Ravens vs. 49ers: Who Has the Advantage at Every Position in Super BowL XLVII?

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2013

Ravens vs. 49ers: Who Has the Advantage at Every Position in Super BowL XLVII?

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    After a wild Championship Weekend, the contestants for Super Bowl XLVII have been set.

    The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in the early game, coming back from an early 17-0 hole to win the game by a score of 28-24. 

    Then, in the late game, the Baltimore Ravens ran the New England Patriots out of their own building, winning convincingly by a score of 28-13.

    This sets up an epic matchup for Super Bowl XLVII, and we wanted to take a look at where both teams have an edge. 

    Harbowl, here we come!

Quarterbacks

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    49ers

    Colin Kaepernick has taken the NFL by storm since becoming the team's starting quarterback, posting a record of 7-2 (including playoffs).

    During this time, Kaepernick has proven he's just as effective throwing the ball as he is running the ball. In the regular season, he passed for 1,814 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions and ran for 415 yards and five touchdowns.

    Kaepernick didn't shrink back under the bright lights of prime time, either, posting an incredible 181 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against the Green Bay Packers to go along with 263 yards and two touchdowns through the air. 

    Then, in the biggest game of his life on the road in Atlanta, Kaepernick proved he can win games as a pure pocket passer, completing 16-of-21 passes for 233 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions against a defense that had forced 20 interceptions during the regular season—tied with the New England Patriots for No. 5 in the NFL. 

     

    Ravens

    Flacco is somewhat of an enigma at times. He can look like an elite quarterback some weeks, but other weeks, we see a quarterback who seems incapable of hitting the side of a barn with a handful of rice.

    Flacco is riding a hot streak right now, though, and his success in the playoffs speaks for itself. Flacco has a playoff record of 8-4, and he's getting better as the postseason wears on.

    In his last four games, Flacco has thrown eight touchdowns and zero interceptions, and his Ravens have won three of those four contests.

     

    ADVANTAGE: RAVENS

Running Backs

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    49ers

    Frank Gore is one of the NFL's most respected running backs, and he's put together a heck of a career.

    This season, Gore rushed for 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns in a somewhat limited role for the 49ers, as the team relied on Kendall Hunter (before he was injured) and LaMichael James to spell him and keep him fresh for the postseason run.

    Gore has responded in the playoffs, rushing for 209 yards and three touchdowns in his two games.

    James has pitched in nicely since Hunter went down with an injury, averaging 4.6 yards per game in the regular season and another 55 yards and a touchdown in limited action this postseason.

    Anthony Dixon is also an effective runner when he gets a chance to play, and he pounded home two goal-line touchdowns during the regular season.

    The 49ers finished the regular season ranked No. 4 in the NFL with 2,491 yards rushing (5.1 yards per carry) and 17 touchdowns. 

     

    Ravens

    Ray Rice is one of the NFL's best running backs year in and year out. 

    Not only can he run the ball well between the tackles, but his ability to catch passes out of the backfield makes him one of the league's most dangerous dual-threat backs.

    Rice rushed for 1,143 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012, and he caught 61 passes for almost 500 yards with one touchdown.

    Behind Rice, Bernard Pierce is a force to be reckoned with. Pierce rushed for over 500 yards and chipped in one rushing touchdown in 2012. 

    Baltimore's rushing attack totaled 1,901 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in 2012. 

     

    ADVANTAGE: RAVENS

Wide Receivers

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    49ers

    Michael Crabtree had a breakout season for the 49ers in 2012, catching 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. 

    The team's second-best receiver this season is Mario Manningham, who was lost for the season after tearing his ACL and PCL in Week 16. Kyle Williams was also lost for the year, and the 49ers have had to rely more on Crabtree than ever since both went down. 

    Randy Moss is still dangerous, but he only caught 28 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season, and his role on offense has been minimal all year long. 

    Rookie A.J. Jenkins has yet to catch a pass as a pro, and it says a lot that the 49ers activated Chad Hall for their NFC Championship tilt against the Atlanta Falcons. 

     

    Ravens

    Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin are a dynamic duo for the Ravens, and they both thrive off of Joe Flacco's ability to stretch the field with his arm.

