2013 NFL Playoffs: Power Ranking Super Bowl XLVII's Potential Matchups
Finally, just one more weekend of the 2013 NFL Playoffs before we find out the matchup of Super Bowl XLVII.
Can Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons fend off Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers?
Instead of becoming engulfed by these types of questions, we can better prepare ourselves for the Super Bowl by breaking down each potential contest. In short, moving ahead of the curve and previewing the matchups to provide greater anticipation of what to expect.
Because for as much time as there is to dissect the Super Bowl once its competitors are set, examining those still remaining gives a broader understanding entering Conference Championship Sunday.
4. Ravens vs. Falcons
The Ravens and Falcons would be an intriguing chess-match.
With Atlanta's high-powered offense and receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, Baltimore would face the NFL's top receiving tandem.
At the same time, the Ravens are peaking defensively regarding consistent play and health. Ray Lewis is putting on his best postseason performance since 2000, which only bodes well for the rest of his defense.
That impact allows Terrell Suggs to apply quarterback pressure, along with Haloti Ngata to stifle the run. Matt Ryan will also see one of the best safeties in Ed Reed, who is capable of taking any interception to the house.
As a result, the Falcons must run the rock with Michael Turner.
This will limit series for Joe Flacco and Baltimore's offense, because the last thing Atlanta can't lose is the possession battle. Ray Rice would dominate the Falcons' vulnerable rush defense.
Entering this bout, Baltimore has the edge courtesy of a stronger ground game and defensive front seven.
3. Patriots vs. Falcons
Should the Patriots and Falcons duel in Super Bowl XLVII, a ridiculously high-scoring affair would occur.
One offense features Tom Brady and the other Matt Ryan.
New England finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in scoring offense, by averaging 34.8 points per game. Atlanta was not far behind at 26.2.
Ironically, the weakness to each defense resides in coverage.
The Patriots ranked No. 29 in pass defense and gave up 27 scores via the air.
The Falcons weren't much better at No. 23 and allowed a 61.2 completion percentage. Here, though, Atlanta possesses the competitive advantage by fielding opportunistic defenders that also lock it down when backed up inside the red zone.
Safety Thomas DeCoud finished with six interceptions and came up big in the NFC Divisional Round. Even more to the Dirty Birds' favor is allowing a 46.8 red-zone touchdown percentage (ranked No. 5), compared to 53 percent of New England (ranked No. 15).
Each offense will move the ball consistently, so it's time of possession and red zone defense that decides this victor.
2. Ravens vs. 49ers
Alas, we come to the Harbaugh Bowl.
A rematch of 2011's regular season Thanksgiving Night contest, Baltimore and San Francisco would be the lowest-scoring among these potential Super Bowls.
The 'Niners ranked No. 2 in allowing just 17.1 points per game and limited Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to only 352 total yards last week. Shutting down such an explosive offense is an advantage for San Francisco, because Baltimore's offense is not on Green Bay's level.
Then again, the Ravens do present more balance and Ray Rice is the difference-maker.
The 49ers would have to play more Cover 2 with a man-under scheme because that lets the front seven focus more on stuffing the run. At the same time it allows for an extra safety in coverage, as opposed to rolling down to the box.
Baltimore on the contrary, has its hands full with Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.
Ray Lewis and Co. may field excellent talent and Pro Bowl players, but this defense has been suspect against the run all season—including the playoffs. Therefore, expect San Francisco to remain run-balanced to keep the Ravens honest.
Scoring will be scarce, so minimizing turnovers and winning the field position battle evolves as an extreme advantage in this defensive slug-fest.
1. 49ers vs. Patriots
Not only a grudge-match from Week 15, but its two quarterbacks—Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick—on exact opposite ends of their respective NFL careers.
Additionally, we're given two teams with polarizing philosophies. New England, of course, is the pass-first attack capable of outscoring anyone and generating turnovers defensively.
San Francisco, by contrast, punishes opponents in the trenches on both sides, minimizes turnovers and applies significant quarterback pressure. And with 2012's regular season matchup high-scoring, the Super Bowl would be a similar story.
For one it's indoors, which means no weather implications and that is to the Pats' advantage.
Secondly, no weather affecting results in fewer turnovers, dropped passes and botched snaps. Combine all these elements and New England will load the box vs. San Francisco's offense.
The 49ers will simply need to shorten the game and keep Tom Brady off the field. Because Kaepernick may possess much potential, but outplaying Brady in favorable conditions to the Pats enhances the difficulty for Jim Harbaugh.
Nevertheless, San Francisco vs. New England is this season's ultimate clash.
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