As Super Bowl XLVII approaches, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers only care about securing a win. Due to their superior skills in almost every facet of the game, it is difficult to expect anything less than a championship.
The San Francisco defense was ranked third in the NFL in yards per play at 4.9 – one of only four teams to let up less than 5 ypp on the season. The defense has been giving up slightly more during the postseason, which can be attributed to Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith’s injury. Smith has been a key factor in San Francisco’s dominant play upfront all season, and with two weeks to recover from a left arm injury they expect him to return to form on Feb. 3. If Smith is able to do so, he can return to the defensive front with Aldon Smith. The pair combined for 22.5 sacks in the regular season.
The Ravens’ offense has been playing above its expectation throughout the playoffs. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice have both outperformed their regular season averages during this playoff run. At some point one must expect a regression to the mean and it’s likely for this to happen during the Super Bowl. The Ravens’ offense has not seen a defense as good as San Francisco’s since weeks 11 and 13, when Baltimore played the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the Ravens split those games, the offense averaged just 16.5 points per game.
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers tied for first in the NFL at 6.2 ypp on offense. That number gets even higher when you filter out games when Alex Smith started at quarterback.
Much has been said about Kaepernick’s ability to run the pistol offense, especially in running the ball. But the Ravens’ defensive weakness is in pass coverage, especially in the middle of the field. Ray Lewis is not nearly the player he once was in this regard. The Ravens have allowed tight ends to have big days on multiple occasions throughout the season, and with Vernon Davis suited up for the 49ers, do not expect that trend to change.
The Ravens are a team that lost four of their last six regular season games. In the postseason they haven’t impressed by beating teams like the overrated Indianapolis Colts, the Denver Broncos on a fluke Hail Mary – let up because of one of the worst defensive plays in NFL history – and the injury-riddled New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
The 49ers, on the other hand, have been playing above their expectation throughout the playoffs and we will see that on Super Bowl Sunday.