Figuring out who will put up the best fantasy numbers in the Super Bowl is a lot easier than doing so for the regular season, especially when you consider the reduced amount of players you have to look at. However, looking at this hard-nosed matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, I'd hardly call it simple.
That's why those of us in the fantasy industry put together these lists—to give the reader a gauge of what to expect from their players during Super Bowl weekend.
With that, here are the rankings for the big four offensive positions, along with some detailed analysis on each player:
2. Colin Kaepernick
Back in Week 8 of the regular season (or maybe it was Week 9), my partner here at Pyro® told the world in one of our podcasts that Colin Kaepernick would be the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII. Long shot as it was, the massive amount of confidence he had in the second-year quarterback after scouting/following him over the last couple of years never wavered.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has shown to have an equal belief in Kaepernick, as he has allowed the athletic signal-caller do his thing freely over the last couple of months—and rightfully so, as the ‘Niners have gone 7-2 (playoffs included) with Colin as their starting QB and reached the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.
Nevertheless, I can’t believe that the pressure-filled Super Bowl stage and veteran leadership of the Baltimore Ravens defense won’t take their toll on the play and mind-set of young Kaepernick. He may not have made many mistakes during his short course to stardom and may not make many this coming Sunday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be able to rise above the spotlight and dominate this game, either.
The Ravens allowed the second-fewest passing touchdowns in the league this past year, while also allowing the sixth-fewest rushing yards to QBs as well. Because of this, I expect the Baltimore coaching staff to let their dominant offensive line and run game lead the way, thus making Kaepernick less of a statistical fantasy threat.
He may be a top-10 fantasy QB heading into the 2013-14 season, but considering all the factors at play for this one game in particular, I’d have to go with Flacco.
1. Joe Flacco
I put Joe Flacco ahead of Tom Brady in my Conference Championship rankings for a reason, and for most of those same reasons, I have Flacco ahead of Kaepernick this week as well (Flacco almost doubled Brady’s fantasy points).
Obviously, the head-to-head matchups won’t make much difference as the two have never faced off against each other. However, as it was against the Patriots, I believe the Ravens will depend on Flacco’s arm more than their running game as I have no doubt they’ll have a tough time running the ball with any consistency against the ‘Niners front seven.
The key number for Joe Cool this Super Bowl Sunday will be 30 pass attempts, as he threw the ball 30 or more times in 12 of 20 total games this season (including playoffs) putting up 300 yards in six of them and two or more touchdowns in six others as well.
More importantly, in his last four games with 30-plus passes, Flacco hit the 300-yard mark twice while throwing for two or more TDs in each of the four games, so obviously he’s on a roll.
If there are any holes in the 49ers defense, it’s within their secondary, and I fully expect Flacco and the rest of the Ravens offense to take advantage of it this Sunday.
The last determining factor will be Flacco’s experience under playoff pressure.
He’s already established himself as one of the better playoff quarterbacks in the game today, and though I don’t believe the big lights will affect Kaepernick all that much, I think they will most definitely affect Joe Cool in a positive way.
6. Anthony Dixon
Dixon is a lot better than he’s given credit for and might get some serious play on some other team.
However, he happens to be on a team with running backs much more suited to the offensive system he's in, so the only way Dixon will see a carry or two is if the ‘Niners need a bulldozer on a short-yardage play.
5. Vonta Leach
Fullbacks have been getting more goal-line calls this postseason than you normally might see, but his real value to the team this Sunday will be as a blocker.
For Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce to do anything against this strangling 49ers defense, Leach will be counted on to open up some holes for them; a job he happens to be very good at.
Maybe he catches a pass or two for around a dozen yards, but outside of a chance “reward” TD for his blocking services, he won’t do much.
4. LaMichael James
I have to admit that from what I saw in the ‘Niners-Falcons game last week, LaMichael James is maybe even quicker than I ever realized.
He still doesn’t have the amount of trust needed from Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the coaching staff to receive more than a handful of touches throughout a game, but with his speed, all it takes is one to make a difference.
However, a game-breaking run is the only way he will give you fantasy value this weekend, and the longest run against the Ravens defense this season was just 31 yards, so don’t get your hopes up.
He’ll be in the game plan this Sunday, but I don’t expect too much out of the rookie in this one.
3. Bernard Pierce
When Bernard Pierce is healthy, he’s an absolute menace with the ball in his hands.
