NEW ORLEANS – With the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers set to kick off Super Bowl XLVII in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 6:30 (EST) tonight, it is time to finally get down to business and watch the game itself.
Going into the game, there have been multiple storylines ranging from Ray Lewis’ “last ride”, Joe Flacco’s status amongst the proverbial QB totem poll to the Randy-Moss-Jerry Rice “greatest WR” debate.
While these are all great human interest pieces to help pass the time, let’s talk now about who will win and why.
On offense, you have two teams who run variations of the West Coast offense, but use them very differently. In Baltimore, you have an offense that relies on the big play downfield in the form of wide receivers Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones and dual-threat running back Ray Rice.
One player to keep an eye on, who make be the x-factor for the Ravens is tight end Dennis Pitta. Pitta, a third year tight end out of BYU, is tied for second (with running back Ray Rice) in receptions with 61 and is third behind Boldin and Smith in targets with 93.
At 6’4 and 245 pounds, Pitta could be Flacco’s safety blanket in checkdowns and third-down conversions. If Flacco is under heavy duress, don’t be too surprised to see him look Pitta’s way.
In the case of the 49ers, you have a once-dormant and flat offense on the cusp of looking like world beaters under wunderkind quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick, a second-year backup out of Nevada, has given the 49er’s a new dimension on offense.
An x-factor for the 49er’s on offense could possibly be rookie running back, LaMichael James. James, out of Oregon, could be used as a change-of-pack back out of the backfield on screens while giving Frank Gore a breather.
While the Niners do not possess the explosive big-play offense that the Ravens do, they due have a potential matchup nightmare in the form of Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis, who will most likely be covered by either Ray Lewis in passing downs or “bracketed” by safety Ed Reed, who will have help from a corner.
Advantage : Ravens
As if these two teams cannot be any more alike, they also run base 3-4 defenses anchored by a savvy inside linebacker.
In Baltimore, middle linebacker Ray Lewis and his many accolades are that of legend—or infamy—depending on who you talk to.
Despite missing 12 weeks with a torn triceps, Lewis would still record 57 total tackles(good for 8th on the Ravens), record one tackle for loss and defend one pass.
While he may not be the Lewis of old, and is sixty minutes from retirement, there is no question that as Lewis goes, so does the Ravens defense.
In San Francisco, you have a younger mirror image of the vaunted Ravens defense in the form of Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, Donte Whitner, Aldon and Justin Smith and Dashon Goldson.
While Bowman may be the leading tackler (149), the unquestioned leader on the Niners defense is Willis. While Willis is not as renowned as Lewis, Willis has similar intangible such as great anticipation, timing and knack for making the big play.
If the Niners have any chance of winning their sixth Super Bowl, look for Willis and company to find a way off putting down the clamps on Flacco.
Advantage : Niners
Special Teams :
If Super Bowl XLVII is anticipated to be the close nail-biter that many are expecting, then it could come down to special teams, namely good field position and field.
For Baltimore, you have an explosive return specialist in the form of Jacoby Jones who has returned 38 kickoffs for 1,167 yards for an average of 30.7 and two touchdowns.
Jones has also returned 37 punts for 341 yards for an average of 9.2 yards and one touchdown.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has been fairly consistent in converting 30-30 field goals—including a longest one 56 yards. Something else to note is that Tucker is a combined 14-17 from 40-50+ yards out,(10-13 from 40-49) and a perfect four-of-four from 50-plus yards.
In the the case of San Francisco, you have a return-by-committee in the likes of James, Kyle Williams, Ted Ginn Jr, Kendall Hunter and Delanie Walker who have combined to return 49 kickoffs for 1,126 yards for an average of 24.8 yards and zero touchdowns. Williams and Ginn have combined to return 36 punts for 378 yards for an average of 10.8 yards and zero touchdowns.
Niners kicker David Ackers—as opposed to Tucker—has been very erratic and inconsistent in converting 29 of 42 field goal attempts, including a career-long 63-yarder. Ackers has converted 69.0 of his field goals, but is only 7-of-13 from 40-49 yards and 2-of-6 from 50-plus yards.
Advantage : Ravens
What else cannot be said or written about this being the last game for future Hall-of Famers in Lewis, and possibly the last in a Ravens uniform for Ed Reed and the last of Randy Moss in the NFL that hasn’t already been said? What else can be said about the overnight rise of Kaepernick and the term #Kaepernicking?
And of course the first ever matchup between brothers in the Super Bowl in Jim and John?
Not a whole lot, but depending on how things fall, this could be the coming out party of Flacco and him stamping his name into the conversation of eilte NFL quarterbacks.
While the story of Kaepernick’s rise benchwarmer to Super Bowl quarterback is Hollywood-worthy, in the end, Flacco has a great chance of scoring “Best Actor” in a drama series.
Advantage : Ravens
Prediction : Baltimore Ravens 27 : San Francisco 49ers 21
The Inscriber : Digital Magazine Super Bowl XLVII Staff Picks :
Matt Wagner : 31-28 – Ravens
Steven Resnick : 34-23 – 49ers
Michael Elworth : 30-21 – Ravens
Michael Gartman : 24-20 – 49ers
Johnny Machurek : 24-21 – Ravens
Charlie DiSturco : 24-14 – Ravens
Robert D. Cobb is the Founder/CEO/Senior Editor-In-Chief Of The Inscriber : Digital Magazine, for questions, comments and concerns email me at [email protected] and follow the Inscriber : Digital Magazine on Twitter at @TheInscriber