Can 49ers pass rush get to Joe Flacco in Super Bowl XLVII?
The predictions were slow to emerge early this week for Super Bowl XLVII, but you can be sure that every day that passes will find more and more prognosticators venturing forward with their best guesses.
Obviously, you should be taking these predictions with a grain of salt. Back in September, ESPN asked their panel of NFL experts—including John Clayton, Herm Edwards, Ron Jaworski, Mel Kiper, Chris Mortensen, Bill Polian and Adam Schefter—to predict who would appear in the season's Super Bowl.
From that group, only Mortensen picked San Francisco, and he thought they would lose to Houston. Polian thought Baltimore would defeat Atlanta in the Super Bowl, while Jaworski thought Baltimore would lose to Green Bay.
But for now, every Super Bowl prediction has a 50-50 chance of being correct. Here is an early sampling of what some experts are predicting will happen in Super Bowl XLVII.
San Francisco will need a big game from Frank Gore against the Ravens.
On SportsCenter Monday, Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge had a good old-fashioned debate over the outcome of Super Bowl XLVII (video via ESPN.com).
Jaworski calls the Baltimore Ravens a "lead-pipe lock," as he is a big fan of "Smokin' Joe" Flacco. Flacco is hot, and remember that Jaworski picked the Ravens to be in the Super Bowl back in September.
Hoge loves the 49ers offensive line and also thinks that they have the best front-seven personnel on defense. Hoge predicts that San Francisco will win.
The spirited debate is worth a look.
Pete Prisco is sold on Colin Kaepernick.
Pete Prisco is a senior NFL columnist for CBS Sports. He is clearly in the minority regarding his pick compared to the rest of the NFL experts at CBS.
After seeing Colin Kaepernick up close for the first time, I came away impressed. He can run it. But he can throw it, too. That will be key against the Ravens' defense...In the end, I like the 49ers line against the Ravens front. The 49ers get it done and Jim Harbaugh beats his brother, John.
Pete Prisco Prediction: San Francisco 26, Baltimore 20
Playing indoors will be an advantage for Kaepernick. He is already fast, but playing on the rug will allow his speed to be even more of a factor. If we were to fast-forward to Super Bowl XLVIII, which will be played at MetLife Stadium in 2014, you would prefer that Kaepernick plays inside the dome.
Because Kaepernick is the clear winner from a dual-threat standpoint, it is something that the Ravens will have to be overly cautious about. They have to stay in their gaps when they blitz, because if they open up a lane for young Niners QB to run through, he will be gone in a flash.
Baltimore Ravens appear to be a team of destiny right now.
I picked the Ravens to lose to Denver. They didn't. I picked the Ravens to lose to New England. They didn't. They beat Peyton Manning in Denver. They beat Tom Brady in New England. So I'm going to pick them to lose to San Francisco? No way.
Clark Judge Prediction: Baltimore 24, San Francisco 20
Judge subscribes to the standard of, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Obviously, he thought that Denver and New England were the better teams, which is understandable when you consider all of the MVP trophies between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
But this Baltimore Ravens team has a certain sense of destiny this year. That 70-yard heave Flacco made against Denver in the final minute of regulation is one for the all-time highlight reels.
Baltimore is a very confident team right now, as they wanted to go into Foxborough and beat New England in their own backyard. There is something to be said for that.
The Baltimore Ravens have plenty of reasons for celebrating in the playoffs.
I also believe in destiny. The kind of destiny made by human beings with will and spit and luck. Ray Lewis has made a believer out of me.
Mike Freeman Prediction Baltimore 18, San Francisco 17
To be sure, the Ravens' run, with wins over the likes of Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, makes them difficult to pick against. The defense has stepped up in the playoffs and held all three quarterbacks to below-average performances compared to what they did in the regular season.
Another way to look at it is that Kaepernick would have to step up and accomplish what Luck, Peyton Manning and Brady wasn't able to do on their own. When you think about it from that perspective, it makes you wonder why the 49ers are favored to win.
Ed Reed is returning home for Super Bowl XLVII.
I can't pick against the Ravens at this point. They have the more experienced quarterback, are a bit more playoff tested, have gotten healthy at the right time and just plain seem to have that team of destiny thing going on.
Jason La Canfora Prediction: Baltimore 24, San Francisco 21
La Canfora factors in that Super Bowl XLVII will be the final game for Ray Lewis, but that it might be the final game for Ed Reed in Baltimore as well. While tons of attention has been paid to Lewis, and rightfully so, the fact is that Reed will be a free agent in 2013.
A big game from Reed might be enough to convince any NFL team that is hurting in the secondary to pony up a big contract to bring the veteran safety in to help mold a young secondary that needs leadership and guidance.
Joe Flacco can boost his value with a Super Bowl win.
