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Who's Hot, Who's Not for the San Francisco 49ers Heading into Super Bowl XLVI

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystJanuary 20, 2013

Who's Hot, Who's Not for the San Francisco 49ers Heading into Super Bowl XLVI

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    The San Francisco 49ers are advancing to their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history, as despite falling into an early 17-0 hole the team rallied to post a 28-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game.

    That game was filled with performances both good and bad, and as the 49ers prepare to face either the Baltimore Ravens or the New England Patriots in New Orleans here's a look at who's hot and who's not heading into Super Bowl XLVII.

HOT: Colin Kaepernick

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    OK, so the whole "was Jim Harbuagh right to start Colin Kaepernick" argument, in hindsight, was apparently pretty silly.

    The second-year quarterback accomplished what Alex Smith could not a year ago in winning the NFC Championship Game, and while his stats against the Falcons weren't as gaudy as against the Green Bay Packers the week before, he was every bit as efficient and poised in leading San Francisco to a comeback win.

NOT: Michael Crabtree

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    San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree had become Kaepernick's favorite target since the latter became the starting quarterback for the 49ers, but Crabtree's ascension hit a bump in the road over the past week.

    The fourth-year pro was questioned in regards to an alleged sexual assault in San Francisco after the win over the Packers, and with that distraction hanging over his head Crabtree turned in a so-so performance against the Falcons, catching six passes for 57 yards and losing a key fumble.

HOT: Vernon Davis

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    With Michael Crabtree reeling in passes like crazy from Colin Kaepernick tight end Vernon Davis had become the forgotten man in the San Francisco offense over the past seven weeks, but that changed in a big way against the Falcons.

    Davis was the team's focal point in the passing game with five catches for 106 yards, and his huge second quarter helped the 49ers get back into the ballgame.

NOT: David Akers

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    In the 49ers' run to the NFC Championship a season ago, kicker David Akers was as clutch as any in the NFL, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl and making more field goals than any kicker in the NFL.

    That seems like 10 years ago.

    Akers has struggled this year to the point that the team has brought in other kickers as "competition" for the 38-year-old, and the team may want to consider doing that again after Akers' only attempt in the NFC Championship Game bounced off the goal post.

HOT: Frank Gore

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    Running back Frank Gore has racked up nearly 9,000 rushing yards over eight seasons in San Francisco, and after several seasons of toiling away on bad teams Gore will finally get his chance to tote the rock all the way to the Promised Land.

    Gore certainly did his part to make sure that the 49ers got to New Orleans for that shot in Super Bowl XLVII, carrying the ball 21 times for 90 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons, including the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

NOT: Justin Smith

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    It's not really fair to throw defensive end Justin Smith on this list, as Smith's willingness to risk further damage to his torn triceps muscle by playing through the injury shows just how tough the 33-year-old really is.

    However, it's easy to see that the injury is clearly affecting Smith's play, as he was unable to generate any sort of push and was more or less a non-factor against the Falcons.

    I will give him credit though. Nine tackles in two games ain't bad for a guy with one arm.

HOT: Offensive Line

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    It's hard to single out an individual along the best offensive line in the NFL that's playing especially well heading into the Super Bowl, so instead I'm just going to give the unit as a whole some love.

    Whether it was tackle Joe Staley or guard Mike Iupati the San Francisco offensive front completely dominated the line of scrimmage against the Falcons, powering the 49ers to 149 yards on the ground and allowing only a single sack.

NOT: Secondary

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    I recently wrote here at Bleacher Report that while the San Francisco secondary was decent none of the players back there were world beaters and the unit benefited greatly from the 49ers front seven and the pressure it generates.

    I was raked over the coals for that statement, but that front seven didn't generate much pressure against the Atlanta Falcons, and the result was almost 400 yards through the air for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

    Safety Dashon Goldson was especially awful against Atlanta, allowing Julio Jones to run right past him at least twice, including once that resulted in a long touchdown.

HOT: Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman

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    In Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman the San Francisco 49ers have far and away the best inside linebacker tandem in the National Football League.

    Both players were named first-team All-Pros by the Associated Press, and against the Falcons both star linebackers brought their "A" games.

    The pair combined for 16 total tackles against Atlanta and were largely responsible for holding the Falcons to only 81 yards on the ground for the game.

NOT: Aldon Smith

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    To see why outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who led the NFC with 19.5 sacks in 2012, has been ice cold of late all you have to do is go back to the sixth slide of this article.

    Granted, Smith did have a big fumble recovery in the win over the Falcons, but since Justin Smith injured his arm opposing offenses have been able to shift double-teams from one Smith to the other.

    The result? Aldon Smith hasn't recorded a sack since Justin Smith got hurt.

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