The Super Bowl is only a week away and is shaping up to be one of the most entertaining games in recent history. Lets take a look at five storylines sure to be talked about in the next week leading up to Baltimore Ravens versus the San Francisco 49ers.
1. Coaching History – The Two Head Coaches are Brothers
After becoming the first pair of brothers to be head coaches in the NFL, the Harbaugh brothers took it one step further by reaching the Super Bowl – to coach against one another, something no brothers have done in any professional sport. Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is in his 5th year as head coach and finally gets a chance to win a Lombardi Trophy after avenging last year’s AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots by pulling out a very surprising victory over the favorites in New England. On the other side of the ball, the younger brother Jim Harbaugh, leads one of the hottest teams in football into the Super Bowl Sunday in only his second season. Harbaugh, behind the stellar play of new starting QB Colin Kaepernick, also made up for an NFC Championship Game loss last year , beating out the Atlanta Falcons this year in an exciting 28-24 game in Atlanta. Both Harbaugh brothers have said that they are not talking by phone, but have exchanged text messages.
2. Ray Lewis’ Final Game
Ray Lewis, the future Hall of Fame linebacker for the Ravens, will put on his 52 jersey for the last time on Super Bowl Sunday. Despite the controversy surrounding his career for actions outside of the gridiron, Lewin has consistently played to the top level every year of his 17-year career. The 13-time pro Bowler announced just before the playoffs that he wold retire following the season. This all coming after many thought Lewis’ season was done after a triceps tear that sidelined him for most of the season. Lewis is entering his 2nd Super Bowl appearance after an MVP winning performance in Super Bowl XXV over the New York Giants. In his career, he has amassed 2,050 tackles, 41.5 sacks and 31 interceptions. Although he doesn’t hold a record in any of those categories, he does hold the record for most Pro Bowl appearances (13) and AP All-Pro selections (10) by an inside linebacker and is considered a future Hall of Famer.
3. The Young Guns
In only his 10th NFL start, Colin Kaepernick has done incredible things as he replaced former starting quarterback Alex Smith in a mid-season move that was heavily criticized because Smith led the 49ers to within a scoring drive of a Super Bowl appearance last season. On the other side of the ball, 2008 first-round draft pick and oft-criticized Joe Flacco leads the Ravens into battle having beat the two best AFC teams to reach the big game. In the playoffs this year, both quarterbacks have performed well. Kaepernick outperforms Flacco int he QBR category by a rating of 94.1 to 77.5. However, Flacco has improved his yardage and touchdown to interception ratio in advantages over Kaepernick. Flacco has 8 touchdowns and 0 interceptions this post season while averaging 284 yards per game, an improvement of 46 yards from the regular season.
4. The Elite Backfields
Both teams possess a game-changing running back, and both of which at one point have been considered the best running back in the league. Ray Rice and Frank Gore are two household names because of their physical style of running and by having a knack of finding open space to exploit. Rice had an up and down season because of a change in offensive coordinators, and he is still struggling in the playoffs. outside of his 131-yard performance in Denver, Rice had less yards combined in wins versus Indianapolis and New England than he did in that game. However, do not underestimate RIce who is one of the best in the league at making big plays and is also a big target out of the backfield. Gore, the 49er powerhouse back, is averaging 4.8 yards per carry in the playoffs as he was a main factor in the huge comeback victory in the NFC Championship Game whee he rushed for two scores. Don’t sleep on back-up LaMicahel James either who is a nice speedy change of pace from the physical style of Gore.
5. Exciting Offense vs. Physical D
The most intriguing matchups in the game occur with the 49ers on offense and the Ravens on defense. Although the Ravens ranked in the middle of the NFL when it comes to total defense, rushing and passing, expect the Ravens to come out excited to play for Ray Lewis. The Ravens defense has stepped up an incredible amount in the playoffs, picking off Peyton Manning to set up the winning score in Denver, and by holding the high-powered offense in the Patriots, led by Tom Brady, to only 13 points. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers have been one of the hottest in football. WIth the fresh start with Kaepernick, the 49ers are a threat on every play whether it be the passing game or by Gore in the backfield and even Kaepernick, who is averaging 11.2 yards on 18 carries in the playoffs including the spectacular 56-yard touchdown run at Candlestick Park in the Divisional Round versus the Green Bay Packers. Don’t forget about receivers Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Randy Moss who all can make a big play at any time. The 49ers rank 11th in total offense int he NFL, while averaging 155 yards on the ground, good for 4th in the league.
While both teams were considered underdogs in all of their games this postseason, the 49ers and Ravens have prevailed over all else to bring one of the most interesting games in years to Super Bowl Sunday.
Prediction: SF 24, Bal 17