We all know the saying “games are won and lost in the trenches,” but those guys aren’t as flashy as the running backs and receivers. And often, big plays by these guys are the ones that decide a close game when neither line is a dominant force. So let’s break down who will be racking up the big yards in Super Bowl XLVII.
The Ravens have a clear edge in the running game. Ray Rice is as good of a back as you’ll find in the NFL (save Adrian Peterson who is just a freak) and has been running well as of late. He has 247 yards in his 3 postseason games thus far and will look to add to it against the stout defense of the 49ers. San Francisco finished the regular season ranked 2nd in the NFL in rushing defense allowing less than a hundred yards per game on the ground. I think Rice will get his yards but they will be tough and I don’t think the ravens are going to lean on him to carry the offense. That duty is going to fall to Joe Flacco and his wide receivers.
The receiving corps of the Baltimore ravens isn’t very flashy but they have been getting the job done. Torrey Smith has racked up nearly 200 yards of receiving in the playoffs alone after establishing himself as one of the premier deep threats in the NFL this season. His opposite, Anquan Boldin, has been great as well. Boldin has tallied 276 yards in the 3 postseason games for the Ravens. These guys are going to have to make some plays, big plays, if the Ravens want to win this game. San Francisco is just too good at stopping the run and too good at scoring points for these two guys to take a day off.
Frank Gore leads the 49er rushing attack and has proven that he’s still a good back in this league. Of course, all everyone is talking about is the ability of Colin Kaepernick on the run, but Gore is really the tone setter of this offense. After grinding out over 1200 yards in the regular season, Gore has put up 209 yards in the 49ers 2 postseason games thus far. Unlike the Ravens, I think the Niners need to lean on their running game if they are to win this game. I would be very afraid of letting Colin Kaepernick wing the ball all over the field. Not that he hasn’t been good but it is just such a big stage for a young player and history shows that those guys tend to fold in that situation. Not that Kaepernick won’t make some big plays, because I think he will, but a lot of that is going to be derived from Gore being able to move the ball on first and second down.
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The San Francisco receivers leave a lot to be desired. Although they have some big names, they really haven’t produced that well this season. Michael Crabtree is the lone exception and he did almost all of his work late in the season. In fact, besides Crabtree, no one on the team caught more than 42 passes. Vernon Davis had a decent year but not what the Niners were hoping for; however, he has had a successful postseason by tallying 150 yards in 2 games. I think the receiving corps is going to be able to get open but I think they’re going to have to be smart about it. Don’t force their green QB into tough throws. I expect to see a lot of easy passes early in the game and to lean heavily on the run game.
All in all, I have to give the edge in the skill positions to the Ravens. They have a better running back and probably the 2 best receivers in the game. By no means do I believe that the Ravens will win the game for this fact alone, but they do have an edge.
Check back tomorrow when I break down the big guys on the offensive and defensive lines.