HEAD TO HEAD: It all comes down to this. The Super Bowl is TODAY. Photo courtesy NFL.com

HEAD TO HEAD: It all comes down to this. The Super Bowl is TODAY. Photo courtesy NFL.com

How do you set up a game for readers that has been the only football game talked about for two weeks? As if no one’s said a word about it yet.

That’s just how we roll. So if you haven’t read a Super Bowl preview yet, you’re in luck because your one-stop shop is here. And if you  have, well, admit it: you’ve read more than one. Probably 50. So read another one.

This is the only Super Bowl Preview you’ll ever need to read…

The Trends

Yes, it’s the Harbaugh Bowl. Or Harbowl. Or Bro Bowl. Or Jimmy John’s Bowl. However you like to refer to it, it’s well-known by now that this is the first time two brothers have faced off in the history of the Super Bowl.

But firsts are boring. First have no statistical trend. They’re a wildcard, so to speak, and that belongs in the FIRST round of the playoffs.

FINAL FOUR: Two of these guys are going to be the faces of a Super Bowl championship team come Monday morning. Photos courtesy Getty Images

FINAL FOUR: Two of these guys are going to be the faces of a Super Bowl championship team come Monday morning. Photos courtesy Getty Images

So here are the trends that we CAN point out.

  • In their entire history, the San Francisco 49ers have won all five Super Bowls they’ve appeared in (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, XXIX).
  • The Baltimore Ravens have also never lost a Super Bowl they’ve appeared in, but they’ve only been in one other (XXXV).
  • Joe Flacco was drafted out of Delaware, a Division I-AA school. There has only been one Division I-AA Super Bowl champion ever (Doug Williams, Super Bowl XXII, Washington Redskins, out of Grambling State).
  • The NFC (this year represented by the 49ers) has won three straight Super Bowls.
  • If the 49ers win Super Bowl XLVII, they will become only the sixth team to win a Super Bowl since 2000 that does not have another Super Bowl victory in that timespan.
  • Super Bowl XLVII will be fought between two relatively unproven quarterbacks. The last 49ers champion quarterback was Steve Young. The last Ravens champion quarterback was Trent Dilfer.
  • Since 2000, teams appearing in their second Super Bowl (like the Ravens) are 1-2, while teams appearing in their sixth Super Bowl (like the 49ers) are 1-1.

 

The Match Ups

 

San Francisco 49ers

Position

Baltimore Ravens

There’s no doubt Colin Kaepernick is sorely inexperienced, but he’s a dynamic playmaker that has showed no nerves when it comes to big stages yet

Quarterback

Advantage: 49ers

His tough-fought victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots have quieted his critics for now, but they’ll reemerge if he has a poor game versus a quarterback playing in his tenth game.

Frank Gore’s lack of injury this season is nothing short of amazing and a major reason why San Francisco has gotten this far. LaMichael James has proven to be a dangerous speedster, too.

Running Backs

Advantage: Ravens

Ray Rice continues to establish himself as one of the three best running backs currently in the game. The drafting of Bernard Pierce has made the Ravens attack relentless.

Michael Crabtree is the only guy with an abundant amount of talent and his emotional growing pains have brought many headaches to tiresome 49ers fans and his coaches.

Wide Receivers

Advantage: Ravens

Cover Boldin? You have to worry about Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones over the top. Cover them? Boldin will run away with the game like he did in the AFC Championship.

Vernon Davis nearly took the 49ers to the Super Bowl last year before a special teams fumble ended their hope. This season, he’s as good if not marginally better.

Tight Ends

Advantage: 49ers

Dennis Pitta has been a nice surprise and has provided the Ravens with their first real X-factor since Todd Heap was in his prime. Still, he is outmatched in this one.

The San Francisco line is anchored by two stud tackles in Staley and Davis who help seal the edge for their fleet-of-foot leader (Kaepernick) and running backs (Gore and James).

Offensive Line
Advantage: 49ers

Guys like Marshall Yanda can bulldoze a path for Ray Rice, but keeping the “best quarterback in the game” upright is the bigger concern. There, it’s much more of a question mark.

Aldon Smith was an absolute nightmare for NFL quarterbacks for the first three months. After that, he apparently went into hibernation. If he doesn’t wake up? Look out, San Francisco.

Defensive Line
Advantage: Push

So the 49ers have two superb offensive tackles. Great. But how’s that going to stop Haloti Ngata? If San Fran can’t stop him, the 49ers will have Ngata chance in this one.

