In this blog, there will be three keys to the game, key match-ups, x-factors for each team, a case for each team winning, and a prediction will be listed with an explination. So here we go!
Keys to the Game
1. The Deep Ball
Both teams have some form of a deep ball threat. Both teams utilize it to make due for what their offenses can be set to do. Torrey Smith for the Ravens, and Moss and Davis for the 49ers will defiantly be key in what each offense brings to the table. The real question will be which secondary can sniff out the long pass and keep the top on for the defense. Who ever can keep that top on will have a good shot at winning.
2. Defense wins championships
The defenses coming into this Super Bowl are both good in their own respects. The 49ers are fourth in rush & pass defense on the entire season, while the Ravens were lucky to grasp a top fifteen spot although they have shut down two of the best QB's of this era the past two weeks. The 49ers defense has been a top five defense the past two seasons and the Ravens have been a model defense the past decade with Ray Lewis at the helm. This is Ray Lewis's last game, so the model defense in the NFL may come to an end after this game. Either way, defense will be on display for this game. If one defense comes out slow, it may prove who the better team is.
3. QB Play
Both these QB's (Flacco/Kaepernick) have never been in a Super Bowl, but Flacco has been close. I'm not the one to believe experience matters anymore especially after what Brady did last season losing to Eli for the second time. Flacco can distribute the ball better than many in the NFL while Kaepernick brings in a new element that the NFL has seen this season succeed; the read option. The Ravens this season have not done particularly well against running QB's (0-2 in the regular season) and have not faced a running QB this postseason. At the same time, the 49ers have not done particularly well against momentum (Loss to the Vikings in Week 3, and a loss to the Seahawks in Week 16). Either way, one will have to prevail. Which ever QB can keep their team on the field the longest, and keep rhythm in the second half, gives their team a pretty good shot at winning this game.
- Smith Brothers (RE/ROLB)/ Ravens O-Line
The Smith Brothers play on the Right side of the Defense and have combined for 22.5 sacks in the regular season, but have recently been shut down in the playoffs only accounting for 12 tackles in the two games in this postseason. The Ravens O-Line this postseason have held up relatively well, but at the same time they have only played one solid defense the entire postseason (Broncos), and that game took 2 overtimes to decide.
- (MLB) Patrick Willis/ (TE) Dennis Pitta
Both players come into the Super Bowl as probable in their respective injury reports, but lets be honest they are both going to play. Willis has been credited for 19 tackles in two games this postseason and Pitta has accounted for 10 receptions and 2 TD's in three games this postseason. For the 49ers defense to be successful and not let Torrey Smith get loose, they are going to need to stop short routes over the middle and keep Pitta under control. Willis is more known as a blitzing linebacker, and at some times may leave Pitta for coverage to deal with. Depending upon the usage of Pitta in the offense, Willis may be negated from rushing the QB.
- (WR) Randy Moss/ (SS) Ed Reed
I feel like a thirteen year old playing NFL Madden when I bring this match-up to fruition. A classic match-up that may not happen often in this game, but it could be a potential game breaker if the defense doesn't keep eyes on Randy Moss down field. Who knows how many times Randy will get down field, but either way if he gets free thirty yards down field, you know where Kaepernick will go. If Ed Reed can keep Randy from getting loose, Randy shouldn't be a problem. But if not, expect a deep TD from Randy on Sunday.
- (TE) Vernon Davis/ Ravens Linebackers
I could say Ray Lewis instead of the Ravens Linebackers, but Ray Lewis won't always be matching up with Vernon Davis (Neither will Patrick Willis on Dennis Pitta, but that one is more likely to happen then Vernon Davis who is much more lethal than Pitta). I don't know if you saw the Falcons game, but Vernon Davis looked like a varsity player playing against the JV. If Vernon Davis can get free and make big plays down field, the Ravens are in for a long day. If they can limit and double him when he runs deep routes, the Ravens Linebackers may be able to get to Kaepernick in the pocket on crucial long down and distance situations.
- (RB) Frank Gore & (QB) Colin Kaepernick/Ravens Front seven
Ray Lewis vs Colin Kaepernick would be the easy choice but if I forgot about Frank Gore and all the other defenders around Ray Lewis, then the match-up would just lose something. As I said earlier, the Ravens have not faced a great running QB in the postseason yet. Also, the Ravens have not faced an elite running back either. They faced the likes of Donald Brown (Colts), Knowshon Moreno (Broncos), and Shane Vereen (Patriots)... Who are they? Exactly. The Ravens have shut them down, but again who are they? Also the Ravens rush defense this season was twentieth in the NFL and the 49ers were fourth in rush offense. Who ever wins this match-up in my opinion will win the game, but don't be surprised if Ray Lewis and his crew come out and light up a storm on those two guys for San Francisco.
