The Harbaugh brothers are set to face off in Super Bowl XLVII.
Super Bowl predictions are every football writer’s and degenerate gambler's favorite pastime.
For these two amazing weeks leading up to the big game, everyone is an expert, and everyone has an opinion.
The 2013 Super Bowl is going to be especially hard to predict, but I will do my best in the following article to make five educated guesses about this year’s game. These predictions are based on five over-under prop bets created by odds makers in Vegas.
Opposing teams knew San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was a dual-threat entering the National Football League playoffs. During the regular season, the first year starter threw for 1,814 yards and rushed for 415 yards while starting in only seven games.
Kaepernick, running the read option offense from the pistol formation, rushed for at least 50 yards in four regular season games. His truly eye-opening performance, however, occurred on January 12 in a Divisional Round matchup versus the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick tortured the Packers defense, accounting for 181 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and another 263 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
The demolition of Green Bay got the Atlanta Falcons attention.
The Falcons focused their entire defensive game plan for the Conference Championship on stopping Kaepernick, and it worked. He carried the ball for just 21 yards on two attempts in that contest. The Niners managed to squeak out a 28-24 comeback victory, after steamrolling the Packers 45-31 a week earlier.
The Baltimore Ravens defense will study the tape of the NFC Championship game, and like the Falcons, employ a game plan designed to neutralize Kaepernick, and prevent him from getting to the edge. Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger are big, strong and fast, and I am predicting they will be able to keep the 6'4" speedster in the pocket.
Frank Gore is poised to shine in Super Bowl XLVII
If the Ravens defense focuses all of its energy on stopping Colin Kaepernick, which it should, it will give Niners running back Frank Gore an opportunity to have a monster game.
After rushing for over 100 yards in only three games during the regular season, Gore has rushed for a combined 209 yards in the Niners two playoff wins. The veteran running back is finally healthy, and the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl have given him additional time to recuperate.
When the Niners run the read option offense from the pistol formation, it freezes the defensive ends or outside linebackers, depending on what defense the opposition is running. The edge rushers are forced to stay with Kaepernick, even when he hands the ball to the running back. If they over commit to the inside, and Kaepernick keeps the ball, it usually results in a devastatingly big play.
Against the Packers and Falcons, Kaepernick was able to freeze the edge rushers with the read option, opening up big lanes for Gore to run through. It also helps that the Niners have one of the most physical offensive lines in the NFL; the biggest reason they rank number one in rushing yards per game this season. I am predicting Gore will have another highly productive game on Sunday.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has already guaranteed himself a massive contract this offseason. On Sunday he will try to get his first Super Bowl ring.
Flacco has had one of the best playoff runs by a quarterback in NFL history. In three playoff wins over the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, he’s thrown for a combined 853 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
During the postseason Flacco has averaged 284 passing yards per game.
Throughout these playoffs the Ravens have relied heavily on the arm of Flacco, and it will be no different on Sunday, especially against a San Francisco front seven that features four pro bowlers. I am predicting a confident Flacco to air it out early and often.
Ray Rice will play in his first Super Bowl in New Orleans on Sunday.
Ray Rice had less than 17.5 carries in nine out of 16 regular season games this season. During these playoffs, he has averaged 21.3 carries per game, but that number is inflated by the 30 carries he had in the Divisional game versus the Broncos that lasted nearly six quarters.
When offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was replaced by Jim Caldwell, it was believed Rice would be given more touches, but that has not been the case. In fact, it has meant more carries for second string running back Bernard Pierce. Pierce has double-digit carries in three of the Ravens past five games, including a 13 carry game versus the Colts in the Wild Card Round.
It’s hard to imagine the Ravens having much success running the ball against the Niners second-ranked defense, which could lead to them abandoning the run early, especially if they fall behind. My prediction is the combination of a low yards per carry average, and sharing the load with Pierce, will result in fewer touches for Rice.
Super Bowl XLVII has all the makings of a defensive struggle.
When the Ravens and Niners played on Thanksgiving in 2011, the teams combined for 22 points, with the Ravens winning in Baltimore 16-6. Both defenses ranked in the top 10 this season, and it is hard to see either unit allowing the opposing offense to consistently move up and down the field.
John and Jim Harbaugh are both outstanding coaches, and they know each other very well. They are brothers after all, so do not expect there to be many surprises.
My prediction is that even on the carpet in the Super Dome, this match up will be a classic defensive battle between two teams that take pride in playing physical, smash mouth football.