You know who’s been hurt the most by the incessant Ray Lewis coverage? Patrick Willis. Lo and behold, San Francisco has a not-half-decent inside linebacker of their own.

Linebackers

Advantage: Push

Are you expecting me to mention Ray Lewis? Yes. Well, how about Terrell Suggs. When these two teams met last Thanksgiving, he was the difference maker.

Carlos Rodgers apparently got his eyes checked (literally) when he moved out west, which is good, because he’ll have to be as much of a shut-down force as Chris Culliver.

Secondary
Advantage: Ravens

The combination of Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed is enough to keep any deep-threat receiver in the NFL up at night. That’s great, but the real concern is how Cary and Corey (the CB’s) will play.

David Akers struggle-ridden season has been well-documented. However, his record-setting season last year and career statistics are proof of just how good he can be.

Kickers

Advantage: Ravens

Justin Tucker has been an absolute revelation in the wake of Cundiff’s costly shanks. Like Kaepernick (who’s not a rookie), New Orleans will be the biggest stage yet for him.

Both of these teams have dynamic returners. So long as Kyle Williams stays away from the ball, Ted Ginn might be able to make a few plays that alter the course of the game.

Special Teams
Advantage: Push

They’re going to get their shots at some returns, but the real issue here will be the kick coverage. Those two returns touchdowns from the Broncos in Denver were disconcerting.

Jim Harbaugh has proved to be something of a messiah for the 49ersHow else do you explain all he’s done in just two years?

Coaching
Advantage: Ravens

John Harbaugh has been great, but the real difference here has been the inclusion of Jim Caldwell.

 

The Keys to Victory

 

SALUTE-ATIONS: If the 49ers are going to win in New Orleans, they're going to need Aldon Smith to introduce himself to the Ravens O-line early and often. Photo courtesy Norm Hall/Getty Images

SALUTE-ATIONS: If the 49ers are going to win in New Orleans, they’re going to need Aldon Smith to introduce himself to the Ravens O-line early and often. Photo courtesy Norm Hall/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers

 

>>>Frustrate Ray

Ray Lewis is the emotional soul of this Ravens defense. A lot of guys just want to win this game FOR him. The 49ers won’t be able to stop the retiring linebacker from eating grass or crying during the national anthem, but once the game starts they’ll need to get to him early and often to prevent any sort of momentum from building. If Lewis gets on a roll, Kaepernick won’t be kissing his bicep very often this game.

 

>>>Feed Aldon Smith His Wheaties

I don’t know where Aldon Smith has gone, but it’s time for him to come back. The 49ers have a distinct advantage at the quarterback position with the mobility of Kaepernick, but if they can’t get to Flacco consistently they’ll throw all of that away. A nightmarish day for the Ravens O-line begins and ends with Aldon Smith.

 

>>>No Doubles Defense

I know this is a weird thing to say, but don’t worry about Ray Rice. The 49ers front seven is good enough that Rice is going to have a rough go of things either way. No, what San Francisco needs to do is what baseball teams call a ‘No Doubles’ defense. It’s more than not letting footballs get over their heads, they can’t let Torrey Smith or Jacoby Jones get past them. This means a lot of double coverage and even more Cover 2 zone play.

 

STOP RIGHT THERE: Ray Lewis is too close to a storybook ending to let San Francisco get in the way now. Photo courtesy Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

STOP RIGHT THERE: Ray Lewis is too close to a storybook ending to let San Francisco get in the way now. Photo courtesy Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens

 

>>>Make It Ray-n

As you’ll read below, the team with the most rushing yards at the end of the game is 37-9 in the Super Bowl. You want to open up Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin? Give it to Ray Rice early and often. I’m talking 20-25 carries during the game and another 5-10 for Bernard Pollard. The runs don’t have to gash the 49ers (because they won’t), they just have to be productive enough to tempt the 49ers into putting eight guys into the box. If you do that, Joe Flacco will have a much easier time throwing the ball.

 

>>>Don’t Contain, Col-tain

If the Ravens let Colin Kaepernick do his thing, they will lose this game. Baltimore has to contain the young gun and keep him inside the pocket as much as humanly possible. Not just that, but they have to do it while moving Ed Reed and/or Bernard Pollard up as little as possible. The more the Ravens have to bring their safeties up, the more Michael Crabtree will be able to get separation on the outside.

 

>>>Stay In The Game

Baltimore is not a “comeback” team. If they’re there in a one-score game late in the fourth quarter, they’re as good as anyone, but they can’t rally the way San Francisco did against Atlanta. If the Ravens get down more than one score, they’re going to need to answer immediately. If the Ravens get down more than two scores, the game may be over.

