As numerous media outlets have pointed many times, Super Bowl XLVII is the first Super Bowl to have two brothers facing off against one another as head coaches.
While it’s a nice Hollywood ending to what was a great 2012 season, many other storylines will actually shape the outcome of this game. For instance, this is linebacker Ray Lewis’ last hoorah. And San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will have a chance to show the other 31 NFL teams that passed over him in 2011’s draft what they’re missing. And yet here the rookie is leading his team to a possible Super Bowl title.
And that’s just the surface. There are plenty of reasons to watch this game. Below is a breakdown of who has an edge in each facet of the game: offense, defense, special teams and coaching.
Neither offense will run up the score consistently, but both teams have the capability of gaining big plays. Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense were fifth in the league in passing plays over for 20 yards. Wide receivers Anquan Boldin and the young phenom Torrey Smith are as dangerous as any tandem in the league and are a big reason why they have made it this far in the postseason.
The 49ers also have big play ability, but mainly stick to the ground behind Kaepernick and Frank Gore. Kaepernick and Gore have shown that the read-option can translate in the NFL. It keeps opposing defenses guessing, and, with Kaepernick and Gore’s athletic ability, they’re a home run threat each time they touch the ball.
Both of these defenses have exceptional playmakers and were two of the stingiest in the league this season. Although the Raven defense may look average on the stat sheet, they don’t play that way.
With Lewis as their unquestioned leader, the Ravens are among the league’s most talented. Even though they have lost a step or two, Baltimore defense is one of the NFL’s most opportunistic units, totaling 25 takeaways this past season. Over the past two games, they have forced both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to turn the ball over a total of five times
The 49ers have one of the most aggressive front sevens in the league. They ranked third overall in the league in total defense and fourth against the run.
Linebacker Aldon Smith led the team in sacks with 19.5. Opposing quarterbacks also had a tough time throwing against the 49er defense, which ranked fourth in the league against the pass, surrendering 200 yards per game.
Sometimes the subtlest difference in the outcome of a game could be how well each team performs in the special teams department. The Ravens have clearly got the better kicker in rookie Justin Tucker, who went 30-for-33 this season.
WR Jacoby Jones could also be dangerous in the return game for Baltimore. He’s had three touchdown returns this season.
The 49ers will be pressed to score touchdowns because veteran kicker David Akers hasn’t been all that accurate this season, hitting only 29-of-42 field goal attempts.
While no 49er has returned a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, it doesn’t mean San Fran is incapable of doing so. Ted Ginn Jr. is as dangerous as anyone in the NFL in quickly changing field position in a hurry.
As long as neither coach makes a terrible decision, the players should ultimately decide the matchup of this game. Both Harbaughs have similar coaching styles— they are brothers after all. They both coach discipline and both should have their respective players fully prepared for this game.
EDGE: Harbaugh. Sorry folks, I couldn’t resist.
PREDICTION: 49ers 28, Ravens 24
As much as I would like to pick the Ravens in this one considering this will be Lewis’ last game, the 49ers offense will be too tough to handle.
Their read-option is tough to prepare for. And if even the Ravens have two weeks to do so, it’s another thing to actually stop it during a game.
Kaepernick is playing at a pretty high level. He can throw. And he most certainly can run.
The 49ers defense has been one of the best in the NFL this year as well. Expect Aldon Smith to make a big play or two on defense to change momentum.
MVP: Colin Kaepernick