Superbowl XLVII Preview

By 26 January, 2013Personal Blog

This has been one of the best post-seasons in recent years, with a good number of fantastic games and recurring themes. Both #1 seeded teams will not play in the final game of the season. Again the Patriots will miss out – since their re-emergence as a power team in 2002 and three Superbowl victories in four years, their championship drought continues. How much longer can they continue to be competitive and then miss out? And while the Falcons finally did win a post-season game, they too didn’t go as far as expected. The will likely both be back in the mix next year.
The championship games gave us a good sense of what to expect in the final game of the season. They were both close, hand-fought games, and the difference between the sides, as it often does in playoff games, came down to turnover margin.
In the AFC, the Patriots had 54 pass attempts and 82 plays and put up a healthy 428 yards of offense. But they were killed in the red zone by a tough Ravens defence, and were unable to convert on the scoreboard where it counts. On the other side, Flacco was unflappable. After a great start to the season, he seemed to lose steam but has come back with a vengeance in the post-season. The adjustments made to the Ravens’ offensive line have been the key here – they have given him much better protection in the pocket as well as improved the running game. Rice runs hard, has excellent moves, and is very difficult to tackle. Flacco has the time to make huge throws to a lightning-fast Torrey Smith who not only has the speed to get separation, and also the strength to make contested catches. Boldin is also a fantastic target with experience and size. Baltimore have finally emerged from a defence-driven, run-first team to be fully balanced in all aspects of the game. Lewis and Suggs have come back from injuries fit and fresh, and are driven to take what may be one of their final opportunities for another Superbowl ring.
In the NFC, the Falcons had adequate warning about the ability of Kaepernick, and did the job preventing him from getting free and taking off. Nevertheless, the run-first offence put up well over 100 yards, and he only had to throw 21 times (which he did outstandingly well – his rocket arm shooting bullets, often into tight coverage). With all the fuss over mobile rookies like Wilson and RG3, Kaepernick took his opportunity and has shown excellent decision-making skills under pressure, and athletic ability to evade sacks and make something out of a dying play. Importantly, he knows how to avoid tackles when running. They have a strong, run-first game, and the passing game has taken off this season with genuine deep threats, a big strong tight end in Davis, and a dangerous cameo in Randy Moss. This is a team that outscore opponents as well as strangle them on defence, which is exactly what they had to do in the championship game. The defence, led by Willis and with an outstanding secondary, is hard-hitting and always looking to strip the ball.
Prediction:
I’m looking forward to a really tight game with plenty of tackling and big plays. The 49ers will look to run first, control the clock and keep Flacco off the field. Baltimore will try to shut down the run and force Kaepernick to win the game with his arm. To win, he will have to take what he’s given with short routes and screens to keep the defence on their toes. It’s doubtful that he will get much opportunity to run as there will be few gaping holes in the Ravens’ defensive front. Baltimore will seek to get to him, rough him up a bit, and bring on the pressure to force errors.
These are two very similarly structured teams. This is the sort of game that can oscillate between defensive bouts and a battle for field position, and the occasional burst of fast scoring and big plays. Neither team is afraid of being down 14 points; if a lead breaks open early, it means nothing. The winner will be team that persists, that can establish a run and use play action, and that wins the turnover margin. It may just come down to a strip, a fumble or a turnover late in the game.
My tip is Baltimore – they have the edge in experience in big games, and plenty of emotion with two experienced defenders in what may be their last campaign.

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