January 27, 2013

A pre-hype Super Bowl prediction

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

Do you have any idea how hard it is make a Super Bowl pick more than a week before the game is being played? Well that’s what I had to do this time thanks to the fact that I’ll be sitting on a beach in Jamaica for the next week. Believe me; as much as I wanted to spend another February week commuting in this frigid weather, I think I’m due for some warm relaxation.

But, when I started thinking about it for this post, it’s actually a bit easier to think things through and make a prediction. My thought won’t be distorted by the reading an extra week of features and narratives leading up to the big game. Also, I’m sparred from reading every variation of HarBowl and Harbaugh Bowl that people can come up with.

Let’s break things down into some quick-hit categories…

QBs: These two guys are drastically different: Joe Flacco is a pocket QB who keeps calm and can air it out; Colin Kaepernick is a pure athlete with a big arm who can kill a team in the read-option. My one big red flag about Kaepernick is that he is still just a second-year player and the Super Bowl will be just his eighth career start. The good news is that he proved over the past few weeks that he won’t shrink in tough situations. He’s the hottest thing in the game right now though, which will cause many to overrated him slightly – heck, he’s even trying to trademark “Kaepernicking.” How has nobody ever trademarked kissing your bicep before?

Flacco is certainly justifying getting a big pay day this off-season and should get more than just a franchise tag. Even though this is his fifth season in the league, he has already won the most career road playoff games by ANY quarterback. He doesn’t put up huge numbers, but he gets results, which is what his position is really about.

Slight edge: Baltimore.

RBs: Frank Gore is actually one of the more underrated backs in the league. He’s never in discussion as one of the best even though he has produced consistently for years. He’s the type of punishing downhill runner that really represents what this Niners team is about. Ray Rice is a physical back as well, but has other dimensions to his game. He excels at catching passes out of the backfield and has better lateral movement. When looking at the backups, as much as I like LaMichael James, Baltimore’s Bernard Pierce looks like the real deal and could be the future of the Ravens running game.

Edge: Baltimore.

WRs: The Ravens duo of Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith is great example of pairing a speed guy with a physical receiver. Smith is a pure burner that needs a safety over top on every play. Boldin can do everything else is and willing to take some punishment going over the middle. Tight end Dennis Pitta has emerged as good option as well, as I’m sure most fantasy poolies took note of this year.

As for the Niners, they start Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss at with Vernon Davis at TE. Crabtree has really come into his own with Kaepernick at QB, but Moss is really just a role player while Davis has had just one good game – in NFC final – since Alex Smith was benched. In fact, Davis had seven catches in the seven games before that one; hardly an indication that he’ll be a threat in the Super Bowl.

Edge: Baltimore.

OL: Before the Ravens moved Michael Oher to right tackle and started Bryant McKinnie on the left, this would have been a big edge for San Fran. Not so now as the Ravens line have done an excellent job at keeping Flacco clean. Now, the 49ers line – which may be the best in football – only has a slight edge.

Slight edge: San Francisco.

Pass rush: Here we have the Ravens’ Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs against the Smiths, Aldon and Justin. The Baltimore duo have the edge in experience and you could argue talent. Suggs has won the defensive player of the year and Ngata has been in the conversation several times. For the Niners, Justin Smith is a veteran presence who truly leads the line. Aldon was threatening the single-season sack record this year, but his play suffers against the run. All four guys could be all-pros, so this one is too tight to call.

Edge: Even.

Run defence: This is where the Niners truly excel. With Novarro Bowman and Patrick Willis backing the line, not many backs get to the third level to break big gains. The Niners have allowed the fourth least rushing yards this season, nearly 500 less than Baltimore, and last year was tops in the league with the same squad. It was clear this season that the Ravens were selling out to stop the pass, which led to some big games by opposing teams in the rushing department. It will be interesting to see how/if they adjust for this challenge.

Edge: San Francisco.

Pass defence: Neither team has a real lockdown corner, but both sides are no slouches in the defensive backfield. The real advantage that Baltimore has is future hall of famer Ed Reed. Nobody has been better at playing centre field like him over the years, even if he is getting up in the years.

Edge: Baltimore.

Coaching: Oh, you want to pick between the two brothers that are coaching this game? Well, if you really want to, I’d say that John’s NFL experience could give him a slight edge, but Jim has shown a better sense of game planning. It’s truly a tossup.

Edge: Even.

Intangibles: Both teams have never lost in the Super Bowl, but San Fran has been here five times and the Ravens just once … It’s Ray Lewis’ last game ever … Randy Moss could finally get his Super Bowl ring … Playing in the dome will help speed players like Kaepernick and Torrey Smith immensely … It’s Ray Lewis’ last game … Baltimore has overcome a lot of emotional storylines this season … The low seed has won the Super Bowl three years in a row … The NFC has won the Super Bowl four of the past five years … It’s Ray Lewis’ last game ever.

Edge: Baltimore.

Super Bowl pick: Baltimore 23, San Francisco 20
Last week: 2-0
The playoffs: 7-3
This season: 132-116-8

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