Super Bowl XLVII Preview: Battle of the Quarterbacks

By Curt Popejoy
Frank Victores – USA TODAY SPORTS

This year, the NFL really got an ideal matchup for Super Bowl XLVII. There are so many storylines and sub-plots going on in this game, the 60 minutes on the field seems to be taking a back seat. Whether it’s the battle of the brothers Harbaugh, the retirement of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, the disgruntled San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, or looking ahead to next year’s Super Bowl in New York, it seems like there is plenty to talk about, other than what will happen on the field. But just for fun, let’s go ahead and do it anyway.

When the Ravens have the ball-This is a matchup of quarterbacks, and when the Ravens are on offense it’s going to be all about quarterback Joe Flacco and can he continue this amazing run. No quarterback has ever gone completely through the playoffs and win the Super Bowl without throwing an interception, so the odds are against Flacco playing a perfect game, but he’s sure been great. He’s shown he can do so much more than just throw the deep ball, and so in this game, I expect that to continue. The secret weapon the Ravens have that will make throwing the football easier is their two-headed monster in the backfield, running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Both backs have been gashing defenses, and they make a formidable duo. Rice is quick and shifty and versatile while Pierce is punishing and strong. I expect the Ravens to come out and establish the run, force those physical safeties of the 49ers up into the box and then the Ravens can work the intermediate middle with wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.

To counter this, the 49ers are going to do their best to stay in base formation, stack the run, and on passing downs, do all they can to rush the passer with their front only. No blitzing, keeping the back 7 back and don’t give Flacco windows to throw into. So much of what the 49ers do is predicated on pass rushers Justin Smith and Aldon Smith. The return of Justin will be huge for the 49ers defense because Aldon has yet to register a sack since Justin has been out with injury.

When the 49ers have the ball-So far in these playoffs we’ve seen 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick beat a team with his legs, and another with his arm. The question for this game is, which Kaepernick will we see? My guess is 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman is going to have a tremendous gameplan in place that is going to look at the tendencies the Ravens defense shows and adjust from there. A whole lot is made of the addition of the pistol set into the 49ers offense, but we can’t forget that behind running back Frank Gore they have a very good power run game,  and with those wide receivers and tight ends working a passing game off of the power run game is a real possibility.

I expect the Ravens to sell out on the zone read, do all they can to contain Kaepernick, and force him to be a more traditional quarterback. Those two Ravens inside linebackers, Ray Lewis and Danell Ellerbe will be key. When the Niners run that inside zone look, the play side inside backer has to crash and beat the guard and the backside inside backer has to loop around, after the tackle goes after the outside linebacker on the back side and clog the lane for Kaepernick to run to, and allow the safeties to come up and fill.

Prediction-The 49ers have better talent on defense. Both offenses are very physical and talented, led by dominant offensive lines. Kaepernick is a duel threat disaster for the Ravens defense, and he’s a nightmare for a defensive coordinator. It seems like everything points toward the 49ers just physically handing the Ravens offense and pushing the Ravens around when the 49ers have the football. So, don’t ask me to explain why, but my gut tells me the Ravens are going to beat them. I expect the game to be tremendous, and I am looking forward to incredible performances by both teams’ quarterbacks, but something tells me this is Flacco’s year and Lewis is going to go out a champion. Give me the Ravens 35-31.

Who are you picking? Come find me on Twitter @nfldraftboard and let me know.


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