He’s bigger, stronger and maybe even faster than Ray Rice, but he’ll still only see 10 to 15 touches at most in this game with which he should be able to rack up 50 or so yards.
Sometime in the near future, Pierce will be a man to be reckoned with, but in a do-or-die situation like this, I’m not expecting too much, especially against this 49ers defense.
2. Ray Rice
Ray Rice has been having a decent playoffs thus far, averaging 106 total yards on almost 23 touches a game.
The rushing touchdown he put up in each of the two away games were certainly an added bonus as well, especially when you consider that he’s never been much of a road-player throughout his career.
Still, with as dominating as the 49ers can be against the rush, I just can’t see Rice putting together much of a fantasy stat line this Sunday.
His best bet to make an impact will be in the passing game, even though he hasn’t been all that involved in that area lately catching just four passes total in the Ravens' three postseason games.
All things considered, Ray is an extreme competitor and has the big-play ability to do some damage on Sunday. Don’t be surprised to see him take a draw or catch a screen pass for a large chunk of yardage (i.e., 25-plus yards) at some point during this game.
1. Frank Gore
No matter what type of running back you are, if given the choice of facing the Baltimore Ravens’ rush defense or the 49ers’, you’d go with the Ravens nearly every time. Period.
Regardless, the 49ers are going to run the ball a ton in this game—no doubt about it.
During the regular season, the Ravens wound up near the bottom third of the league in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns allowed, and while they seem to have stepped up their intensity in the postseason, it won’t be enough to stop Frank Gore and his offensive line from trouncing all over them.
Gore was kept fresh all year long for a strong run in the playoffs, a strategy that seems to have worked seeing how Gore has churned out 209 yards and three TDs in two postseason games.
The only other time Baltimore saw an offense like the "pistol read option" offense the 49ers run was against the Redskins back in Week 14.
In that game, running back Alfred Morris ran for 129 yards and a touchdown—numbers I could easily see Frank the Tank coming up with this Super Bowl Sunday.
8. A.J. Jenkins
A. J. Jenkins was on the field for seven of 78 offensive snaps in the 49ers first playoff game against the Packers and zero out of 53 in the Conference Championship against the Falcons.
I’m setting the over/under on his snap count at 2.5 this Sunday.
7. Ted Ginn
Ted Ginn’s real value comes from his play on special teams, where the chance he takes a punt to the house gets him ranked one higher than the bottom.
He did, however, catch one pass on two targets against Green Bay in the divisional game, so anything is possible, I suppose.
6. Tandon Doss
Tandon Doss may have been targeted four times in these playoffs, but the Ravens fourth receiver on the depth chart is still looking for his first postseason reception.
That being said, because I expect the Ravens to pass the ball more than they usually do in this one, it wouldn’t shock me to see Tandon actually make that first catch, though I wouldn’t go making any bets on it either.
5. Jacoby Jones
As usual, Jacoby Jones has a chance to be a big-time X-factor this weekend, though the Ravens might actually be counting on Jacoby a bit more than they normally do.
If the 49ers extend their defense a bit deeper to take away Torrey Smith and the big play, then Flacco will have to find other guys to toss the pill to.
One of those guys will obviously be Jones, so if a few extra targets fly his way—as I believe they will—he definitely has a chance to make an impact in this game.
4. Randy Moss
Randy Moss—the self-proclaimed best wide receiver to ever play the game—was a relative afterthought in the 49ers offense this season. In fact, his finest performance might have been in Week 1 against the Packers when he caught a season-high four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
So far in two games this postseason, Randy has caught five balls on eight targets for 71 yards, though his best game could be coming up this Sunday.
The Ravens may have allowed the second-fewest passing touchdowns this season (15), but of the 13 that went to wide receivers, eight of them were caught by someone other than the opposing team’s top receiver.
Baltimore also allowed the eighth most receptions to wideouts this year, so it’s entirely possible Moss shows better in the Super Bowl than he has all season.
3. Torrey Smith
Torrey Smith’s speed is undeniable and will no doubt change the way the 49ers secondary lines up this Sunday.
However, if he continues to catch no more than one or two passes on intermediate routes per game as he has been, then his fantasy value can only be based on the less than 50/50 chance that he reels in a bomb.
Since the Ravens will want to open up the middle of the field and force both the linebackers and secondary back into coverage, Smith’s role may be reduced to being a bit of a decoy in this one.
Flacco will take a few chances deep like he normally does, so it wouldn’t shock me to see Torrey on the other end of a long TD this Sunday, but like I said—the ‘Niners will be ready for it.
