This weekend's big game will be a contrast from recent Super Bowls. Instead of the usual high octane offense vs. mid-grade defense, we'll be seeing two great defenses vs. two potentially explosive offenses. It's because of that combination that the Ravens and the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl. Here's five factors for each team that could determine the outcome of the game.
Joe Flacco's ability to make wise, accurate decisions will likely be the Ravens' biggest issue on Sunday. Should Flacco make all the right moves, the Ravens win. If, however, things don't go his way, the Ravens could be in trouble.
Justin Tucker is the Ravens' placekicker. That's a position that goes under the radar more times than not, but in a game that could easily be determined by one swipe of the leg, Tucker's ability to cash in on field goal opportunities is key.
Torrey Smith may be the most explosive player on the Ravens' offense. If he runs wild, game over 49ers.
Along with the aforementioned players, there are two units that have to rise to the occasion. The Ravens' defense is presented with a unique challenge against Collin Kaepernick. To win the big game, Baltimore has to force Kaepernick and the 49ers to throw for the win. If San Francisco is allowed to run the ball for consistent gains, the Ravens will have a tough time slowing that offense down.
Finally the Ravens' offensive line will have to slow the 49ers' front down to give Joe Flacco enough time to use his big arm to its full potential. They'll also need to open up lanes for Ray Rice. To say the least, that's easier said than done.
San Francisco 49ers:
Like the Ravens, the factor that has the biggest impact on the 49ers' chances of success is their quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. He's a dynamic player that can make huge plays in any given situation. Still, he doesn't have the same kind of experience that Joe Flacco has, and we're still waiting to see if that will become a factor this postseason.
Frank Gore is the compliment to Kaepernick. He's a big man that can provide a great change of pace for the 49ers' offense, and his ability to make defenders pay for tackles will be key in wearing down the Ravens' aging defense.
David Akers has had a rough season kicking for the 49ers. Like Justin Tucker, he may be called upon to make a big kick late in the game. Unlike Tucker, his lack of accuracy may force the 49ers into an unfavorable decision at some point that could take points off the board. Keep an eye on this guy.
Clock management has been an issue for the 49ers this postseason, and much of that falls on Collin Kaepernick and head coach Jim Harbaugh. Those silly five yard penalties for "delay of game" are unacceptable, and they change the way San Francisco operates on offense. It's an issue the 49ers need to clean up.
Finally, a word on Jim Harbaugh. He's a passionate coach, and we appreciate many of his sideline antics, but he has to keep his emotions in check. He's the leader of his team, and if he loses focus, his team may follow suit.