The San Francisco 49ers will play the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, a battle of two Harbaughs.
The Niners advanced on the strength of a 28-24 comeback win in Atlanta. Colin Kaepernick didn't put up the impressive numbers he did last weekend, but he was steady on a very big stage, avoiding turnovers (which is more than can be said about Matt Ryan) and leading his team to important scores.
Baltimore also advanced while playing on the road, traveling to New England and upsetting the heavily favored Patriots 28-13. Going against the highest-scoring offense in the NFL (by a large margin, at that) the Ravens' defense put on a veritable clinic, dominating the second half from beginning to end.
An insufferable amount of the pregame coverage will surround the brothers Harbaugh, but there's plenty of other, on-field stuff worthy of tuning in for. Here's all you need to know about Super Bowl XLVII.
When: Sunday, Feb. 3rd – 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Booth: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms
National Anthem: Alicia Keys
Halftime Show: Beyonce
Spread: San Francisco -4.5 (via LVH)
Dave Tuley of ViewFromVegas.com tweeted the opening lines from Vegas:
More ViewFromVegas of Super Bowl...@lvsuperbook goes with 49ers -4.5 vs. Ravens...over/under 49 (Stations went with 5, and now down to 4.5)— Dave Tuley (@ViewFromVegas) January 21, 2013
Seems a little high given a) the formidable road Baltimore took to New Orleans, and b) San Francisco's relative struggles in Atlanta. It'll be fun to see how public betting comes in to shape this line.
Something tells me sharps will take the points. Actually, since the game appears to have been bet down at numerous stations, it appears they already did.
I wouldn't insult sharps by claiming to be one of them, but put me in that camp as well.
As for the over/under, 49 seems to be about right. Hard to know where the value lies in this one, though. San Francisco's offense is clicking on all cylinders right now, but so is Baltimore's defense. They were probably the two most important units of the day.
For me, it comes down to whether or not Baltimore will find a way to move the ball on San Francisco. If you have faith in Flacco on a big stage, feel free to take the over.
If you think the Niners' defense might overwhelm him, the under is a good bet. That's personally where my hat lies .
San Francisco 49ers: WR Mario Manningham
Manningham tore his ACL and PCL in Week 16, depriving Colin Kaepernick one of his most reliable weapons. Manningham is also on a short list of Niners with Super Bowl experience, so his absence could also deprive them a stabilizing force on the field. Fortunately, one of the men getting snaps in his wake—Randy Moss—is on of the players on that list.
Baltimore Ravens: CB Lardarius Webb
The Ravens lost their shutdown cornerback all the way back in Week 6, where suffered a torn ACL against the Cowboys. His replacements have been spotty at times—especially Cary Williams—but Baltimore was able to compensate well against the high-scoring Patriots on Sunday.
Keys to Victory
San Francisco 49ers: Exploit Ray Lewis In Coverage
Welcome back, Vernon Davis.
The forgotten Pro Bowl tight end came back with a vengeance this Sunday, hauling in five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. After struggling to form a rapport with new quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Davis looked like he was once again catching balls from Alex Smith.
Against Baltimore, he'll be expected—nay, relied on—to produce in very much the same way.
Ray Lewis is an amazing story, and the intangible advantage his presence brings cannot be overstated. Neither can his impact on the running game, where, even with a robotic arm, he has performed at a high level. His pass defense, however, is a different story.
Now that Kaep is willing to once again look his way, Davis must be able to get open against the Ravens. That they're playing on turf should only multiply the advantage he has running routes against the older, slower linebacker.
That Ray Lewis is playing the last game of his storied career shouldn't.
Baltimore Ravens: Take Care of the Football
Atlanta blew its early 17-point lead for a number of reasons. But more than anything, the tides started turning—or continued turning, only worse—once they started turning over the football.
If Sunday's game taught us anything, it's that San Francisco's defense can, in fact, have the ball moved on them. Atlanta found holes in their secondary that were previously thought not to exist, and brother John will surely find them on tape.
But San Francisco's defense really thrives on turnovers. That's where they make their living. It's also where they stole momentum against Atlanta, taking the ball away from Matt Ryan twice during the second half.
Flacco looked precise in New England, but the Niners' defense is a totally different monster than the Pats'. They're big, fast, strong, aggressive and ready to pounce on all mistakes.
If they feed that mania with careless play, they could be in for a world of trouble.
I've already picked against Baltimore twice this postseason—am I really willing to let them burn me again?
The Ravens have impressed me the past two weeks—more than words could possibly explain. I think they'll come out like gangbusters, I think they'll stay close all game (I picked them to cover, didn't I?) and I think they'll prove worthy of their spot in the world's biggest game.
But at the end of the day, I think San Francisco will be able to edge Baltimore with its speed on both sides of the ball. Were this game taking place next season, in the cold, unconditioned venue of MetLife Stadium, maybe Baltimore has a chance.
But on the speedy, weather-less track of the Superdome, San Francisco finds a way to eke it out.
Predicted Score: San Francisco 23, Baltimore 21