Will we have another 16-6 game like last season's clash between the Ravens and 49ers?
With more than a week to go before the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers get ready to butt helmets at the Superdome in New Orleans, I thought I'd try to forecast what kind of numbers the players would put up in Super Bowl XLVII.
In a game featuring two teams with a lot of similarities beyond the Harbaugh Brothers, we’re taking an educated guess, combined with these players’ 2012 track records, to predict what kind of statistics some of the more prominent players will finish with by Sunday evening, Feb. 3.
And just in case you thought we have ignored the special teams impact in this contest, look for Baltimore Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker to have more touchbacks (four) than field goals (one), struggling 49ers specialist David Akers to not miss a field goal (he won’t attempt one) and Ravens Pro Bowl return artist Jacoby Jones to make a splash on kickoffs but not on punt returns.
That should cover everything. And what makes these Super Bowls and any championship game in any sport so interesting is that sometimes the most unheralded of players step to the forefront at the most crucial of times.
By the way, to eliminate any confusion, the prediction here is 49ers 28, Ravens 26. How did we come up with that score? Start with the aforementioned Tucker field goal for Baltimore, and the rest of the answers are ahead.
Expectation: 23-of-37 for 278 yards, three touchdown passes, one interception, 12 yards rushing, sacked three times.
Although Flacco’s completion percentage in these playoffs has been far from stellar (54.8), he’s thrown for 853 yards and eight scores (zero interceptions) in three games.
The 49ers secondary had its issues with the Atlanta Falcons receivers in the NFC Championship Game, and the Ravens wideouts and tight ends will pose similar problems for Vic Fangio’s defensive unit.
Expectation: 17-of-29 for 190 yards, two touchdown passes, two interceptions, 66 yards rushing, one rushing touchdown, sacked five times (once for safety).
The second-year quarterback has been sharp both running and passing, although his legs took a back seat to his arm in the NFC title game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Baltimore’s defense has been far from staunch, but it has made timely plays, totaling eight takeaways and six sacks in three postseason games. It has allowed only four offensive touchdowns in the playoffs.
Expectation: 18 attempts, 65 rushing yards, eight receptions, 78 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown.
Only three teams in the NFL gave up fewer yards rushing than the 49ers in 2012. Meanwhile, lost in the deserved praise for quarterback Joe Flacco is the fact that the Ravens have averaged 148.7 yards per game on the ground in this postseason.
Rice and rookie Bernard Pierce have been a nice one-two punch, and Rice has made his usual impact as a pass-catcher.
Expectation: 23 attempts, 123 yards rushing, one rushing touchdown, two receptions, 12 receiving yards.
The 49ers' all-time leader in rushing has been waiting for his opportunity on the big stage. And if Jim Harbaugh's team prevails, you can look for Gore to be right in the mix come game MVP talk.
The Niners look to exploit a Baltimore defense that struggled against the run during the regular season (122.8 yards per game) and has been even shakier in the playoffs (128.3 yards per game).
Expectation: Five receptions, 56 receiving yards.
Not surprisingly, the former Arizona Cardinals star, headed to his second Super Bowl, has been quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite target in the playoffs.
Boldin has been targeted 26 times and leads the club with 16 catches, 276 yards and three touchdowns, two of those scores in the AFC title game win. Veteran corner Carlos Rogers will have to try and outmuscle the Ravens wideout.
Expectation: Eight receptions, 92 receiving yards, one touchdown reception.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has developed quite the rapport with Crabtree, who leads the team with 15 receptions and 176 yards in the postseason. He has caught two of Kaepernick’s three touchdown passes in the playoffs.
Ravens cornerback Cary Williams will try and keep the Niners wide receiver under wraps, which has been easier said than done since the beginning of December.
Expectation: Six receptions, 91 receiving yards, one touchdown reception.
Smith gets his share of passes thrown his way, and it may surprise some that he’s totaled only nine catches in the playoffs this year.
But those receptions have gone for an impressive 198 yards (22.0 yards per reception) as the speedster has been Joe Flacco’s best long-ball threat. San Francisco cornerback Tarell Brown could be tested early and often on Super Bowl Sunday.
Expectation: Two receptions, 21 receiving yards, one touchdown reception.
Five years ago, Moss was playing for the highest-scoring team in NFL history, grabbing a record 23 touchdown receptions. His scoring catch with less than three minutes to play against the Giants gave the New England Patriots the lead in Super Bowl XLII.
These days he’s not putting up big numbers, but he has done just what's been needed. The feeling here is he'll do that again in the Super Bowl by catching a touchdown pass.
Expectation: Four receptions, 53 receiving yards, one touchdown reception.
