published 01/24/13 2:58pm
The Vince Lombardi Trophy is up for grab between the Ravens and Niners.
Photo: Rhona Wise / Icon SMI
The stage is set for Super Bowl XLVII: the San Francisco 49ers return to the big game for the first time since 1995 while Ray Lewis and the Ravens are looking for a second title. Which of these two teams will prevail at New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Feb. 3rd?


Many fans and analysts see this Super Bowl as an historic showdown between two head coaching brothers: Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers and John Harbaugh of the Ravens. While those two will obviously play a major role in the outcome, the bigger showdown is probably between QB's Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco. And that edge--at least for now--goes to Baltimore.

Kaepernick and Flacco have been the NFL postseason's top two offensive performers in January, and how they respond under the glare of football's biggest stage will set the tone here. While Kaepernick has been nothing short of a revelation, Flacco has more experience in these situations, more to prove, and a slightly more favorable matchup than his younger opponent.

While Flacco isn't as fast as Kaepernick, he's far from immobile. Moreover, the 49ers haven't been able to get much of a pass-rush going during this postseason (mostly because top sacks provider Aldon Smith has been limited by a shoulder issue). San Francisco has just two sacks in these playoffs, and that doesn't bode well against a Ravens attack that has Flacco passing for 114.7 rating this month.

On offense the Niners face a similarly tougher matchup, since they lean so heavily on the run game to succeed. What worked so well against the Packers and Falcons--having QB Kaepernick establish outside runs, then either play-action or pound the ball inside with Frank Gore--isn't as likely to work against an inspired Baltimore linebacker corps led by Ray Lewis: the Ravens lead this year's playoffs in tackles by a huge margin, with 247.

Indeed, Lewis' self-imposed final playoff run has been nothing short of amazing and inspirational. His veteran leadership should keep giving the Ravens the edge they need (especially under pressure) and Flacco should handle the rest. Add in the recent struggles by San Fran kicker David Akers, and most key momentum is in Baltimore's favor. Of course, don't expect either Harbaugh brother to give an inch (much less a yard) in this superb matchup.