10 Potential Mismatches in Super Bowl XLVII
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will meet in Super Bowl XLVII in just over a week. Both teams have plenty of players on both sides of the ball who are capable of being a mismatch for the opposing team.
Whichever team can take advantage of these mismatches on the most consistent basis will likely walk away with the Lombardi Trophy come February 3.
Colin Kaepernick vs. Ray Lewis
If Colin Kaepernick gets out into the open field, he is going to make Ray Lewis look like an old man.
But despite being 37 years old, Lewis has looked much younger and fresher during these playoffs. However, Kaepernick is an elite athlete who will win this one-on-one matchup every single time.
The Baltimore Ravens are going to need to figure out how to contain the second-year quarterback and keep him in the pocket. If they don't, they will find out just how big of a mismatch Kaepernick is.
Ed Reed vs. Colin Kaepernick
While Colin Kaepernick may have the upper hand on Ray Lewis, I don't believe he has the upper hand on Ed Reed. In fact, Reed is going to have a huge advantage.
Reed is one of the best safeties to ever play the game. He understands quarterbacks and knows how to make them pay for poor decisions.
Even though Kaepernick has been pretty mistake-free since becoming the 49ers' starting quarterback, he's still a young player on the highest stage. Reed will capitalize on any little mistake made in this game, and could be the difference in the Ravens coming away with a win.
Vernon Davis vs. Ed Reed
Despite Ed Reed being one of the best safeties to ever play the game, one player against whom he'll experience a major mismatch is Vernon Davis.
As we saw in the NFC Championship Game, Davis has the ability to be the best tight end in the league. His athleticism makes him extremely difficult to cover and allows him to stretch the field.
Reed can certainly make plays, but if he is consistently tasked with covering Davis, it could be a long day for the nine-time Pro Bowler.
Look for the San Francisco 49ers to exploit this potential mismatch early and often.
Anquan Boldin vs. Tarell Brown
It seems like such a long time ago that Anquan Boldin was considered one of the better receivers in the league. However, even though Boldin is overshadowed by teammate Torrey Smith, he is still a dangerous weapon.
This will also be a mismatch for Tarell Brown, who will likely have the assignment of slowing him down. Considering that Brown was absolutely dominated by Julio Jones in the NFC Championship Game, Boldin could be primed for a big game.
While Boldin isn't nearly as dominant as Jones, he's still a big receiver who can make plays. He should be able to take advantage of Brown all game for the Baltimore Ravens.
Alex Boone vs. Terrence Cody
Terrence Cody has certainly made strides as a player since entering the league in 2010, but he is still far from being an elite defensive tackle. Alex Boone, on the other hand, is having a truly remarkable season for the San Francisco 49ers.
In fact, Boone is the NFL's third-highest-rated offensive guard according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He makes his living opening up holes for Frank Gore in the run game, an area where Cody has struggled this year.
If Boone can consistently push Cody off the line of scrimmage, Gore and the 49ers could have major success on the ground.
Aldon Smith vs. Bryant McKinnie
It's been five games since Aldon Smith has recorded a sack for the San Francisco 49ers, but he still needs to be considered one of the premier pass-rushers in the league.
While Bryant McKinnie has been serviceable at left tackle since taking over in Week 17, he could have his hands full with Smith. Against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, McKinnie gave up one sack and four quarterback hurries.
Considering the Patriots don't have anyone capable of putting pressure on quarterbacks like Smith, it could be a long day for McKinnie and Joe Flacco.
Torrey Smith vs. Carlos Rogers
In the NFC Championship Game, the Atlanta Falcons were able to make play after play on the San Francisco 49ers cornerbacks. That included Carlos Rogers, who has had a pretty decent season for the second straight year in San Francisco.
While Torrey Smith doesn't always put up huge numbers in terms of receptions, he is still capable of putting up big numbers. For example, against the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, Smith only had three receptions. However, those three receptions went for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Since Smith was able to have such great success against one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Champ Bailey, it is hard to picture Rogers doing much to slow him down. He may only finish the game with a handful of receptions, but don't be surprised if they go for big gains and touchdowns.
Michael Crabtree vs. Cary Williams
Cary Williams has done a fine job filling in for the injured Lardarius Webb. Unfortunately, he'll have his hands full when facing off with Michael Crabtree in the Super Bowl.
Crabtree had a career year in 2012, and few receivers were as dominant from December on. He's continued his strong play throughout the playoffs and has become the clear No. 1 target for Colin Kaepernick.
He'll need to continue his strong play against Williams, but he certainly has the advantage in the matchup.
Patrick Willis vs. Dennis Pitta
There is no doubt that Dennis Pitta is a good tight end. Heck, there are times when Pitta looks like a great tight end. However, Patrick Willis is still a major mismatch for him.
Not only is Willis the best middle linebacker in the game right now, he might be the best defensive player in the entire league. There isn't a single part of his game that is lacking, as he is just as good against the run as he is against the pass.
There have been games when Pitta has been the best offensive weapon for the Baltimore Ravens. With Willis covering him in the Super Bowl, this won't be one of them.
Haloti Ngata vs. Frank Gore
Few running backs in the league have been as consistent as Frank Gore has been for the San Francisco 49ers. He's gained over 1,000 yards in six of the last seven seasons, and his 2012 campaign was one of the most productive of his career.
However, Gore is going to have a tough time gaining yards up the middle with Haloti Ngata on the field. Ngata is an impressive physical specimen who moves like a man half his size. His power, quickness and athleticism make him extremely difficult to block.
Look for the San Francisco 49ers to try to move the ball with Gore as much as possible, but look for it to be on plays designed specifically away from where Ngata is.