    The two of them combined to reel in 106 receptions for 1,776 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season, and Boldin in particular has been abusing secondaries in the playoffs.

    Jacoby Jones rounds out the team's trio, and his ability to get open deep makes this team extremely difficult to defend on the perimeter. 

     

    ADVANTAGE: RAVENS

Tight Ends

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    49ers

    The 49ers tight ends have disappeared at times in 2012, but don't think for a second that Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker can be discounted. 

    Teams that attempt to guard either one of them with a single linebacker or safety get burned. Both of them are extremely fast and athletic, and both have the ability to get behind defenses down the field. 

    They combined on 62 receptions for 892 yards and eight touchdowns, but that belies their true ability to impact the game. 

    Davis exploded with five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in the NFC Championship game.

     

    Ravens

    Dennis Pitta is an underrated tight end whose reliable hands and excellent route-running makes Joe Flacco's life easier on Sundays.

    Ed Dickson doesn't see many balls come his way, but when they do, he's capable of making plays to move the chains. 

    This duo combined on 82 receptions for 894 yards and seven touchdowns, and Pitta has become a sort of security blanket for Flacco on third downs, converting 29 of them during the regular season. 

     

    ADVANTAGE: 49ERS

Offensive Line

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    49ers

    The 49ers feature the most dominant offensive line in the NFL. 

    This unit was the key to the team's amazing 5.1 yards-per-carry average in 2012, and since Colin Kaepernick was inserted into the starting lineup, the 49ers offensive line has given up only 18 sacks (16 during the regular season, and two in the playoffs).

    Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis make up the best group of linemen in the league. 

     

    Ravens

    Baltimore's offensive line isn't as lauded as that of the 49ers, but it's capable of dominating at times.

    The Ravens' rushing attack ranked No. 11 in 2012, averaging just under 119 yards per game. Ravens running backs rushed for 17 touchdowns, and the team's 4.3 yards-per-attempt average ranked in the top half.

    The Ravens offensive line allowed 38 sacks during the regular season, ranking No. 20 in this category. 

    In particular, Marshal Yanda is a dominant presence on this line, and he's one of the best—if not the best—guards in the NFL.

     

    ADVANTAGE: 49ERS

Defensive Line

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    49ers

    There aren't many teams that feature as dominant of a defensive line as the 49ers. 

    Justin Smith, even with just one arm, is one of the most powerful interior linemen—both against the run and as a pass-rusher—in the NFL. 

    Ray McDonald on the other side of the team's 3-4 alignment is nearly as dominant, and the two of them both made Pro Football Focus' top-10 for 3-4 defensive ends (subscription required). 

    Isaac Sopoaga is a beast in the middle, as the team's nose tackle, and this trio is tough to run against, as the 49ers' No. 4-ranked run defense attests.

     

    Ravens

    Haloti Ngata is one of the NFL's premier defensive linemen, and when he's healthy, he's darn near impossible to stop. 

    Unfortunately, Ngata hasn't been healthy for most of the year, and his counterparts on the line haven't been able to pick up the slack.

    The Ravens allowed nearly 2,000 yards rushing in 2012, ranking No. 20 in the NFL. The team's 15 rushing touchdowns allowed ranked No. 23 in the league, and what used to be one of the team's biggest strengths is now an area of concern.

     

    ADVANTAGE: 49ERS

Linebackers

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    49ers

    The 49ers feature the most complete, most dominant group of linebackers in the NFL. 

    Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith all made the AP's first-team All-Pro team, and Ahmad Brooks made it on the second-team All-Pro team.

    Smith and Brooks accounted for 26 sacks, and Brooks is one of the most underrated 3-4 outside linebackers in the league.

    Willis and Bowman represent the most dynamic pair of inside linebackers in the league. It doesn't matter which team they are up against, the 49ers will have the better linebacker corps. 

     

    Ravens

    Ray Lewis is one of the NFL's greatest defenders of all time, but he's no longer in his prime. Lewis' leadership skills are unrivaled, but he isn't the same player on the field as he was even two years ago.

