Super Bowl 2013: Last-Minute Predictions for Epic Clash
The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are going to take down the 47.5 (via Football Locks) over/under on their way to an entertaining and close Super Bowl.
The 49ers are going to have a hard time stopping the Ravens' passing game. On the other side, the Ravens are going to struggle to take away all the things that quarterback Colin Kaepernick brings to the gridiron.
So, on the eve of the Super Bowl, here is how I see it playing out.
49ers' Pass Defense Will Fail
The 49ers pass rush is struggling. Really, it has all year. However, the amazing productivity of Aldon Smith helped mask that problem.
His 19.5 sacks accounted for just over half of the 49ers' regular-season total. The problem now is that Smith's production has fallen off the map. He has not registered a sack in his last five games.
In this game, he will be going against a Ravens offensive line that is playing its best ball of the year after moving Michael Oher to right tackle and letting Bryant McKinnie handle the left side.
That group will give Flacco plenty of time to throw the ball, and he will use that time well.
Flacco has been outstanding in theses playoffs. He has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions in this postseason run.
Flacco is going to do most of his damage with his weapons on the outside. Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin form an outstanding duo that is not all that different from the Falcons' combo of Julio Jones and Roddy White. In the NFC Championship Game, those two combined for 18 catches, 282 yards and two touchdowns.
With Flacco getting plenty of time to throw, he will find his two receivers open often, and that will open up things in the pass game for dump-offs to Ray Rice and easy throws to Dennis Pitta in the seam.
Colin Kaepernick Will Dazzle
Colin Kaepernick can put up the exact same stat line as another quarterback, but Kaepernick's performance would be twice as dazzling. The guy's skills are that amazing.
Whether he is riffling in a bullet pass or tucking and running, the speed attained on both is virtually unmatched in the quarterback world.
To the 49ers' credit, they have put Kaepernick in the best position to showcase these skills. Their use of the read-option has been brilliant, and it is giving the opposition fits.
There is just too much for a defense to focus on. If the defense makes stopping pass plays a priority, Kaepernick will run all over them like he did in the divisional round while running for 181 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers.
If a team tries to take away the run, Kaepernick is going to pass on them like he did last game while completing 16-of-21 passes for 233 yards.
The other part of the equation is that trying to stop Kaepernick in the run game makes it easier for Frank Gore and the other backs to find room to run on the inside.
So, the Ravens have their work cut out for them, and they will not be able to stop everything.
I expect the Ravens' edge players to get sucked in and not contain on at least a few plays. This will lead to big runs by Kaepernick. The 49ers will then find some big plays on play-action passes.
In the end, Kaepernick will increase his stardom, but he will not win the game.
Ravens Win, 31-27
Teams don't hit for the tying score on 70-yard bombs with less than 40 seconds left. They also don't come back on a Tom Brady-led Patriots team that takes a lead into the second half while playing at home.
Well, that is exactly what this Ravens team has done in its last two weeks.
This resilient group has battled through so much adversity this year, that when this game comes down to the fourth quarter and it is close, Baltimore is going to be the more calm and confident group.
Late in the game, this feisty group will find a way to get the key stop and hit for the big play on offense. They've proven too much for me to predict anything else.
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