That’s not to say that he still can’t make it happen with that blazing speed of his, though.
Tragedy narrowly averted.
The sexual assault allegations against Michael Crabtree could have become a major distraction for both the wide receiver and the 49ers these past couple of weeks, but it turned out to be a bogus claim and is now firmly in the rearview mirror, where it belongs.
As for the big game this Sunday, Crabtree should play a pretty good role in moving the chains and put up a nice chunk of yardage because of it, but his chances of getting into the end zone aren’t very high.
Not only did the Ravens allow the second-fewest passing TDs this season, but the touchdowns they did allow rarely went to the opposing team’s top receiver.
Crabby has been on quite a roll during the past couple of months, but with the type of defense Baltimore plays, you’re more likely to see numbers like he had against Atlanta in the Conference Championship game (six catches, 57 yards) than what he did against the Packers in the divisional game (nine catches, 119 yards, two TDs) this Sunday.
1. Anquan Boldin
Anquan Boldin’s veteran leadership is rising to the top in these playoffs, as shown by his becoming Joe Flacco’s go-to guy over the last couple of months.
My guess is he’ll be filling the role once again this Sunday, as I expect the Ravens to be passing the ball quite a bit on this ‘Niners defense.
In 10 career postseason games, ‘Quan has averaged over 70 yards a game and caught six touchdowns, with three of them coming in these playoffs alone.
Because I believe the 49ers will be guarding against Torrey Smith and his long-ball/big-play abilities, I expect Flacco to look Boldin’s way often and get him close to double-digit targets over the middle of the field.
With that kind of action, Anquan should be able to come away with some top-notch numbers in the final box score.
4. Delanie Walker
Because of the way Vernon Davis has stepped up his game, Delanie Walker saw his time on the field decrease from 73 percent of the offensive snaps in the divisional game to just 51 percent against the Falcons last week.
Walker is hardly an integral part of the ‘Niners game plan anyway, as he’s only caught two passes for 37 yards this postseason.
He has, however, seen seven targets from Colin Kaepernick in that time, so he probably should be able to come up with at least a catch or two this Sunday.
3. Ed Dickson
Ed Dickson normally isn’t on the field for more than 40 percent of the offensive snaps during a game. However, because the Ravens will likely need a little extra help with their blocking along the offensive line this Sunday, he could see a bit more time than usual.
From an impact standpoint, in order to catch passes and make plays, you first have to be on the field, so things are looking up for Big Ed in that respect.
At the same time, I doubt he runs more than just a few select routes over the course of the game, though it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of those routes turns into the unheralded play of the game.
Someone you don’t expect usually makes a big play in a game like this, and that one out-of-the-norm player could very well be Mr. Ed.
2. Vernon Davis
After a dominating performance against Atlanta in the NFC Conference Championship where he caught five of six targets for 106 yards and a touchdown, it seems Vernon Davis has popped back to life just when the 49ers need him the most.
On the other hand, you can’t be too hasty in jumping back on his wagon, as it was still just his first game with more than two catches in over two months of football (eight games).
I definitely expect Vernon to catch a few passes this Sunday, but Baltimore has been dominant against opposing tight ends for years now, with this season being no exception.
His athleticism is off the charts and could lead to a game-changing play at any moment, but the Ravens allowed just two touchdowns to tight ends this year, so don’t expect too much out of the resurgent Davis here.
1. Dennis Pitta
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens are two of the very best in the league at covering the tight end position.
However, because the Ravens allowed both the fewest touchdowns and fantasy points to the position this year, I have to rank Dennis Pitta as my top tight end for this weekend.
Regardless, Pitta has done very well this entire postseason, catching 10 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns in all, with his best game coming in the Conference Championship when he caught five passes for 55 yards and a TD.
The 49ers allowed Tony Gonzalez to catch eight passes for 78 yards and a touchdown against them in their Conference Championship, and while I don’t believe Pitta matches those numbers, he should be able to come very close.
In his lone career game against the ‘Niners back in 2011, Dennis caught two passes for 19 yards and a touchdown. Considering how the 49ers allowed an average of one touchdown every other game this season (including playoffs), another one could very well be in play for Mr. Pitta.
Either way, with Baltimore expected to use the short passing game a bunch in this one, look for the Ravens top tight end to at least be moderately involved throughout the game.
For all the ins and outs of the Big Game, check out the: Pyro® Super Bowl Matchup.
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