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Super Bowl XLVII Preview & Prediction: Will the Ravens Beat the 49ers?

January 31, 2013 Front Page, Sports 1 Comment

superbowl2Super Bowl XLVII kicks off this Sunday, Feb. 3 at  6:30 p.m.. As I predicted before the season started, the Baltimore Ravens of the AFC will be taking on the San Fransisco 49ers of the NFC. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh takes on his younger brother, 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. The Ravens are seeking their second Super Bowl championship, their first coming in 2000. The 49ers are seeking sixth championship, their last coming in 1994.

This should be one of the most watched Super Bowls of all-time and for those interested in the entertainment, Alicia Keys will be singing the national anthem and Beyonce will be performing the half-time show with rumored appearances by the other members Destiny’s Child, Jay-Z and Kanye West. For those interested in the game, below is a preview of both teams and my prediction on who will be taking home the Lombardi Trophy.

Baltimore Ravens: On offense, quarterback Joe Flacco has been playing the best football of his career in these playoffs. Flacco has thrown for 853 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions in these playoffs. Flacco isn’t an athletic QB, but throws one of the best deep balls in the NFL right now. Running back Ray Rice is one of the best in the NFL and not only can he break off a big play on the ground, he is also one of the best pass catching running backs. Wide receiver Torrey Smith is the Ravens speedy down the field threat and can burn a defense. WR Anquan Boldin is a strong, sturdy veteran who usually comes up big in crunch time and has been great so far this postseason with 16 catches and three touchdowns. Tight End Dennis Pitta had a breakout season with seven touchdowns this season and two so far this postseason, so Flacco could also look his way as well. Coach John Harbaugh made a bold move at the end of the season when he fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron before the Ravens third-to last game of the season and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. The Ravens have really been clicking on offense since that change was made. To get to the Super Bowl, Flacco beat and outperformed QB legends Peyton Manning (Denver) and Tom Brady (New England) on the road and has finally silenced critics and established himself as elite-type of quarterback.

On defense, linebacker Ray Lewis leads the team in what will be his final game of his NFL career and he is the only Ravens player left from the 2000 Super Bowl Champions team. Lewis, one of the best linebackers of all time, missed a chunk of the season with an injury but returned for the playoffs leading the team in tackles with a whopping 44. Safety Ed Reed is the other legendary defensive leader. Reed and Lewis have been on the field for every defensive play for the Ravens during this playoff run. The Ravens’ defense wasn’t as dominant as they normally are this season, but that was in part due to a bunch of injuries. In addition to Lewis, star LB Terrell Suggs missed time with an injury but is back now but cornerback Lardarius Webb is out for the season with a torn ACL. Only two defensive starters, Reed and cornerback Cary Williams were able to start all 16 games this season. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is a star and younger players like linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger have really stepped up this year. The defense goes into the Superbowl playing very well. In the Denver game, cornerback Corey Graham intercepted Peyton Manning twice and recorded eight tackles. And the Ravens also intercepted Tom Brady twice in their 28-13 AFC Championship win. Baltimore’s defense held New England scoreless in the second half and allowed only one touchdown in the Patriots’ four red-zone trips.

Special Teams: Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker made 30-of-33 field goals during the season including some important clutch ones. Kick returner Jacoby Jones returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns during the regular season. Punter Sam Koch is solid. Coach John Harbaugh has a background in special teams and spent almost two decades as a special-teams coach at the college and pro levels.

San Fransisco 49ers: On offense, the 49ers are led by athletic quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who can burn you running or throwing the football. Kaep didn’t take over full-time at QB until week 11 when coach Jim Harbaugh decided the switch from Alex Smith was best for the future of the team. Kaep has thrown for 496 yards with three TDs and 1 INT and rushed for 202 yards and 2 TDs this postseason. Kaep is the sixth youngest QB to start a Super Bowl and could become the third youngest (Roethlisberger & Brady) to win one if the 49ers win. Kaep’s seven starts in the regular season are also the third fewest for a Super Bowl starting quarterback behind only Vince Ferragamo (five) and Jeff Hostetler (five). Kaep’s favorite target is wide receiver Michael Crabtree who has really come into his own since Kaep took over at QB. TE Vernon Davis has shown he can be a major weapon and could be a match-up issue for the Ravens defense. Veteran WR Randy Moss is Kaep’s third option and while Moss has lost a step with age, he has shown he can contribute in this offense. The 49ers are a running team first and RB Frank Gore is their strong workhorse running back. RB LaMichael James is an explosive, smaller & speedier change-of-pace running back. The 49ers will look to establish the run game and protect Kaepernick from the Ravens defense and they have one of the biggest and most talented offensive lines in the NFL to do so led by Pro Bowlers tackle Joe Staley and guard Mike Iupati.

On defense, the 49ers have one of the league’s strongest defense that features six Pro Bowlers this season. The defensive line of Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, and Isaac Sopoaga is a strong talented group. Outside linebacker Pro Bowler Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks this season but hasn’t had a sack since Dec 9th. Smith is too quick, powerful and talented to be held in check much longer especially with a healthy defensive line in front of him. Smith’s 33.5 regular-season sacks through two seasons are the most by any player since the NFL started keeping track of sacks in 1982. San Fran has the NFL’s best inside linebacker group in Pro Bowlers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. Hard-hitting Pro Bowl safeties SS Donte Whitner and FS Dashon Goldson man center field and cornerbacks CBs Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown make up the rest of the secondary. While the Ravens have had injuries on the defensive front this year, the 49ers have stayed and gelled together as a group. They have had nine players play at least 90 percent of their defensive snaps this season. No other team had more than six. The 49ers usually don’t blitz much but their defense is as physical as they come and have a habit of creating turnovers. The 49ers also finished second in the league in scoring defense this season, allowing only 17.1 points per game, which is 10 spots better than the Ravens defense.

Special Teams: Veteran kicker David Akers struggled this year missing 13 field goals during the season and he hit the left upright in the NFC Championship game. RB LaMichael James returns kickoff and WR Ted Ginn Jr returns punts though neither scored this season doing so. 49ers Punter Andy Lee is considered one of the best & had a net punting average of 43.2 yards this season. He is extra helpful in close games.

Prediction: Ravens over the 49ers 28-21. In what I think will be a close game, the Ravens will be victorious. The Ravens just seem like a team of destiny. Through all the adversity they’ve faced this season (the death of former owner Art Modell, the death of WR Torrey Smith’s brother, & a numerous amount of injuries), the Ravens have persevered. I believe that the Ravens have the defense strong enough to contain Colin Kaepernick and frustrate him a bit. I also believe the play of Joe Flacco will be the difference here and the Ravens offense will outplay the 49ers’ defense. I stand by my prediction and statement before the season started, “The battle of brother versus brother (Head Coaches John and Jim Harbaugh) and two very good defenses will be won by Joe Flacco, Ray Rice & Baltimore’s offense.”

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