 

 

BATTLE IN THE BAYOU: Two hard-nosed defenses for all the marbles? Yeah, expect a war. Photo courtesy Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

BATTLE IN THE BAYOU: Two hard-nosed defenses for all the marbles? Yeah, expect a war. Photo courtesy Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

The Fun Facts

 

  • Everyone knows this is a big weekend for the Harbaugh family, but few know HOW big. In addition to the Harbowl, a brother-in-law to both Harbaugh brothers, Indiana Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Crean, played #1 Michigan last night in arguably the biggest game so far in the college basketball season.
  • 17 of the last 20 Super Bowls have been won by the city with the lower unemployment rate. This year, that would be Baltimore (7.2% vs. 8.2%)
  • The ‘big game’ will be 3 to 4 hours long. It took work crews 36,000 man hours to hang all the Super Bowl decorations around the Superdome.
  • The Giants beat the 49ers on October 14th and lost to the Ravens on December 23rd. The Giants have only between 2 of 31 teams that have eventually gone on to become world champions that year.
  • Think this is a passing league? Teams with the most rushing yards are 37-9 in Super Bowl games.
  • This is only the second time in Super Bowl history the two teams who lost the conference championships the year before have gone to the Super Bowl the very next year.
  • Ray Lewis’ first career sack came on Jim Harbaugh, the head coach of the 49ers facing Lewis here in Super Bowl XLVII. In between then and now, Harbaugh and Lewis were also teammates.
  • Neither Harbaugh brother has won a Super Bowl before. It will be the seventh time in eight years a head coach will have won their first Super Bowl.

 

The Simulated Game

 

RATED RB FOR GORE: In a year where the 49ers backfield became a flash mob talent, Frank Gore stayed healthy and stayed strong all season. Photo courtesy Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

RATED RB FOR GORE: In a year where the 49ers backfield became a flash mob talent, Frank Gore stayed healthy and stayed strong all season. Photo courtesy Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

First Quarter

The Ravens take the first offensive drive of the game to one first down before punting. The 49ers use their first possession to cross the 50-yard line before being forced to punt. The Ravens, starting inside their own 10, convert on back-to-back third downs before failing to convert the third and punt. Time expires in the first quarter while San Francisco has the ball for the second time.

Baltimore 0, San Francisco 0

 

Second Quarter

With the ball, the 49ers drive down to the Ravens’ 31-yard line where David Akers nails a near-flawless 48-yard field goal. After Baltimore gets the ball back, Joe Flacco throws an interception and San Francisco takes over in their own territory. Colin Kaepernick takes the 49ers down the field and caps off the first touchdown drive of the game with a read-option run into the end zone. Joe Flacco and co. answer with a scoring drive of their own via a mid-range field goal by Justin Tucker. The 49ers are unable to do anything with what few seconds remain in the half.

San Francisco 10, Baltimore 3

 

Third Quarter

The 49ers take the second half kickoff and stall on a three and out. They punt to the Ravens, where Joe Flacco throws his second interception in 49ers territory. Back with the ball, LaMichael James coughs up the pigskin and the Ravens defense recover. Relying heavily on Ray Rice, Baltimore takes another mid-range field goal. Trying to answer, the 49ers take the ball into the red  zone before their drive stalls out and San Fran has to settle for a David Akers field goal. The Ravens down the kick off in the end zone for a touchback as time expires.

San Francisco 13, Baltimore 6

 

Fourth Quarter

After a few runs, Joe Flacco hits Torrey Smith on a deep fade bomb to tie the game just minutes into the final quarter. The 49ers put their foot back down on the pedal on offense where, trying to make something happen, Colin Kaepernick coughs up the ball near the sidelines where the Ravens defense recovers once again. The Ravens offense does nothing, but already in field goal range, Justin Tucker puts three points on the board. On the kickoff, the Ravens’ special teams give up the sideline and returner LaMichael James makes them pay taking the kickoff all the way back for a lead-changing touchdown. With less than two minutes to play and a touchdown needed, Joe Flacco, the most improbably of end-of-game heroes manufactures a marvelous drive relying heavily on Anquan Boldin. With less than 30 seconds to play, he hits Jacoby Jones in the end zone for the go-ahead score. Out of timeouts, Kaepernick throws up a Hail Mary, ‘Heaven Sent’ tattooed on his arm, and the prayer pass goes unanswered.

 

FINAL SCORE
Baltimore 23, San Francisco 20

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NOTE: This story was originally written for SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for NFL updates and other shenanigans!

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