Sunday, January 27, 2013
Super Bowl Preview
Conventional wisdom says the 49ers win this game. They are the most physically impressive of the two teams. They sport a mammoth, powerful offensive line, an incredible, physical defense and are impeccably coached. They are also running the pistol with Colin Kaepernick, something that has been nearly unstoppable thus far during the playoffs.
However, I believe that Baltimore's defense is a far stiffer test than Atlanta's or Green Bay's. Baltimore is huge up front, spearheaded by Haloti Ngata. The Falcons were a little light in the pants up front, and it showed as two weeks in a row they wore down late in the game. The Packers have decent size on the defensive line, but were ill prepared for the multilayered pistol offense the 49ers threw at them. Its important for Baltimore's defensive line to keep their linebackers clean and allow them to maintain their keys, which is a lot easier said than done.
Initially when the 49ers went with Kaepernick and started running the pistol, I thought that the 49ers were giving up their trademark physicality for a cute offense and a downfield passing game. Against New England, their inability to run the football almost resulted in a blown 30 point lead. Against Seattle, they were bullied and looked lost. A team without an identity, similar to the pre Harbaugh 49ers teams. However, they've now embraced the Pistol, added layers and it fits their talent perfectly. Even if the Ravens are able to stop all the different reads in the running game, they still have to worry about Vernon Davis. When I first started breaking down this game, I thought the Ravens would be able to contain Vernon Davis due to the excellent job they've done all the Patriots tight ends over the past couple years. Ray Lewis is now a liability in coverage and Davis is a challenge for even the most athletic linebackers and safeties. If the 49ers are able to exploit the Ravens defense, it will be with Vernon Davis.
On the flip side, the best thing that could possibly happen to the Ravens was firing Cam Cameron. His playcalling was stiff, without rhythm. They seem to be clicking better on offense with Caldwell calling plays and have a surprising amount of playmakers on offense. As a Seahawks fan, I've seen a lot of the 49ers, and the way to attack them is by spreading them out and throwing the ball. Something the Ravens are reasonably comfortable with. The 49ers do not switch out of their base defensive personnel group very often and you can exploit matchups in the passing game against the 49ers secondary and linebackers.
I do not feel like the Ravens will be able to run the ball with much success. And I wonder how well their offensive tackles will handle Justin Smith and Aldon Smith. The 49ers do not blitz often because their front four is excellent at creating pressure and making opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable. Flacco doesn't move tremendously well, if the 49ers get after him, he will commit turnovers.
Overall, the 49ers are the better team. The Ravens are very good, and have been knocking on the door of a championship for years. If they win, it will be a gutsy performance and by the skin of their teeth. But I have to pick the 49ers to win, as much as it pains me. This team is loaded with talent, and extremely well coached.
49ers win 28-20.