Three Key Super Bowl Matchups and weaknesses for each team

Posted: 02/01/2013 by levcohen in Football
Tags: ,

Time for more Super Bowl keys.

Three key matchups:
1. Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick vs. Ravens front 7
In the regular season, the Ravens run defense was often their downfall (26th against the run). They’ve gotten better, but it still is a bit shaky. That’s not a good sign against Frank Gore and Kaepernick, two dynamic runners who are good in different ways. Gore is a great downhill runner. He breaks tackles and picks up key yards. If the 49ers decide to give Kaepernick some chances to run, he could pick up huge chunks of yards. The Ravens linebackers are slower than him, and if he can get around the edge he might be able to run for multiple big gains. This is why the Ravens have to continue their strong playoff defensive play. They’ve probably been the best defensive team in the playoffs, but if they let up even a little they aren’t going to win the game.
Advantage: 49ers

2. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce vs. 49ers front 7
The 49ers front seven is full of future hall of fame players. I think four of their seven will make the HOF, and three of the four are in the prime of their careers, and they all do different things very well. Aldon Smith can rush the passer. Justin Smith, on the wrong side of 30, might be the most important player in the Super Bowl. Without him in the lineup (he was injured), the defense took a huge step back near the end of the season. Now he is back, and with him the defense looks a lot better again. The 49ers might have the two best linebackers in the NFL in Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis. Willis has long been considered the best ‘backer in the NFL. Bowman might be better now, but it isn’t because Willis has taken a step back. Bowman is quick, smart, and makes good decisions. With those four, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce might not be able to run for very many yards. Still, this defense hasn’t been as stellar in the playoffs as they were in the regular season. They gave up 31 points to Green Bay and 24 to Atlanta in the first half. In the second half, though, they really tightened up, making a huge stand at the end of the game. If they can carry that play into the Super Bowl, Pierce and Rice are going to be in trouble.
Advantage: 49ers

3. Baltimore deep passes and play action vs. 49ers defense
If the 49ers defense has an achilles heel, it’s the tendency to bite on play action. Luckily for Baltimore, the Ravens often sets up deep passes with play action. The 49ers secondary is pretty sound, but sometimes they let players behind them (including Julio Jones against Atlanta). Torrey Smith is a prime candidate to gash the 9ers defense because he is very fast. In my opinion, Smith and the Ravens will need at least one long touchdown pass, because they have a lot of trouble when they have to sustain long drives.
Advantage: Ravens

49ers weakness:
The 49ers don’t have many weaknesses, but one is their lack of good wide receivers. Michael Crabtree is the exception. Crabtree is a very good receiver, but he is not quite elite. With injuries to Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams, Vernon Davis is the only other good pass catcher in the offense. Davis has stretches in which he is dominant, but he also gets phased out a lot. After that, there is Randy Moss, Ted Ginn and Delanie Walker. Moss has had only one 50 yard game this season. He is still a home run threat, but it’s pretty unlikely that he will catch a long TD pass. Ginn has ran 39 pass routes this season. He has just three catches for four yards. Walker is on the field more than half the time, and he makes some good catches. But he also has a problem with drops. He has dropped more than 30% of the passes thrown to him, which is the worst mark in the NFL.

Ravens weakness:
The Ravens have trouble stopping the run and rushing the passer. In terms of stopping the run, Haloti Ngata is a good run stopper, and Ray Lewis is still probably slightly above average. But the guys who are really the stars of this front 7, Paul Kruger and Terrell Suggs, have been below average against the run. Suggs has been hurt all season, and has had a down year. Kruger is on the field only half the time in offensive sets with two WR’s or fewer, against 90% of the time when there are 3+ WR’s. This is a problem because the 49ers almost never put three WR’s on the field. Kruger is the best pass rusher the Ravens have, and he is really their only good one. Suggs and Lewis are going to have to pressure Kaepernick when Kruger is off the field, which hasn’t happened too much this season. Suggs has probably benefited from the two weeks off, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he looks rejuvenated on Sunday.

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