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Alex Smith is as valuable a reserve as you'll find in this game. He has recent exposure to the Ravens' D, having played in HarBowl I in 2011, which could prove valuable in instructing Kaepernick on Baltimore's pass rush. (Smith was taken down nine times in that game.) If Kaepernick were to become the first Super Bowl QB since Stan Humphries in 1995 to be sidelined by injury during the game, the 49ers would tag in a guy who completed 70.2% of his passes in 2012 and who has more wins since '11 (19) than Tyrod Taylor, Joe Flacco's backup, has career completions (18).
Five Reasons the Ravens Will Win
1 Fortune Favors Boldin
The 49ers allowed 396 passing yards in a win over Atlanta and now face deep threats Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Meanwhile, Anquan Boldin (above) will often be left in single coverage, and that's a battle he'll likely win, as he did in the AFC Championship Game (five catches, two TDs). At 32, Boldin still sucks up most everything thrown his way by posting up his 6' 1", 220-pound frame against smaller defenders. On Sunday he'll be taller than both of the Niners' CBs likely to cover him, Chris Culliver and Carlos Rogers, and he'll outweigh them by 21 and 28 pounds.
2 Aldon, All Done?
San Francisco's sensational pass rusher, Aldon Smith, had 19½ sacks through 13 games—and none in the Niners' subsequent five. Conventional wisdom is that Smith was hurt by the attention offenses devoted to him after the injury to Justin Smith, but Aldon was shut out even after Justin returned in Week 16. He showed signs of life against Atlanta (five pressures, two hits) but has his work cut out for him against the Ravens. Their recently jelled line has given up just five sacks of Joe Flacco (who excels against the blitz) over its past five games.
3 Can't Slow Their Roll
Teams that have been seeded fourth or lower have reached five of the past seven Super Bowls after having played an extra wild-card game to get there, and in the big dance each of them has faced opponents that have been seeded No. 1 or No. 2. The lower seeds have won four of those games; only the 2008 Cardinals lost—barely—to the Steelers. In other words there's plenty to be said for momentum at this time of year. San Francisco was the NFC's second seed; Baltimore was the AFC's fourth seed.
4 Many Healthy Returns
One reason for the Ravens' recent surge: They've avoided the injury bug that afflicted their D early in 2012. Everyone knows that a torn triceps kept Ray Lewis out of 10 games. But that's just the top of the list. DL Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee, LBs Terrell Suggs and Dannell Ellerbe, and DBs Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Bernard Pollard all missed between two and 10 games. Just two defenders—FS Ed Reed and CB Cary Williams—made 16 starts. All but Webb will play Sunday, and a D that ranked outside the top 10 for the first time since '02 should be its old self.