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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super Bowl Preview

When it comes to the Super Bowl, everybody and their nanny takes to the airwaves and Interwebs to give their predictions.  But, this, my friends, is the definitive Super Bowl breakdown.  I know, some of you are scoffing and rolling your eyes.  But, after ten playoff games this season, the Wild Banshee is 8-2 when it comes to picking winners.  And, in the Divisional Round and on Championship Weekend, I pretty much gave you the script for how the games would be played.  But before my fingers get too tired from tooting my own horn, I better get to typing some analysis.


Baltimore vs San Francisco.  Sunday at 6:30 p.m. EST on CBS.  This is a very unusual Super Bowl to analyze.  In recent history, we have seen a number of teams get on a hot streak and win the Super Bowl despite having mediocre regular season records or statistics.  That's not the situation we are in this year.  The Ravens and the Niners both had solid regular seasons and won their divisions.  Still, if you break down the statistics for the season, the 49ers have an advantage in nearly every meaningful offensive and defensive category.  But, that kind of statistical comparison is not particularly informative this year because the versions of these teams that will take the field for the Super Bowl are significantly different than the teams we saw early in the season.

If you look at the stats, the Ravens defense was decidedly mediocre over the course of the season.  But, the Ravens had significant health issues on defense at different times throughout the year.  Now, Ngata, Suggs and Ray Lewis are all healthy at the same time.  On offense, the personnel has remained steady, but the Ravens changed offensive coordinators after Week 14.  For the 49ers, the defense has been ferocious all season long.  But on offense, Niners took the drastic step of changing quarterbacks at the midway point of the season despite being in first place in their division at the time.  With each passing week, the 49ers have expanded the playbook for Colin Kaepernick, so it has been an evolving experiment right up through the NFC Championship game.  In order to choose a winner, it's not trends that tell the story.  It is the personnel match ups.

I expect both quarterbacks to play well in this game.  Joe Flacco will be put on a poised and veteran performance.  Colin Kaepernick may show some signs of over excitement early in the game, but it won't take him long to settle into the game.  Kaepernick's legs will certainly be a factor, but the Ravens defense is a smart and experienced group that will not be confused by the pistol offense after having two weeks to prepare.  But, another word for "experienced" is "old."  The Ravens defense has been playing well throughout the playoffs, but they have yet to face a team with a tight end like Vernon Davis.  New England's Gronkowski would have presented a similar challenge, but Gronk missed the AFC Championship game due to injury.  Davis' speed will be too much for the Ravens linebackers to handle.  Davis will be able to get open repeatedly for deep passes down the seams.  For Baltimore, the ticket to their offensive success in the playoffs has been running the ball with Ray Rice and then throwing the ball deep.  That recipe will not be as successful against the 49ers as it has been against the Colts, Broncos and Patriots.  The 49ers front seven is physical enough and fast enough to contain Rice without committing extra men to the box.  That means the secondary will be in proper position to defend against the deep threat of Tori Smith.

In the end, it will be defense and a physical fourth quarter running game that will carry the 49ers to victory in an entertaining and well-played game.  Wild Banshee's official prediction is 28-24 in favor of San Francisco.

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