San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl XLVII Preview

Super Bowl XLVII
Super Bowl XLVII

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For just the second time in NFL history, the Super Bowl will feature the two teams who lost in the conference championship games the previous year. At many points this season, it looked like neither team would be able to get back to where they were, let alone advance to the Super Bowl. Now, after remarkable playoff runs, the 49ers and Ravens will face off in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.

Not only will this game be a clash of the Harbaugh brothers, it will also feature a bevy of counterparts amongst the players. Ray Rice vs. Frank Gore…which of these great running backs will be able to wear down the defense? Bernard Pierce vs. LaMichael James…which of these rookies will be able to provide the bigger counter punch in the run game? Joe Flacco vs. Colin Kaepernick…who will stay hot and make the big plays?

I think the 49ers have the more talented team, but they don’t match up with Baltimore as well as they would have against New England. The Ravens proved against the Broncos that they can burn a good defense, whereas the 49ers have run into trouble when paired against a tough team like the Ravens. The 49ers’ losses this year came to the Vikings, Giants, Rams, and Seahawks, all of whom played physically and disrupted the 49ers’ rhythm. So the outcome boils down to whether or not the 49ers’ offense has grown enough the last few weeks under Kaepernick to overcome the Ravens’ stout defense.

With two weeks to game plan, I think the 49ers will be creative enough with their playbook to keep the Ravens’ guessing, rather than getting bullied by Baltimore. Plus, the 49ers’ losses to the Rams and Seahawks under Kaepernick came on the road, so it should help to play at a neutral site.

And while the Ravens’ defense has recently played like their old revered units, they’re not as quick as they used to be. This year, the Ravens lost when playing against mobile QB’s Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III, so Kaepernick could cause the same problems. Neither Vick or Griffin ran wild, but they were very successful throwing the ball, perhaps because the Ravens focused on stopping the scrambling. If the Ravens try to load up against the run, they won’t be fast enough to match up with the 49ers’ receivers one-on-one. So as long as Kaepernick avoids turnovers, the 49ers should be able to score enough to win.

For the Ravens to win, Flacco has to hit the deep balls like he did against Denver. The 49ers’ secondary is definitely their weak spot…they can make huge hits, but have had trouble with speedy receivers. In the NFC Championship game, Julio Jones went off for 182 yards and two scores. Torrey Smith could do the same. Even still, it will only be enough if Rice and Pierce can contribute meaningful yards. If the running game isn’t there, the 49ers will be able to adjust their coverage and slow down the passing game like they did to the Falcons.

Prediction: 49ers 27 – Ravens 20

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