While teammates Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones have been getting all of the long-distance love in these playoffs, Pitta has come up big when needed.
He's second on the team with 10 catches (137 yards, two touchdowns) in the playoffs. Look for the emerging tight end to pick his spots.
Expectation: Five receptions, 65 receiving yards.
In last year’s postseason, Davis was a star and seemingly the 49ers’ lone pass-catching option. He totaled 10 receptions for a whopping 292 yards and four touchdowns in two games.
In the win over the Atlanta Falcons, we saw more of that. He caught five passes for 106 yards and a score. He should find some holes at the expense of the Baltimore pass coverage.
Expectation: Three tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery.
Talk about a battle of Pro Bowl behemoths! Ngata has been his usual steady self in the postseason, even if he's still hampered a bit by injuries.
He’ll get no sympathy from 49ers left guard Mike Iupati, named to the Pro Bowl this season. Still, look for Ngata to come up with a pair of takeaways.
Expectation: Six tackles, one sack.
The Ravens' revamped offensive front has been outstanding in the postseason. John Harbaugh’s club has allowed only four sacks while averaging 148.7 yards per game on the ground.
But they’ll get a big test in the form of Smith, who has totaled nine tackles in the playoffs and will likely be feeling a little nostalgic seeing the Ravens after all those years with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Expectation: Four tackles, three sacks (one for safety).
Kruger, who led the team with 9.0 sacks in the regular season and 2.5 sacks in the playoffs, has started at right defensive end the last two games against the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.
He’s also been at the right place at the right time with a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the playoffs. But can he avoid being pushed around by 49ers left tackle Joe Staley?
Expectation: Three tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception.
For lack of a better explanation, Smith is overdue to have a big-time performance, and we think he’ll respond against Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
Against the Falcons, the Niners’ second-year star was limited to one tackle but did recover a Matt Ryan fumble. Look for him to end his recent sack drought and fool Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco once or twice.
Expectation: Three tackles, one sack, one forced fumble.
Slowly but surely, the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has begun to look like his old productive self after injuries shortened and plagued his season.
In the wins over the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, Suggs combined for 19 tackles, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble. San Francisco right tackle Anthony Davis will do his best to limit the damage this Ravens defender can do.
Expectation: 12 tackles, two passes defensed.
For the second consecutive year, Bowman led the 49ers in total tackles (149) during the regular season.
And while his totals in the playoff victories over the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons are far from gaudy, keep in mind that those teams have combined to run the ball just 39 times in the postseason. In the Superdome, he hopes to fend off the blocks of Ravens fullback Vonta Leach.
Expectation: Nine tackles.
“Fountain of Youth” or “Ray of Hope"? In any case, since his return to the field in the playoffs, Lewis has piled up an astounding 44 tackles, totaling double-digit stops in the wins over the Indianapolis Colts (13), Denver Broncos (17) and New England Patriots (14).
In his farewell performance, Lewis plans on going out with lots of bangs while hearing a few whimpers.
Expectation: Nine tackles, one pass defensed.
The perennial Pro Bowl defender was extremely busy in the title-game win at Atlanta, totaling a team-high 12 tackles, including 11 solo stops.
You can look for Willis to have his hands full with not only the Baltimore running game, but also the receiving threat of Ray Rice, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson.
Expectation: Eight tackles, one sack, one interception.
The hard-hitting safety has been a real tone-setter for the Ravens defense, leading the team in tackles during the regular season. He made his presence felt at New England with his usual jarring hits, most notably the one on Patriots running back Steven Ridley that forced a crucial fumble.
Pollard totaled nine stops in the win over the Patriots and will have some sort of impact in this game.
Expectation: Six tackles, two passes defensed.
The Pro Bowl defender finished third on the 49ers in tackles during the season but has been relatively quiet during the playoffs. You can look for that to change at New Orleans.
Whitner will be counted on to help with running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. The Ravens figure to be more patient with the ground game than were the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers.
Expectation: Four tackles, three passes defensed.
The NFL’s active interception leader in the regular season (61) entered these playoffs with eight career postseason picks, one short of the league record.
But Reed has yet to get his hands on the ball, somewhat surprising considering the Ravens have forced eight turnovers during this playoff run. You have to think the veteran may school young Colin Kaepernick at least once in this game.
Expectation: Six tackles, one pass defensed.
The 49ers appeared to be in a bit of trouble in Atlanta as Goldson and his secondary mates watched Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throw for 271 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
Super Bowl Sunday may be no different, especially if Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco continues to have success throwing deep. Goldson must eliminate the quick strike from the Ravens attack.