My brain says take the 49ers and my heart says the Ravens. Joe Flacco is now the QB with the most road playoff wins in NFL history and his team just beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road. I'll take Baltimore with all the emotion surrounding Ray Lewis and his final tour.
Pat Kirwan Prediction: Baltimore 27, San Francisco 24
There is no denying that Joe Flacco has created a strong track record in the playoffs. Coming up with the most playoff wins on the road in NFL history is an amazing accomplishment, especially when you consider that he just turned 28 last week.
If Flacco winds up signing a long-term contract to remain with Baltimore and he plays well into his mid-30s, there is no telling how many playoff wins he will engineer before he calls it a career. But, those wins will be somewhat tarnished if he never wins a single Super Bowl game.
The Ravens defense needed a break after too many snaps in the last three games.
The 49ers will be heavy favorites, but how can you count out the Ravens at this point? They're beating better teams, playing great football...
Will Brinson Prediction: Baltimore 24, San Francisco 21
Brinson reasons that Joe Flacco has stepped up his game to a new level of late. I just wonder if he has seen Colin Kaepernick play lately.
Baltimore's defense has been on the field for over 240 snaps in the last three games combined, and they were in dire need of this off week after the conference championship to rest up. Will they come out with the energy required to contain Kaepernick? That should prove to be one of the interesting issues that will play out.
Joe Flacco stays cool and calm in the face of huge pressure.
While the earlier predictions were all suggesting a close game (every prediction had a four-point margin or less), NFL blogger Josh Katzowitz is the first person to suggest a double-digit margin of victory.
Said Katzowitz (via CBS Sports ):
I still think the Ravens were the worst division winner in the AFC, and I still think the 49ers were the best division winner in the NFC. But none of that matters now...A couple weeks ago, I would have told you the Ravens had no business being here. Now I'm saying they'll win it all.
Josh Katzowitz Prediction: Baltimore 26, San Francisco 16
Guess you could say that Katzowitz has the ability to change his mind quickly. Seeing is believing.
While Katzowitz likes the cool demeanor of Flacco, the same thing could be said for Kaepernick, who exhibited great poise and control after falling behind 17-0 to Atlanta on the road. For a player who has less than 10 NFL starts under his belt, Kaepernick's calm demeanor and poise has been just as impressive as Flacco's.
Kudos to Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
Joe Flacco finally looks like a legit franchise quarterback, the defense is as healthy as it's been all season...And I can't give enough credit to offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
Ryan Wilson Prediction: Baltimore 21, San Francisco 17
While the main stories surrounding Super Bowl XLVII will center around the Harbaughs, Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis, one of the more interesting angles is the job that offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has performed.
The production numbers are up across the board for the Ravens. Total yards gained, rushing yards and average points scored per game are all up due to Caldwell's ability to fine-tune the offense. Ray Rice has been a focal point, and Caldwell is making sure that Rice gets sufficient touches every game.
When Kaepernick tucks the ball, he becomes a weapon.
Ty Schalter is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. In his analysis, Schalter gave Baltimore the edge in the running game and with intangibles. He called the defenses a push and gave the edge to San Francisco in quarterback play. When push came to shove, Schalter went with Baltimore, as they continue to come up with more big plays throughout the playoffs.
Ty Schalter Prediction: Baltimore 33, San Francisco 27
The only part of his analysis that I can't sign off on is the assessment that Baltimore has the better running game.
In the last two games, Baltimore has run the ball 72 times for 276 yards and two touchdowns. That comes out to an average of 3.83 yards per carry. In San Francisco's last two games, they have rushed the ball for the same exact number of carries (72), yet have produced 472 yards. That is 196 more yards on the same number of carries.
While Baltimore has rushed for two touchdowns, San Francisco has rushed for seven TDs in the same time frame. San Francisco has averaged a brilliant 6.55 yards per rush in the playoffs. So, he wants to give the edge in rushing to Baltimore. Sorry, Ty, but I just don't buy it.
Ravens are playing at a high emtional level due to Ray Lewis.
Tony Dungy is now an NFL analyst for NBC Sports. Dungy was a guest on The Dan Patrick Show and he sees the obvious parallels between Ray Lewis' final game and when Jerome Bettis was going to retire with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers wanted to send Bettis out as a winner, and the Ravens can do the same thing for Lewis.
That is why Dungy likes Baltimore to win Super Bowl XLVII.
While that seems like a plausible scenario, you also have to consider the emotional wave that existed with the Indianapolis Colts and coach Chuck Pagano. That allowed the Colts to raise their game for a certain amount of time, but it only carried them so far.
When the lights come on, we will see how far the nerves and emotions carry both teams. It promises to be an exciting, close game.
Thanks for checking out the presentation.