- (RB) Ray Rice & (RB) Bernard Pierce/ 49ers Front seven
This is similar to the Frank Gore & Colin Kaepernick match-up where if the Ravens run game gets it rolling, Flacco and that lethal passing attack could start dissecting that 49ers secondary. That sounds crazy considering the success of the 49ers defense this season, but if that run game gets established and the screen play starts to succeed at a high level, safeties will need to creep up in the box and that could leave Torrey Smith wide open in the end-zone, fifty-plus yards down field.
Ravens: Anquan Boldin
You're probably asking how does a guy who leads the team in receiving become an X-factor? Easy, he doesn't go over the top of the defense and freak you out like Torrey Smith does. But if Anquan can get open and make big plays to get first downs, open up passing lanes for Flacco early and late in the game, Boldin may get huge plays leading to a successful day for the Ravens offense.
49ers: LaMicheal James
This guy will not play often but he is critical when he comes into the game and when he plays special teams. He's quick, lightning fast, and he may make Ray Lewis retire on the spot if put in a 1 on 1 situation in the open field. The former Oregon standout will usually come in when Frank Gore needs a breather and may catch the ball on screen plays and run sweeps when Gore is out of the game. With LaMicheal's speed and his change of pace style differing from Frank Gore's "ground 'n pound" style, he could rip some serious holes in that Ravens defense when given the opportunity.
Case for Ravens/49ers winning Super Bowl XLVII
49ers: If Colin Kaepernick comes out and runs the read option to the degree we know he can, the Ravens will look as bad as the Packers did in the Divisional Playoffs. Let me also remind you that the Packers had a better defense than the Ravens did in the regular season. The threat of Vernon Davis and his ability to outrun the Ravens Linebackers should be enough fear for the Ravens defense that would give running lanes for Frank Gore to slaughter the Ravens Front seven. Even though the Ravens passing attack is lethal, the 49ers fourth ranked passing defense could give Flacco some smoke to see through and could cause Flacco to throw some picks. The fact that the 49ers have been the better team all season could prove to be too much for the Ravens to overcome, even though the Ravens momentum is unparalleled to many teams we've seen in the past with the emotional presence of their long time linebacker Ray Lewis retiring at the end of the season.
Ravens: If Ray Lewis can get his defense prepared similarly to the way they played in Foxboro, the 49ers could get frustrated quickly. San Francisco could run themselves into a big hole on offense and become stagnant similarly to how they played in Seattle in week 16 during the regular season. The way the 49ers started against the Falcons in the first quarter, could become the whole game if the Ravens can sniff out what the 49ers are trying to establish on offense early. If Ray Rice is able to find holes in the line and Flacco can get things going through the air, the Ravens may be able to hang with the 49ers and take Super Bowl XLVII to the wire. If the Ravens are within a touchdown going into the fourth quarter, they could be the favorite especially considering what they did against the Broncos. They have the better kicker in this match-up and if it comes down to a kicking game in the end, I see the Ravens pulling it out. Momentum is also in favor of the Ravens and could easily lead them to victory.
Prediction (Vegas Odds: Over/Under 48, SF -4)
The time you all have been waiting for! Let me be clear when making this prediction, I still have no idea who is going to win, but I must make a prediction! Since I have been watching football since Super Bowl XXXIII, I have been 6-8 in Super Bowl Predictions (Losing the last 3 in a row). So here we go!
San Francisco 49ers 31
Baltimore Ravens 21
MVP: Colin Kaepernick
Explanation: The AFC this season was not very good. It is not specifically a knock on the Ravens run to the Super Bowl, but considering how inconsistent and how bad the AFC was all season, this hot streak could have been foreseen more in the AFC than in the NFC. The Super Bowl is generally a game won and lost at the line of scrimmage and the edge has to go to the 49ers with the Smith Brothers and their pass rush. With how explosive that offensive attack is for the 49ers, they can keep that Front seven of the Ravens more off balance than the Ravens can keep the 49ers Front seven off balance by using the read option. The read option is something the Ravens have not seen in a while, if at all, and considering the age of some of their key players, they may not be able to catch up. The Ravens have not faced a running QB who can throw as well as he can run, unless you throw in RG3 who the Ravens lost to in OT on December 9th. In that game RG3 got hurt on the final drive, but the Redskins still came back to tie the game in that final drive and eventually win it in OT. This will be a test that I see the Ravens failing at, and considering the 49ers are more well rounded on offense than the previous three teams the the Ravens have faced (Yes, they are more well rounded than the Broncos [Frank Gore > Knowshon Moreno]) I just don't see how the Ravens win. The Ravens could very well win this game, and it would not shock me if they did, but the NFC is on a run like no other the past three seasons and it will stay that way after this Super Bowl.
*I also had the 49ers winning the Super Bowl before the season (CLICK HERE TO VIEW!), and on a personal side note (which did not sway my opinion on this prediction), I want to see Randy Moss get his ring and lock his legacy for being one of the greatest receivers to ever play this game. So on that note GO NINERS! Happy Super Bowl everybody!