We’re under one week before the Ravens hit the biggest stage in the NFL – the Super Bowl.
Can the Ravens win their second Lombardi trophy in franchise history?
Here are a few quick thoughts to get your week started about the NFC champion 49ers.
1) Colin Kaepernick. The buzz surrounding the young tattooed signal caller has overshadowed a very physical and solid football team. There still is no doubt that he is the X factor this Sunday. He’s a true triple threat player who will need to be contained from busting outside on read-option plays. The key is also on the inside as the Ravens linebackers must step up to limit Frank Gore on run plays. Sure the Ravens had some struggles against The Redskins but let’s not forget that three of Baltimore’s starters (Lewis, Suggs, and Ellerbee) did not play in that ball game.
2) David Akers. The usually dependable kicker has had a nightmare season hitting just under 70% of his field goal attempts this year (29 for 42). He particularly struggled with tries from 40 yards plus (9 for 19). The Niners kicking game is an unknown heading into New Orleans and I’m sure most fans would feel a bit uneasy if it came down to a late field goal try to seal a championship.
3) Michael Crabtree. Now that his sexual assault charge appears to be a dead issue the former first rounder can focus on continuing the most productive season of his career. He grabbed 85 receptions for 1105 yards and 9 touchdowns during the regular season and continued his stellar play in two playoff games as well (15 for 179, 2 TDs). It’s helped that vet Randy Moss is still seen as threat by opposing defenses and that freak of nature Vernon Davis can present match-up issues all over the field but Crabtree appears to be coming into his own.
4) Linebackers. The group consisting of; NaVarro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Ahmad Brooks, and Aldon Smith are arguably the league’s best linebacker group. Each brings something different to the pass rush, pass coverage and ability to stop the run. Bowman lead the team in total tackles with 149, Smith had 19 1/2 sacks, Brooks provides speed off the outside (6 1/2 sacks) with an ability to cause turnovers and Willis is the anchor in the middle who many compare to Ray Lewis. Controlling all four will be a tough order.
5) Trouble with the Deep Ball. One recent weakness in the Niners defense has been an inability to defend deep passes. Opposing offenses were 10 for 15 on passes over 15 yards for 3 touchdowns over the past two playoff games. Right now no quarterback has been better throwing downfield than Joe Flacco who has four touchdowns against no picks in three playoffs games.