Super Bowl Predictions 2013: Projecting Numbers for Top Offensive Stars
Super Bowl XLVII pits two teams with reputedly tough defenses and two sibling head coaches with a lot of familiarity with each others' respective styles. But that won't necessarily translate to a low-scoring game.
There are plenty of exciting offensive stars, including two of the fastest rising quarterbacks in the league. Both offenses are usually built around the running game, though, so it will be interesting to see what sort of game plan each team draws up in that context.
Here are predictions for marquee players and how frequently they can be expected to light up the scoreboard in the Superdome.
QB Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Armed with so many weapons, it's hard to fathom Kaepernick not succeeding if his first nine starts as a pro are any indication of things to come.
This is the biggest stage imaginable, but Kaepernick seems to relish the opportunity when the stakes are the highest and when his team is faced with the most adversity. That's the sign of a leader, and of a franchise QB of the future.
Kaepernick is averaging over 9.5 yards per pass attempt and over 11 yards every time he runs the ball. So whenever the ball is in his hands, great things happen.
What will give Baltimore the biggest headache is his unique running ability. No one in the Ravens' linebacker corps truly possesses sideline-to-sideline speed. Should Kaepernick find his way to the edge, he will snap off at least a few big runs.
That's not even to mention the problems he presents in the passing game. Both Vernon Davis and Randy Moss are able to beat defenses over the top, and Michael Crabtree has emerged as a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
This is going to be a massive game from Kaepernick. Whether it's enough remains to be seen, but seeing as how San Francisco is the favorite to win, Kaepernick should be favored to win MVP.
Projected numbers: 20-of-30, 310 yards, 2 TDs; 12 carries, 90 yards, TD
QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
The last-minute switch from Cam Cameron to Jim Caldwell at offensive coordinator has done wonders for Flacco, who has looked like a totally different, elite quarterback in the 2013 playoffs.
Kaepernick may be stealing the headlines with his dynamic athleticism, and Ray Lewis will be the epicenter of the Ravens' story. But Flacco has made one of the more impressive runs by a playoff QB in recent memory.
Although his accuracy isn't all that impressive, that's more due to the fact that Flacco is throwing the ball deep down the field on most plays. His 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions, though, are nothing to scoff at.
Flacco has been afforded mostly outstanding pass protection from his offensive line, and San Francisco has struggled to apply pressure due to the untimely injury to DL Justin Smith.
In the NFC Championship Game, Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan had great success throwing the ball down the field, and Flacco should have a similar showing.
Projected numbers: 22-of-40, 360 yards, 3 TDs, 1 NT
RB Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
The franchise's all-time leading rusher is the driving force of the offense. Considering the Niners' defensive troubles last week, it will be critical for Gore to pound the rock and keep his offense on the field.
Otherwise, this Super Bowl could become lopsided very quickly. San Francisco doesn't want to have to dig out of yet another early deficit. In fact, it's scary to think how good they could be with a fast start.
As good as this Niners team is, one might argue that they are due for a strong beginning in the Super Bowl. That would mean Gore would be fed the ball early and often. He is the odds-on favorite to score the game's first touchdown, so if you're into prop betting, he is a strong choice.
The physical style with which Gore runs takes a toll on defenses, and his speedy backup LaMichael James provides a drastic change of pace.
By the time the fourth quarter rolls around on Super Bowl Sunday, Gore should have racked up over 100 yards and worn down the Ravens defense for the most part. His cause will only be helped by Kaepernick establishing himself on the ground and connecting on big plays off of play action.
Projected numbers: 25 carries, 125 yards, TD; 2 receptions, 20 yards
RB Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
As the Ravens' top all-around playmaker, he hasn't been utilized as frequently nor as effectively in the postseason. He is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, and is being largely outplayed by rookie teammate Bernard Pierce.
Perhaps a week off is just what Rice needs to freshen up and refocus to deliver an outstanding performance in the biggest game of his life.
Baltimore should take better advantage of Rice's receiving ability out of the backfield. Since Flacco has had so much success throwing deep in recent weeks, screen plays could be particularly lethal against the Niners' defense, which will likely be sagging back coverage at least a little bit.
After averaging over 3.8 receptions per game in the regular season, Rice has caught just four passes in three contests in the playoffs.
Rice should be given more opportunities than that, given his big play capability and dangerousness in the open field.
Should the Ravens struggle to get the rushing attack going, dumping off quick passes to Rice wouldn't be a bad alternative.
Projected numbers: 20 carries, 75 yards, TD; 6 receptions, 55 yards, TD
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