    Paul Kruger and Terrell Suggs bring excellent pressure off the edges, and rookie Courtney Upshaw is a player who may end up becoming great at some point, but the Ravens linebacker corps is one in transition.

    If Lewis were a few years younger and if Suggs were fully healthy, this unit would challenge the 49ers. But now, it's not close. 

     

    ADVANTAGE: 49ERS

Defensive Backs

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    49ers

    San Francisco has given up some big yardage a few times this season, but for the most part, the 49ers have an underrated secondary capable of making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers.

    For the season, the 49ers ranked No. 4 against the pass, allowing an average of 200 yards per game. The team's 19 passing touchdowns allowed tied it with two other teams for the NFL's No. 7 rank in that category. 

    And while it's true that the 49ers allowed 653 yards and five touchdowns in the past two playoff games, it's important to note that Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers routinely make some of the NFL's best defenses look silly. 

    Carlos Rogers hasn't been as dominant in 2012 as he was a year ago, but he, Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown are a solid trio.

    Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner are both known for their ability to deliver bone-crunching hits in both the running game and passing game, making the 49ers secondary a formidable group as a whole. 

     

    Ravens

    Ed Reed isn't the same player he was a year or two ago. He was mostly invisible against the Denver Broncos, and though he did manage to intercept four passes in 2012, he hasn't hauled one in in seven games.

    And the Ravens secondary hasn't been the same since losing Lardarius Webb earlier this year to an ACL injury. 

    Corey Graham and Carey Williams have done an admirable job in his stead, but the secondary needs the front seven to generate pressure in order to be successful.

    The Ravens' 13 interceptions during the regular season ranked No. 19 in the NFL, and if this unit can't force Colin Kaepernick into one or two in Super Bowl XLVII, it will have a hard time competing with the 49ers receiving corps.

     

    ADVANTAGE: 49ERS

Special Teams

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    49ers

    David Akers missed 13 field-goal attempts in the regular season, and he missed a crucial 38-yard attempt against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. He's a liability for the 49ers, and San Francisco had better hope it doesn't have to rely on his left leg in Super Bowl XLVII.

    Andy Lee is one of the NFL's premier punters, and he routinely sets opposing teams up in difficult situations deep in their own territory. Lee averaged 43.2 yards per punt (net) and he set teams up at or behind their own 20-yard line 36 times during the regular season.

    LaMichael James gives the 49ers a nice boost on kickoff returns, and Ted Ginn is an explosive punt returner who has the ability to break off huge gains.

     

    Ravens

    Justin Tucker missed just three field-goal attempts all year long, going 30-for-33, including a perfect 4-for-4 from 50-plus yards.

    Sam Koch is a formidable punter who averaged over 40 yards (net) and placed 28 balls inside his opponents' 20-yard line.

    And Jacoby Jones is a dangerous return man who took two kickoffs the distance and scored a third time on a punt return.

     

    ADVANTAGE: RAVENS

Coaches

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    49ers

    Jim Harbaugh has taken the 49ers back to the promised land after a dry period that saw more losing seasons than winners under Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary.

    His controversial decision to start Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith has proven to be the right one, though the 49ers fanbase, local and national media were split on the topic for most of the latter part of the 2012 season. 

    Since becoming the team's head coach, Harbaugh's 49ers have gone 24-7-1 during the regular season and 3-1 in the playoffs.

     

    Ravens

    John Harbaugh has taken the Ravens to the playoffs every single year since becoming the team's head coach in 2008. 

    His team has gone 8-4 in that time, and there's no doubting the fact that the Ravens are more battle-tested than the 49ers heading into Super Bowl XLVII.

    Furthermore, Harbaugh's leadership style has proven to be a perfect match for Baltimore's veteran-laden group, and at this point in his career, he is a step ahead of his younger brother. 

     

    ADVANTAGE: RAVENS

Overall

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    There's no doubt that Super Bowl XLVII will be a closely-contested battle the entire way. Super Bowl XLVII will come down to which team executes their game plan without making mistakes.

    Both teams feature a strong offensive attack, and both teams have playmakers on defense. 

    May the best team come away victorious.

     

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