We have arrived at this day once again. Super Sunday. The Biggest day in football. The culmination of all the blood, sweat, & tears, and all of the hard work & dedication that goes into getting to this point. All the world’s eyes will once again be on New Orleans, but this time for a much more positive reason. Between Ray Lewis‘ last ride and the Harbowl, there has been plenty to talk about leading into this game. But who’s gonna win Super Bowl XLVII?
While many think the San Francisco 49ers‘ biggest advantage is their read-option running attack with Colin Kaepernick, but I believe the 49ers’ defense provides them with their biggest advantage today. Sure Aldon Smith and Justin Smith (not related) haven’t been racking up sacks the way they were earlier in the season, but the 49ers’ pass rush could play a huge factor in this game if they are able to get to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco early enough in the first half to throw him off his game. Also, the 49ers’ secondary is far less suspect than the Ravens’. Yes, the Ravens did a tremendous job of keeping the New England Patriots from scoring in the second half of the AFC championship game, but let’s not forget that Tom Brady once again fell victim to tipped balls when it came to his interceptions thrown in the game.
The running back position will be the most crucial in this game because this is where both teams’ workhorses reside. Frank Gore for the 49ers will get at least 12 carries in the game if Kaepernick is able to run with the read-option. However, if the Ravens keep Kaepernick from rushing early the way the Atlanta Falcons did in the NFC championship game, then Gore will have at least 20 carries in the game, if not more. With Ray Rice of the Ravens and how the 49ers should go about neutralizing him, it’s more about preventing Rice from turning short passes into big gains the way he has done all season (“Hey diddle diddle…”).
As for receivers, both teams are stacked. With the Ravens, a new man has been a favorite target of Flacco’s as the playoffs have went along. In their win over the Denver Broncos, it was Torrey Smith, though Jacoby Jones made the biggest catch of the game. Then against the Patriots, it was Anquan Boldin who was making the big catches and was a routine target of Flacco’s. Those three men will be the primary targets today. With the 49ers, it’s been all about Michael Crabtree in these playoffs. Kaepernick has not in any way on the field hidden the fact that Crabtree is his favorite receiver as the visual evidence has been almost suffocating. Also, Vernon Davis had a huge game exploiting the Falcons’ zone defense two weeks ago and will absolutely be looked to make some big catches either on third down or in general during the game. And then there’s Randy Moss. One of the great receivers to play the game gets a second chance at Super Bowl glory. I’m not going to predict that Moss will have a big game because Kaepernick has two more capable targets to throw to. However, it would be the stuff that makes the Super Bowl such an important and memorable event if he did.
The biggest question that will face this game is whether or not the Ravens will be able to stop the read-option. This could be the game right here. If Kaepernick is able to get going with his feet often enough, the Ravens won’t be able to keep up. But if they can shut it down early and force Kaepernick to hand the ball off to Gore 20+ times, they would have a much better shot at containing the 49ers’ running game because then it would be more physical, and that’s something that is more in the Ravens’ favor. And while forcing Kaepernick to throw the ball far more often than running it didn’t pay off that well for the Falcons, it just might for the Ravens.
You have to be on a roll to get to the Super Bowl, but it’s been something different with the Ravens. It’s about emotion and leadership. That is what Lewis has brought to this team for the majority of his career, but it seems that all those years of leadership and emotion have accumulated to create this playoff run for the Ravens. And in the Super Bowl, knowing that an emotional leader or the leader of your team is going out, or at least sensing it, can be the biggest motivating factor of them all. John Elway went out a winner in the Super Bowl, as did Jerome Bettis. I think Ray Lewis will join that group today. If this were a normal Super Bowl, I’d hitch my ride to the 49ers because they have more weapons on both sides of the ball. But I can’t. I can’t because in recent years in the NFL, when a team gets on a roll in the playoffs when they’re “not supposed to,” it tends to end with that team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Ask the Green Bay Packers or New York Giants all about that. I believe the Baltimore Ravens will join that group today by completing their playoff run and sending Lewis out a winner.
My Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 27, San Francisco 49ers 24