NFL quarterbacks get the fame and the money, but the Super Bowl MVP award may fall into new hands this year.
A quarterback has won the game’s biggest award each of the last three years. Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees brought home the hardware from the last three Super Bowls, and with the way Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick have played this postseason, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of the two will join them this year.
Super Bowl XLVII will also feature some of the game’s most exciting offensive playmakers at the running back and wide receiver positions. They aren’t the favorites to take home the trophy, but each has a good shot at pulling an upset.
We’ll take a look at four players who could earn the MVP award this year and how they may fare in the big game.
*MVP odds acquired from Bet365.com.
Frank Gore (5/1)
Gore has five-to-one odds to win the MVP this year, but he’s still a pretty good bet. Unfortunately, a running back hasn’t earned that distinction since Terrell Davis did it in 1997.
He’ll have to have a huge performance, but Gore is fully capable of gashing the Ravens if he plays his best football.
San Francisco’s offensive attack is predicated on balance and deception. Gore will get plenty of work, especially between the tackles in hopes of setting up play action for Kaepernick. Gore will also serve to keep Baltimore’s attacking defensive front off-balance and unable to key in on San Francisco’s passing game.
With the season Gore had in 2012, even a Baltimore defense that played well this postseason will struggle to contain him all game. If the 49ers are able to jump out to an early lead, Gore will wear down the opposition en route to a big game.
Ray Rice (9/1)
Rice needs to be the focal point of Baltimore’s offensive attack. Flacco was able to open it up in the second half against New England, but San Francisco’s secondary is much stronger than that of the Patriots. If Baltimore is to have success against the 49ers, it will have to keep its best playmaker involved in the offense.
Denver was terrific against the run in the regular season (No. 3 in NFL), but Rice managed to gouge the Broncos defense to the tune of 131 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. He was instrumental in the Ravens’ victory, and he’ll be expected be a big factor in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco was No. 4 against the run in the regular season, but giving Rice consistent touches will be the key to a Baltimore victory. Expect Rice to be featured a lot this game, especially if the Ravens secure a late-game lead.
Michael Crabtree (14/1)
Five of the last eight Super Bowl MVP winners were quarterbacks. The other three were wide receivers.
Crabtree had a monster game against Green Bay in the Divisional Round, catching nine passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. If he can duplicate those results on February 3, he’ll have the MVP award locked down.
His task won’t be easy, though. Crabtree is Kaepernick’s top target, and he’ll be blanketed by Cary Williams much of the game. If San Francisco can establish the run and pull Baltimore’s safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, Crabtree will stand a much better chance of finding himself open behind the defense in single-coverage.
Kaepernick needs to get Crabtree involved early in the game. If Crabtree can get into a rhythm, he’ll be poised for a big Super Bowl performance.
Torrey Smith (40/1)
The fact that Smith’s odds of winning the MVP award are 40-to-one means either Vegas knows something we don’t, or they made a big mistake.
Smith is Baltimore’s best big-play threat, and he proved how dangerous he can be with a 98-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Broncos in the Divisional Round.
Denver didn’t provide great coverage on Smith throughout the game, but he still worked hard to get behind the Broncos secondary for a couple big plays. If San Francisco’s coverage breaks down at all, Smith will do a lot of damage.
The 49ers will be focusing on shutting down Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta in the middle of the field, but Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown are very capable corners. If Smith is to have a big game, he’ll have to run crisp routes and take advantage of single-coverage when San Francisco sneaks their safeties up closer to the line of scrimmage.