Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why 49ers Will Beat Ravens in Super Bowl

It's just about a lock.

Though 49ers are favored by just 3-to-4 1/2 points in Sunday's Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens, when you talk to insiders, SF is as close to a can't-miss as you can get.

Here's how one New York bookie described the game: "The line could be Niners by ten. It's not quite like the game after the '94 season, when the 49ers were favored by 20 1/2 over the Chargers, but it's not that far from it. The Ravens are lucky to be in this game. They're in it because of that crazy, 70-yard pass play they made in the last second of the Broncos' game. That screwed Denver, which is the best team in the AFC, better than New England. The 49ers vs. Denver, that would be a more even match-up"

No question, the Niners are the better team, with superior personnel at the key positions. The most important is QB .There the 49ers have a definite edge. The Ravens' Joe Flacco is just a passer, and a pretty good one at that, particularly in these playoffs. But the Niners' QB Colin Kaepernick passes just as well and, in addition, has other lethal skills. Not only is he an exceptional runner but he also can expertly execute the baffling read-option offense, which killed Green Bay in the Niners' first playoff game. Pro defensive coordinators haven't seen enough of the read-option yet to devise an antidote, so it could be a problem for the Ravens.

The Niners' receiving corps is also superior. The Ravens' have only one WR, Anquan Boldin, who can damage the Niners. He's been a terror in these three post-season games, catching 16 passes for 276 yards and 3 TDs. The 49ers, though, have two terrors, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Even the Niners' secondary receivers, Delanie Walker and Randy Moss, are more of a threat than any of the other Ravens' wideouts.

You can't win a Super Bowl without a punishing running game or a dominant defense. The Niners have both. Their rushing unit (4th in the league), featuring a monster O-line averaging 320 pounds per man, is particularly potent. The Ravens are strong in both categories, but a notch or two behind the Niners. Look for 49ers' RB Frank Gore to be a major force on Sunday.

The surefire way for the Niners to win this game is to generate a consistent pass rush against Flacco, who's has 8 TD passes and no picks in three playoff games this post season. He's been so successful because he's had plenty of time to set up and look for receivers. Not being a nimble scrambler, when under pressure, he's not as accurate. Expect lots of disruptive 49er blitzes.

But there's another side to this. As much as everything points to a Niners' win, there's an outside chance for a Ravens' upset. They could follow in the footsteps of the New York Giants, who whipped New England in two recent Super Bowls, in 2008 and 2012 seasons. Do you think the Giants were the better team in either game? No way. In 2008, the Super Bowl stumble was the Pats' lone loss of the season. The Giants started to sizzle in the playoffs and, riding a great defense and QB Eli Manning's hot hand, toppled the seemingly unbeatable Patriots.

Though the Ravens' defense isn't anywhere near as dominant as those killer Giants' D units, the Ravens could, with some key Niners' turnovers and mistakes by the relatively inexperienced 49ers' QB, sneak away with a victory.

That, however, is highly unlikely.