the football on 70-80 percent of the plays he is on so the Niners can anticipate a running play when Leach is on the field.

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49ers Passing Game

49ers Passing Game
Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

49ers Passing Game

Colin Kaepernick gets most of his pub because of his ability to make plays with his legs, but I also like his throwing ability. The Niners do not throw extremely often, but even so they do get credit for the fewest incomplete passes in the NFL.

Overall Michael Crabtree is Kaepernick's BFF, but we are seeing Vernon Davis get more involved recently too. Davis was in on a ton of plays this season, but he was called on to run block or help pass protect more often than he was sent out on a pass pattern. In his first six seasons Davis averaged 82 targets, but this season he was thrown to just 61 times. In the playoffs he had just one catch vs the Packers but it went for 44 yards, and then he followed that up with a five catch performance vs the Falcons that included a touchdown in the NFC title game.

Delanie Walker was coming on strong, but he has just two catches on just seven targets in the playoffs for a measly 37 receiving yards in the playoffs (zero touchdowns).

Crabtree is the main threat, and in the playoffs he has been impressive with 15 catches on 18 targets for 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On the season the Niners are 6-0-1 when Crabtree scores.

On the season Kaepernick had 20 touchdowns (13 passing and seven rushing) with four interceptions and two fumbles. His good regular season quarterback rating of 98.3 has ballooned to 105.9 in the playoffs, including a whopping 127.7 in the NFC title game which was away from home and in a dome...just like this game will be.

The main reason for switching from Alex Smith to Kaepernick is that Jim Harbaugh felt that Kaepernick could make plays with his legs on designed runs, and especially on pass plays that break down and require the quarterback to scramble his way out of there. Clearly this has paid off for the NFC champs as Kaepernick has been sacked just one time in five straight games. Paul Kruger is the best pass rusher that Kaepernick will face on Super Bowl Sunday.

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49ers Ground Game

49ers Ground Game

49ers Ground Game

The 49ers use different formations to attack their foes on the ground, and opposing linebackers have to be on point as far as knowing their keys and strategies vs the Niners running game. Kaepernick (7.6 yards per carry), plus Frank Gore are massive threats to come at you on the ground every play, and lately LaMichael James is getting in on the fun too (made his debut on Dec. 9 - has played six games and has a 5.1 yards per carry average, plus he scored his first career touchdown in the NFC title game). If you read my article on the 49ers offensive line then you know how fond I am of their run blocking ability.

In the Harbaugh era San Fran is 19-1-1 when Gore gets 75+ yards from scrimmage, and in the playoffs he has 46 touches (44 carries and a pair of catches) for 257 yards and three touchdowns. The Niners are 8-1-1 this season when Gore takes one to the house, and the Ravens did allow 15 rushing touchdowns in the regular season (23rd worst in the NFL) but they have not allowed a score on the ground in the playoffs (it is worth noting that the 49ers are 5-0-1 when Kaepernick scores a rushing touchdown).

This season teams ran like crazy vs the Ravens as their linebacker group had several injuries, but it was quantity and not quality. The Ravens allowed just 4.0 yards per carry in the regular season, and since Ray Lewis returned in the playoffs they are down to 3.9 yards per carry allowed which is quite good. The Ravens linebackers will have to find a way to be stout vs the 49ers awesome ground game, and if you are interested I have an article on the Ravens Super Bowl linebackers HERE.

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Super Bowl XLVII Prediction

Super Bowl XLVII Prediction
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Super Bowl XLVII Prediction

This season the Ravens have had great production from their 23-year-old rookie kicker (Justin Tucker) while the Niners 38-year-old kicker (David Akers) struggled mightily but I still think that the 49ers have too much in this game and they will win Super Bowl XLVII.

I am impressed that the Ravens are 3-0 (all three coming in the playoffs) in games where Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs all play, and I am impressed with the Ravens run through the AFC playoffs, but I just feel that the 49ers are a different animal than they have faced and I feel like the Niners are going to pull out this victory. Ultimately, I think the 49ers duo of Kaepernick and Gore (plus some plays from LaMichael James) will have a chance to make big plays on the ground, plus I think the Niners can have success in their passing game on Super Bowl Sunday too. Add that to a great defense and I think the 49ers will be crowned as champions.

Defensively I think Justin Smith may be healthier than we have seen him in a while and he will play well enough to be effective plus create opportunities for his teammates.

As I mentioned earlier the 49ers safeties are surely the best duo that the Ravens have faced, and they will be difference makers on Sunday, plus Kaepernick is also a different threat than the Ravens have faced and I anticipate another big game from the young quarterback.

This has been a remarkable last hurrah for Ray Lewis, but he will go out on the losing end of Super Bowl XLVII.

Craig Ballard is a NFL/NBA/MLB writer for Follow him on Twitter @craigballard77, and you can find all of his NFL articles HERE