Before either the San Francisco 49ers or Baltimore Ravens can raise the Lombardi Trophy, they must first answer some important questions.
Neither side is perfect as they head into Super Bowl XLVII. There has been enough doubt raised during the season and postseason to believe that either team could struggle in the big game.
However, the squad that overcomes its own problems is most likely to leave with a championship.
Once these questions are answered in the big game, it will be easy to determine the winner.
Will the Ravens lose momentum after the two-week layoff?
Baltimore headed into the postseason losing four of its last five. However, the return of Ray Lewis and the announcement of his retirement completely transformed the look of this team.
Over the next three weeks, the Ravens played inspired football and it has the players and fans thinking that this is a "team of destiny."
For a squad this hot, it seems the worst thing that could happen is some extra time off.
While both teams will have the extra week off, the Ravens were the side that had been utilizing momentum the most. If they cannot maintain it during this break, it will be difficult to keep up with the talented 49ers.
Will lack of experience hurt the 49ers?
Few players or coaches on either side of the field have Super Bowl experience, but Baltimore has spent plenty of time in the postseason over the past few years.
Quarterback Joe Flacco has started 12 playoff games in his short career and won eight of them.
Meanwhile, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has started only nine career games total. He has shown plenty of poise so far, but the Super Bowl is a different story.
With the entire world watching, the former Nevada quarterback has to remain calm as the young leader of the offense.
San Francisco will need the veterans to step up more this week than ever before.
Can Baltimore defend a mobile quarterback?
The second-year player is not only an excellent passer, but he is incredibly fast and can hurt opposing defenses with his legs. The Green Bay Packers learned that firsthand when they allowed the quarterback to rush for 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Baltimore has not had much experience this season against this type of player. The defense did hold both Robert Griffin III and Michael Vick to 34 rushing yards apiece, but the team lost both of those games.
Therefore, it is important to shut down the running attack, but not lose focus on the rest of the game.
Although it will be a tough challenge, it is something that will likely decide this battle.
Is Justin Smith healthy?
With a balanced team, the 49ers didn't have a clear MVP candidate. Unfortunately, the club was able to see just how valuable Justin Smith was when he went down with a triceps injury.
The defensive tackle missed the last two games of the season and played (although obviously still hurt) in the two playoff games.
Prior to the injury, the 49ers allowed only 15.6 points per game. In the four games since, opponents have scored 27.5 per game.
He is also a major reason that linebacker Aldon Smith has been so successful, as they pair together to terrorize offensive linemen. After totaling 19.5 sacks in the first 14 games, the linebacker has not had any since.
Justin Smith is certain to play in the Super Bowl, but his effectiveness will be an important factor in this game.
Can Joe Flacco continue his flawless play?
During the regular season, Joe Flacco threw 22 touchdown passes compared to 10 interceptions. While these are solid numbers, it is nothing compared to his eight touchdowns and zero interceptions in the postseason.
Say what you want about Flacco, but his ability to find his receivers and avoid mistakes is a major reason that Baltimore is playing for a championship.
Unfortunately, these numbers will not necessarily continue against the 49ers. The quarterback has followed impressive postseason performances with poor ones in the past.
In his eight career playoff wins, he has only thrown one interception. In the four losses, he threw seven, including at least one in each game.
If the mistake-prone Flacco shows up in the Super Bowl, it will be tough to overcome.
Will another 49ers receiver step up besides Michael Crabtree?
Michael Crabtree finally had the breakout year that San Francisco has been waiting for since drafting him in the first round in 2009. The problem is that this came more out of necessity than anything else.
The receiver finished the year with twice as many catches and receiving yards as anyone else on the team.
Tight end Vernon Davis had some big games, but in reality, there are no other consistent options for Kaepernick.
Randy Moss needs to be the person to step up to take some of the load off of Crabtree. He has played well over the past month, but he only topped 50 receiving yards once this season, and that was on a single play in a blowout loss to the New York Giants.
Baltimore will certainly try to key in on the No. 1 receiver, so Moss and Davis need to provide outlets when Crabtree is unavailable.
Which Coach Harbaugh will make the better adjustments?
Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh have admitted to using each other for help in the past, but they will get no such advantage in the Super Bowl.
The two brothers will coach their teams from opposite sidelines as they both hope they can get the better of their sibling.
Each head coach has shown that he is especially adept at making adjustments.
Collectively, the 49ers and Ravens were down 37-21 at halftime of their respective conference-title games. They then combined to outscore the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots 35-0 after intermission.
These men know more about each other than usual opponents, but the winner will be the one that can win the chess match off the field. Whoever can make better adjustments before and during the game will emerge victorious.
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