5 Potential X-Factors in Super Bowl XLVII
There is talk of potential X-factors before every big game, but the Super Bowl has numerous players that could assume that moniker.
Who will be the player that ends up swaying the momentum in favor of either the Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers?
Will it be an offensive star, a defensive pass-rusher, a special teams standout, or dare I say, a kicker?
Let's examine some of these potential breakout X-factors.
We start with a certain big-name tight end...
5. Vernon Davis
Which Vernon Davis will we see in the Super Bowl?
Will it be the electric playmaker that caught five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game?
Or will it be the guy that had just four catches for 86 yards and zero touchdowns in the four contests prior?
This question will go a long way toward deciding the final outcome. Davis can provide a tremendous mismatch over the middle of the field when he and Kaepernick are on the same page.
The Ravens defense knows how to rush the passer and Kaepernick needs to rely on Davis as a safety valve in tight situations.
A good game for Davis likely means a victory for San Francisco.
4. Justin Tucker
Yes, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has the ability to take over a defensive battle should it take place.
Tucker has hit 30-of-33 field-goal attempts this season. He has made four kicks from 50 yards or beyond, and 13 kicks from between 40-49 yards.
In other words, he is the complete opposite of the erratic play displayed by San Francisco's David Akers this year. Akers' job security has come into question in recent weeks and he has hit just 29-of-42 attempts on the season.
If one kicker is going to make a difference, bank on the younger variety from Baltimore.
3. Frank Gore
We all know that Colin Kaepernick's rushing ability will be a key factor against the Ravens, but what about the other guy in the read-option attack?
Frank Gore's spotlight has taken a backseat to Kaepernick recently, but his ability to move the chains and preserve time of possession will be critical in the big game.
Gore gained 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season, but more importantly, he has rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns in two games of playoff action.
Gore must establish his presence early in order to force the Ravens to commit defenders to the box and believe in the play-action pass.
2. Jacoby Jones
Special teams is often considered a potential X-factor heading into any marquee matchup.
After seeing how Trindon Holliday contributed for the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, we know that return men can make a huge difference in the postseason.
Jacoby Jones' biggest efforts in that game came as a receiver, but his play in the return game could help out Baltimore's offense tremendously. The Ravens do not have a traditional quick-strike offense predicated on the vertical passing game.
This is a ground-n-pound unit that wears defenses down with the tough rushing of Ray Rice and the intermediate passing game led by Joe Flacco.
If Jones can continuously provide a short field to work with, it will swing the pendulum heavily in favor of the Ravens.
1. Justin Smith
Justin Smith is expected to play in New Orleans, and living up to that expectation is essential to the success of the 49ers defense.
Aldon Smith becomes a non-factor when J. Smith is not on the field, as offensive lines are able to adjust heavily to his side of the field and negate his pass-rushing ability.
When Smith is on the field and playing well, however, the two form a duo that few teams can match up against.
While J. Smith rarely finds the stat sheet (he had just three sacks this season) he opens doors for everyone around him by drawing constant double teams.
J. Smith could be the X-factor either by playing or watching from the sidelines.