One of the great things about having two teams loaded with star power playing in the Super Bowl, like the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, is that it makes choosing MVP candidates incredibly easy.
Actually, because of the nature of the NFL, predicting a Super Bowl MVP has gotten so easy that it is almost unfair to talk about. Quarterbacks rule the sport, so they are naturally going to get more credit than anyone else on the field.
But the Ravens-49ers game is different because you can envision a scenario where a running back takes over the game, or a defensive player makes a game-changing stop or interception that catapults his team to victory.
As we try to push through the long two weeks without football, here is a power ranking of the players who will battle for the Super Bowl MVP.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Anquan Boldin, RB Ray Rice
The biggest difference in the way the Ravens played in the first half against New England and the second half was Boldin.
The offense changed its plan at halftime, with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell basically telling Joe Flacco to throw the ball over the smaller New England secondary and letting Boldin jump over them.
The 49ers defense had problems defending the big receivers that Atlanta possesses (Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez), so don't be shocked to see Boldin go off for some big plays down the field in this game.
Rice is going to have a hard time winning the MVP award for two reasons, but because he is so talented and valuable to this offense, he is hard to ignore.
The reasons Rice will have a hard time is because the 49ers don't give up yards on the ground and the Ravens have shown they will throw the ball with great success when the running game isn't there.
San Francisco 49ers: LB Patrick Willis, TE Vernon Davis
In a lot of ways, this is a fitting Super Bowl matchup because of the linebacker position. You have Ray Lewis, the most revered middle linebacker of this generation, retiring after the game on the Ravens defense.
On the other side of the field is Patrick Willis, widely regarded as the best middle linebacker in the NFL today. He was relatively quiet in the divisional round against Green Bay but came back with 12 total tackles (one for loss) against Atlanta in the NFC Championship.
Davis has gotten lost in the shuffle for the 49ers since Colin Kaepernick took over, as Michael Crabtree emerged as the team's No. 1 passing option. But Davis proved against the Falcons that he can still be the most dangerous weapon this team has on the outside with 106 yards and a touchdown.
Aaron Hernandez did have nine catches for 83 yards against the Ravens defense, so don't be shocked to see the 49ers try to incorporate Davis as much as possible into this game.
No. 3: Quarterback Joe Flacco
Flacco has been able to silence his critics with his performance in this postseason. He has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions in Baltimore's three victories. He was masterful in the second half against New England, throwing for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
As mentioned before, the 49ers did have problems defending bigger, physical wide receivers in the NFC Championship Game. They have to create pressure with their front four in order for the defense to be successful.
If given the time to throw in the pocket, Flacco can have another big day and lead the Ravens to their second Super Bowl in team history.
No. 2: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick
I said it before, but you have to always give the edge to quarterbacks whenever talking about an MVP award in the Super Bowl.
Eli Manning has two of those MVP trophies on his mantle, even though anyone watching that first New York-New England Super Bowl would tell you that defensive line is the reason the Giants won that game.
Kaepernick has had his coming out party this postseason. The 49ers have asked him to use his legs, and he set a new NFL record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback with 181 against Green Bay.
The Falcons kept Kaepernick in the pocket in the NFC Championship Game, so he beat them with his arm and mind. His arm strength and accuracy are what make him so dangerous. Being able to run is fantastic, but it is what he does as a quarterback that makes him so good.
No. 1 : Linebacker Ray Lewis
Because the Ray Lewis Retirement Tour has basically been designed to make him the focal point of these playoffs, he can just show up, stand on the field and have the inside track on the Super Bowl MVP award.
That is not meant to sound like Lewis hasn't been very good in these playoffs. He doesn't have the same speed or quickness that he once did, but he can still wrap opponents up and is very good in pass coverage.
In the three playoff games the Ravens have won, Lewis has recorded 44 total tackles. He is going to be the sentimental choice to win the honor if the Ravens capture their second Super Bowl. The narrative always trumps actual performance, so he has to be the odds-on favorite to win the honor.
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