Ravens vs. 49ers: Dark-Horse Candidates with Legitimate Shot at MVP Honors

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IJanuary 22, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20:  Tight end Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers catches a four-yard touchdown in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Yeah, yeah yeah, Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco. Is there anyone else actually participating in this game?

Quarterback is undeniably the most important position in football, and understandably, signal-callers almost always take home Super Bowl MVP honors.

With Kaepernick looking unstoppable in both the running and passing game and Flacco playing like an elite QB (this will go over well, I'm sure), it's not exactly rocket science to think up a situation of one of them winning the prestigious award two Sundays from now. 

But who has a chance to be this year's Santonio Holmes, Dexter Jackson or Ray Lewis (hint: Ray Lewis)?

Let's take a look at some realistic non-QB contenders. 


Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens

Might as well start with the obvious. 

Lewis is a linebacker, so he automatically qualifies as a dark-horse candidate, but would you really be surprised if the ferocious defender took home this award for the second time in his career? 

He has certainly been playing well enough (44 total tackles in three playoff games) to suggest he can put up the numbers to warrant an MVP nod, but more importantly, he has the all-important narrative working in his favor. 

In case you haven't heard, this will be the final game of the future Hall of Famer's career, and the media is absolutely eating it up. 

If there is no clear-cut top performer, Lewis is guaranteed to take home the award with a good game and a win. 


Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers

Much like Lewis, you might not think of Gore as an under-the-radar MVP candidate.

But consider the following:

1. A running back hasn't won this award since 1998.

2. A far more exciting running back—and one who is becoming synonymous with a nursery rhyme—will be on the other side of the field and will be expected to put up bigger numbers should he actually touch the ball.

3. Gore has a "boring" hard-nosed, down-hill running style and doesn't rip off many long runs. 

As such, the veteran RB is far from a sexy option to win MVP.

Still, though, Gore is a consistent back who will get the majority of San Francisco's carries in what figures to be a physical battle, which is what he often thrives in. 

Additionally, he has quietly racked up over 200 yards and three scores in the Niners' two playoff games and can serve as the occasional receiving threat out of the backfield. 

Simply put, Gore puts up elite numbers for someone being given just the sixth-best (!) odds to win MVP by Sportsbook.ag. 


Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers

My reasoning? Someone finally told Colin Kaepernick he has one of the most talented tight ends in the game.

Leading up to last Sunday's game, Davis saw just 24 targets for 13 receptions in the young QB's first eight starts. Even worse, he had just seven catches in the last seven contests. 

But Kaepernick finally started looking Davis' way against the Falcons, and it resulted in five catches for 106 yards and a score.

With Baltimore boasting an average pass rush (its sack percentage of 6.2 ranked 17th in the NFL), expect the Niners' to continue to go back to that well.

This is more of a long shot than Lewis or Gore, but at 25-to-1 (according to Sportsbook), it's hard to go wrong.