The participants for Super Bowl XLVII are set, as the Baltimore Ravens will take on the San Francisco in New Orleans in two weeks.
While it may not have been the exact matchup that everyone expected, this game will feature plenty of storylines and dynamic players to keep things interesting.
Brothers John and Jim Harbaugh will be the hot topic leading up to the contest, while the incredible career of Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis is extended for one more game. Not to mention the quarterback play, as Joe Flacco looks to continue his postseason hot streak and Colin Kaepernick wants to further exhibit that his head coach made the right decision by choosing him over Alex Smith for the stretch run.
The Ravens avenged last year's AFC Championship loss with a 28-13 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday evening.
Behind Flacco's 240 yards and three touchdowns, and some timely defensive stops, Baltimore was able to handle New England for a second time this season (the Ravens beat the Patriots 31-30 back in Week 3).
The 49ers, however, had a much different path to the Super Bowl as they fell behind 17-0 early to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon. But second-half defensive adjustments, coupled with a consistent rushing attack allowed San Francisco to notch a 28-24 victory.
As unpredictable as the NFL is, this year's Super Bowl has the potential to be as enthralling as the best of years past. Let's take a look at some of the particulars of this game.
When: Sunday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 pm ET
Where: The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Steve Tasker and Solomon Wilcots
National Anthem: Alicia Keys
Halftime Performer: Beyonce
Opening Spread: San Francisco (-4), but fluctuating, according to RJ Bell of ESPN and Vegas Insider
— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) January 21, 2013
Path to Super Bowl:
Indianapolis Colts (24-9), Denver Broncos (38-35) and New England Patriots (28-13).
Joe Flacco - 853 passing yards and eight touchdowns
Ray Rice - 247 rushing yards and two touchdowns
Anquan Boldin - 16 catches, 276 yards and three touchdowns
Ray Lewis - 44 tackles
Others include Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed, Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta
Keys to Victory:
1) Utilize rushing attack with Ray Rice to keep quarterback Colin Kaepernick off the field and to keep all levels of the San Francisco 49ers defense honest.
2) Keep passing attack balanced by finding Torrey Smith in the third level, Anquan Boldin in the second level and Rice out of the backfield.
3) Terrell Suggs and the rest of the pass rush must do enough to dictate Kaepernick's actions, instead of the quarterback getting too comfortable.
4) Find ways to disrupt 49ers' tight end Vernon Davis at the line, preventing him from clean breaks and getting to the second level.
5) Ravens defense must keep first down gains to a minimum, which will prevent the guessing game on play-calling.
Path to Super Bowl:
Green Bay Packers (45-31) and Atlanta Falcons (28-24)
Colin Kaepernick - 496 passing yards, 202 rushing yards and five total touchdowns
Frank Gore - 209 rushing yards and three touchdowns
Vernon Davis - nine catches, 150 yards and one touchdown
Michael Crabtree - 15 catches, 176 yards and two touchdowns
Aldon Smith - three tackles and zero sacks
Others include Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Dashon Goldson
Keys to Victory:
1) Keep Frank Gore involved in the offense all game long, keeping the clock moving and the point of attack honest.
2) Vernon Davis must continue to be a part of the offense, which will provide opportunities for Michael Crabtree.
3) Kaepernick must stay grounded and not let the pressure get to him.
4) Justin Smith needs to get a push at the point of attack, allowing Aldon Smith to get to Joe Flacco.
5) Be physical within legal zone against Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, causing timing issues with Flacco.
The Ravens win if...
...they stay balanced on offense.
At times this season, Baltimore steered away from Ray Rice and the running game. This creates an unnecessary imbalance and gives the opposing defense a break from having to worry about one of the better running backs in the league.
Joe Flacco is afforded a more comfortable pocket to find Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta when defenses have to respect Rice out of the backfield.
When the Ravens get away from that, it allows the defense to dictate the action as opposed to Baltimore being able to keep the opposition on its heels.
The clock will be the Ravens' friend just as much as the scoreboard. Keeping the ball away from Colin Kaepernick and Co. is the most important aspect of this game.
The 49ers win if...
...they can get pressure on Flacco early and not get too far behind on the scoreboard.
The Ravens may not be as explosive as the Atlanta Falcons on offense, but they are more experienced and will stay away from the mistakes that cost Matt Ryan and Co. a Super Bowl appearance against the 49ers.
The Falcons rumbled out to a 17-0 first-half lead, only to see San Francisco methodically climb its way back to the victory. That more than likely wouldn't happen against Baltimore.
Keeping Flacco off balance from the opening kick could yield similar results as the 49ers 45-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. Aaron Rodgers was never able to find a rhythm and sustain drives, which led to San Francisco dominating in time of possession and on the scoreboard.
These two teams are very similar in that they are both very well-coached, have defenses that play an aggressive brand of football, have solid quarterback play, two dynamic running backs and a bevy of weapons through the air.
The two biggest differences are Baltimore's ability to get the ball downfield in the passing game and San Francisco's ability to execute the read-option offense.
Flacco will need to rely on others to get open, make catches and find the end zone, while Kaepernick is afforded the luxury of dictating the action himself. With that said, San Francisco gets the nod on Super Bowl Sunday.
Score Prediction: San Francisco 34, Baltimore 24
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