The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are headed to New Orleans to face off in Super Bowl XLVII, and NFL fans everywhere now have to decide which team they will be rooting for on the NFL's biggest stage.
Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens earned their trip to the big game by defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. The 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh, the little brother, earned a trip by downing the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship.
There are plenty of intriguing storylines heading into the big game, and NFL fans who do not identify with either team now have to throw their support down for one team or the other.
Let's break down each important matchup and storyline in Super Bowl XLVII and let NFL fans everywhere voice their opinions on who they are rooting for in the big game.
Quarterback: Joe Flacco vs. Colin Kaepernick
Super Bowl XLVII may feature one of the more polarizing matchups NFL fans have seen at the quarterback position.
On one hand, you have Joe Flacco of the Ravens, who is consistently lambasted for considering himself elite despite playing pristine in the postseason. On the other, you have the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, who has been publicly criticized for the tattoos on his arms.
Regardless of their opinions or how they look, these quarterbacks are the main reason their teams are playing for the Lombardi Trophy. Flacco has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions on his way to the big game. Kaepernick has thrown for nearly 500 yards and added another 200 on the ground this postseason.
Only one will walk away a Super Bowl champion. Who do you want to win?
Running back: Ray Rice vs. Frank Gore
The quarterbacks have been the main reason for the offensive success of both teams, but the starting running backs are two of the best in the NFL and have taken a large amount of pressure off their signal-callers this postseason.
Ray Rice of the Ravens, now in his fifth season, has racked up 247 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. San Francisco's Frank Gore, an eight-year veteran, has bruised his way to 209 yards and three touchdowns.
Both Rice and Gore are physical backs who can control the pace of the game on their own. The back who steps up and seizes the opportunity could walk away a champion.
The matchup at receiver features two wily veterans and two up-and-comers attempting to make names for themselves.
Anquan Boldin has been elite this postseason for the Ravens and is now in his 10th year. Randy Moss has not been as productive, but in his 14th season he could have a game to remember as he attempts to win his first ring.
Torrey Smith and Michael Crabtree, of the Ravens and 49ers respectively, are two young guns who have stepped up in a major way this postseason.
Will the veterans or youngsters step up in the big game?
Tight End: Dennis Pitta vs. Vernon Davis
The tight end position has quietly been a major factor at times for both teams this postseason. Vernon Davis of the 49ers is a well-known name, but Dennis Pitta for the Ravens is no slouch either.
Davis exploded in the NFC Championship for 106 yards and one touchdown. Pitta pulled off a similar feat in the AFC Championship with 55 yards and a critical touchdown.
Whoever steps up and makes some big plays for his quarterback will provide a massive boost to his team.
Defensive Linemen: Haloti Ngata vs. Justin Smith
As the Super Bowl should, it features two of the best defensive linemen in the league in Baltimore's Haloti Ngata and San Francisco's Justin Smith.
Ngata, a 340-pound monster, terrorizes opposing quarterbacks and shuts down the run with ease. He has been a force all postseason and makes the jobs of the linebackers and secondary behind him that much easier.
Conversely, Smith has been hampered by injuries but has still been a force in the trenches thanks to his freakish combination of strength and agility.
Both are sure to have big games, but whoever can put it all on the line will make the opposing offense have a hard time scoring at all.
Linebackers: Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis vs. Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith
Two of the NFL's best linebackers will square off in the matchup, as will two of the NFL's best pass-rushing specialists.
Terrell Suggs is a well-known commodity as one of the league's most ferocious players and wreaks havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Aldon Smith is younger, but he's slowly playing his way into being labeled as the best pass-rusher in the NFL.
Ray Lewis is playing in his final NFL game before retiring and is tasked with outperforming the NFL's best inside linebacker outside of himself—Patrick Willis. Lewis has been playing exceptionally well in the playoffs thus far with 44 combined tackles, but Willis has been all over the field as well, tallying up 19 total tackles and a sack.
Will Lewis ride off into the sunset with a Lombardi Trophy, or will fans witness a passing of the guard to Willis?
Secondary: Ed Reed vs. Carlos Rogers
Lost in the hype of Ray Lewis retiring is the fact the NFL could be losing one of its greatest safeties as well in Baltimore's Ed Reed.
Reed is 34 years old and has had a historic career to this point. He has played well in the postseason as the leader of the Ravens secondary, but he may ride off into the sunset with Lewis.
For the 49ers, cornerback Carlos Rogers is a veteran presence in the secondary who has the ability to shut down any receiver he faces when he is at his best. He will need to be at his best to match Reed's coverage skills.
Coaches: John Harbaugh vs. Jim Harbaugh
The Harbaugh brothers have been wildly successful in their coaching careers, so it is only right they collide in what is now being called "The Harbowl."
Both have taken their respective teams to the playoffs in every season they have acted as a head coach. John has taken the Ravens five years in a row, while Jim has taken the 49ers two years in a row.
John and Jim are known for being some of the more animated coaches in the NFL when patrolling the sidelines. They are also known as coaches players absolutely love to play for, which allows them to get the absolute most out of the talent on each roster.
"The Harbowl" is a historic occasion with two brothers going head-to-head. It will ultimately be decided by which brother can outsmart the other on the grandest stage of them all.
Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers
As is the case with almost every Super Bowl, this year's game is between the NFL's absolute two best teams, with a family twist for good measure.
Both teams possess smash-mouth defenses that prove defenses still win championships in the NFL—both units shut down some of the NFL's best offenses in the conference championships to get to this point.
The Ravens and 49ers are as evenly matched teams as it gets, so it is only fitting the two landed in New Orleans.
Who are you rooting for in Super Bowl XLVII?
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