By midnight tonight we'll know which two teams will will be competing in Super Bowl XLVII. Will it be the New England Patriots for the 6th time since the new millennium? Or will it be their opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, who are looking to send the living legend Ray Lewis into retirement with another championship? How about the storied history of the great franchise of the San Francisco 49ers who are attempting to tie the Steelers with 6 Super Bowl titles? Or perhaps the high flying Atlanta Falcons will get a shot at their first Super Bowl win since the organization began in 1965? It's time to break down the match ups to get an idea of who may be playing on Super Bowl Sunday!
49ers Offense vs Falcons Defense
The Niners are completely clicking on offense right now. It seems coach Jim Harbaugh is indeed a genius by starting Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith midway through the season and sticking with it all the way to the NFC title game. Kaepernick gives the 49ers a whole new dynamic on offense as he has shown the ability to throw the ball deep down the field with zip and accuracy while breaking long touchdown runs with his legs. It's been proven nearly impossible to defend when Frank Gore gets the running game going as well. San Francisco's offensive line is one of the best in football as they run and pass block as good as any in the league. Combine that with the emergence of former 1st rounder Michael Crabtree and the always present threat of Vernon Davis and the 49ers absolutely have the edge over a mediocre Falcons defense.
Falcons Offense vs 49ers Defense
Atlanta's offensive weapons may be the best in football. Matt Ryan has stepped up his game and finally led the Falcons new regime under Mike Smith to a playoff victory. But the 49ers have the edge in this match up. The Niners have proven they can handle the passing game when Justin Smith is in the line up. They dominated two of the best offenses in the NFL when they beat the Packers twice this season and a win on the road in Foxborough over the Patriots. They held Brady and Rodgers in check for most of those games so I suspect they have the ability to do the same against the Falcons. The key for San Fran is that they can drop 7 or 8 guys into coverage and still apply pressure on the quarterback. The Falcons are a predominately passing team so their offensive line better be on the lookout for the Smith brothers. If Atlanta can find their running game as they did last week then the Niners will be forced to stack up the box a bit more. Look for the Falcons to try and run the ball early but I don't believe they will be successful.
The Falcons may not be as good as the 49ers but that doesn't mean they aren't capable of winning this game. The Dirty Birds have been the best home team in the NFL since Ryan and Smith arrived in Atlanta. Add the home dome noise and perhaps the young Colin Kaepernick has issues communicating with his team. Early and unnecessary timeouts may result from this which could prove costly in the last minutes of the game. The Falcons also have the edge on Special Teams. Matt Bryant is kicking better and with more confidence than David Akers. Neither team is a tremendous threat returning kick and punt returns but the Niners may have the edge their with Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie LaMichael James beginning to make a name for himself. If the game comes down to a long field goal attempt then I do trust Bryant over Akers right now.
Patriots Offense vs Ravens Defense
The Patriots have the edge in this match up but not by as much as you may think. The Ravens have played the Patriots extremely well over the past few years and have a very good understanding of what they do on offense. The problem is that they really don't have the personnel to match up with the Patriots offensive weapons. Even without Gronkowski, New England has too many threats to where the Ravens can't single out any one player to take out of the game. You simply cannot guard Welker, Hernandez and Llyod with Tom Brady throwing them the football. Not to mention that the Pats finally have a running game as Stevan Ridley and all of a sudden Shane Vereen are getting the job done. The Ravens may know what's coming but stopping it is a whole other story.
Ravens Offense vs Patriots Defense
The Ravens throw the ball down field and the Patriots can't defend the deep pass. The edge quite simply goes to Baltimore. Joe Flacco has a huge arm and loves to take chances. You can bet he'll take a few tonight to try and get a few quick touchdowns or perhaps pass interference calls deep in Patriots territory. Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin will be on top of their games today but this match up comes down to Ray Rice. If OC Jim Caldwell decides to give Rice the ball early and often then the Ravens chances of winning increases. He's always a threat to break a big run or short pass over the middle for a long gain or touchdown. The Pats have improved on defense but the Ravens have all the weapons to match up with them.
The Patriots are one of the toughest teams to beat at home in the NFL. They have one of the best quarterback/coaching combinations in the history of this great league. They also have an excellent kicker who is accustomed to cold weather field goal attempts. But I still give the Ravens the edge. Why? Because they have some of the best defensive players to ever play the game on the field this Sunday led by one of the greatest of all time riding the emotion of his inevitable retirement. You can say that the inspiration and extra motivation is why the Ravens have made it this far and upsetting the top seeded Broncos in Denver last week. Baltimore is also excellent on Special Teams with an awesome rookie kicker in Justin Tucker and the phenomenal kick and punt returning skills of Jacoby Jones. The Ravens have that threat to change the game with one play in one second. We could be headed for a Harbowl folks!