Brothers facing off
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Most brothers have a little bit of healthy competition going between them from time to time. Maybe a wrestling match or who can eat the most steak—something normal, but not too crazy and generally not very public. The Harbaughs aren’t quite your average brothers though. And so, for the first time in NFL history, two brothers will coach opposing teams for the championship.
The above story will likely be completely covered as many times as a Kansas City wide receiver, however, so it won’t be discussed in further length here. With that out of the way, let’s shift our attention to the players actually in the game.
Joe Flacco makes me laugh. How he even gets mentioned in conversations about the league’s elite signal callers continually baffles me. He’s just so wildly inconsistent. Sure, he’s got a great arm, but so does Jay Cutler. The good news for Flacco is that he’s currently riding a hot streak with 853 yards, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions in three playoff games, but he’s doing so while playing behind an incredible offensive line (four sacks in the post-season) and completing just 54.8 per cent of his passes. On the other side of the field is young Colin Kaepernick. Since taking over for Alex Smith in week 11, the second-year man out of Nevada hasn’t looked back. He’s the kind of game changing QB San Francisco hasn’t seen in a long time. Though young, Kaepernick has shown remarkable poise at the helm of the 49ers’ offense. He’s got a good arm, solid accuracy, and incredible athleticism; his 181 rushing yards against the Packers showed just how much of dual threat he can be. Edge: San Francisco
At running back, Baltimore and San Francisco have two of the more respected backs in the league: Ray Rice and Frank Gore. They’ve both consistently produced over the course of their careers and have never shown any quit. They both have great vision and can hit the hole hard and are definitely leaders on the field. The only separation is that Rice is a weapon in the passing game. A pair of great hands has allowed him to bail out Flacco on many occasions. Though both are good backs, the fact that Rice can do more than just carry the rock gives him this one. Edge: Baltimore
The receiving game really isn’t much of a competition. The Ravens have Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Jacoby Jones, and Dennis Pitta reeling in the football while the 49ers have the less than intimidating collection of Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Randy Moss. With Smith and Boldin, Baltimore has two borderline-top wide receivers; consistency was a bit of an issue during the season, but that comes with the territory when Flacco’s the fellow throwing you the football. Dennis Pitta had a surprisingly decent year at tight end, and Jacoby Jones is their wild card. Jones only has four catches in the playoffs, but one of them went for 70 yards and a score. Definitely someone to keep an eye on. For San Fran, Crabtree finally developed into the receiver the organization thought they were getting when they drafted him. A thousand yard season effectively silenced his detractors. Unfortunately, he’s about all the 49ers have got. Randy Moss is well past his prime, Mario Manningham had a disappointing year and finished it up with tearing some ligaments, and Vernon Davis couldn’t seem to figure out how to play football this season. No brainer here. Edge: Baltimore
Seeing as these are both Harbaugh coached teams, the defenses are forces to be reckoned with. Four of the most recognizable linebackers in the league are in this game: Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith. The 37-year-old Lewis is still going strong despite suffering torn triceps earlier in the season, and for Baltimore’s sake, it’s a good thing. He’s the heart and soul of that defense and arguably of that team. Judging by the way he left the field in the last game at home, there’s a good chance that the Super Bowl will be his final appearance in the NFL. As for the trio of 49ers linebackers, there’s not much to say. Willis and Bowman are two of the best middle linebackers around, and Aldon Smith is a sack machine. The secondaries are fairly evenly matched. Neither set of cornerbacks are anything to write home about, but both teams have solid safeties. The Ravens have the dynamic duo of the ball-hawking Ed Reed and sure-tackler Bernard Pollard while the 49ers have the underrated team of Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. For the defensive line, the only real name is Haloti Ngata for the Ravens. Dynamic 3-4 linemen are hard to come by. It’s a tough one, but San Fran gets by on the strength of their linebackers. Edge: San Francisco
So after all that, who’s the Super Bowl champ going to be? Analyzing rosters is amusing, but in the end, history and statistics mean nothing. A record-breaking season does nothing for you if you can’t rekindle that magic on game day. Flacco’s not elite, a Super Bowl win would certainly be more than enough to start swaying some people’s opinions. Kaepernick has been outstanding so far, but will he finally crumble under the pressure? In my all-important opinion, San Francisco will pull this one out and the Super Bowl will finally make a return to the Bay area.