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Johnston Predicts Super Bowl XLVII

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Johnston Predicts Super Bowl XLVII

 

 

Without a doubt, the Super Bowl is the biggest stage in the sport of football – bigger than the State Championship, bigger than the NCAA National Championship, bigger than The Grey Cup of the CFL.  To end the season hoisting the infamous Lombardi Trophy makes even the lowliest of football players salivate.  The Super Bowl is what football is all about.

 

This Sunday, New Orleans will host the 47th installment of The Super Bowl, as the AFC Champion Baltimore Ravens take on the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.

 

This Super Bowl is highlighted by a brotherly coaching matchup with Jim and John Harbaugh lining up on opposing sidelines.  Super Bowl XLVII is going to be one for the ages and will be thrilling from start to end.

 

Inspired by the announced retirement of legendary LB Ray Lewis, the Ravens have really turned it on this postseason.  Opening up at home against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts was a challenge enough, but going on the road to defeat Payton Manning and the Denver Broncos AND Tom Brady and the New England Patriots has been jaw dropping.  The team finished the regular season 10-6.

 

A few key players for the Ravens will be the secret to securing the franchise’s second championship.

 

To begin, success in today’s NFL starts at the quarterback position.  Joe Flacco, a five year pro out of Delaware, leads Baltimore.  Flacco is the first quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.  He has been red hot as of late, throwing for 853 yards, 8 touchdowns, and no interceptions.  Look for Flacco to continue his hot streak in New Orleans as he looks to keep the 49ers’ secondary on their heels all night.

 

Baltimore is blessed with more than one all-pro caliber player in the backfield.  RB Ray Rice lines up next to Flacco behind a stout offensive lined, headed by RT Michael Oher out of Ole Miss.  Rice is a small but quick back that once past the line of scrimmage isn’t very easy to take down.  Ray is also known as one of the more vocal leaders on the offensive side for the Ravens, who refer to him as “‘Simba’” because he is “being handed that torch” [from Ray Lewis] to lead this team.  Rice has 247 yards and three touchdowns this postseason, and will most likely find some pay dirt this Sunday.  The running game is the key to the Ravens offense.

 

The final offensive key for the Ravens is WR Torrey Smith who has been turning heads in the secondary all season, particularly against the Denver Broncos and Champ Bailey.  This postseason Smith has been Flacco’s favorite target as he has hauled in nearly 200 receiving yards and two touchdowns.  If Smith can get separation against the 49ers, he will be absolutely lethal.  The Ravens are 7-0 this season when Smith scores a touchdown.

 

Doomed last season in the AFC Championship game in Foxborough, MA by a missed field goal attempt by Billy Caniff, the Ravens drafted kicker Justin Tucker out of UT this season, and he has been brilliant.  Tucker kicked the game-winner in double overtime against the Broncos to send the Ravens to the AFC Championship game.  Look for this game to come down to the wire and for Tucker to make some magic happen and save the day.  Tucker has made 91% of his field goals, marked by a career long 56 yarder.  If the game comes down to a last second field goal, odds are Tucker nails it and send the 49ers packing.

 

The final impact player on the Ravens roster is their captain who has been with the team since it moved to Baltimore at the end of the millennium.  Ray Lewis has been inspirational all year and all but catapulted the Ravens to this Super Bowl appearance.  Despite missing ten games with torn triceps this season, Lewis returned in amazing fashion and has posted 44 tackles this postseason.  Ray Lewis was named Super Bowl MVP in his Super Bowl XXXV appearance and barring a loss will most likely walk away with the honor once again.  Ray Lewis looks to join the likes of Jerome Bettis and John Elway, as he will hang up the helmet and cleats by the close of shop Sunday evening.

 

The 49ers waltz into New Orleans with newfound success with QB Colin Kaepernick, a dual threat out of Nevada.  Jim Harbaugh coaches San Francisco, just two years removed from Stanford University.  During the regular season, the team finished 11-4-1.  To make it to the Super Bowl, the 49ers made it through Packers and the Falcons.

 

The first key player for San Fran is their starting QB Colin Kaepernick, who busted onto the scene this season, replacing then-starter Alex Smith who succumbed to a concussion.  Kaepernick has been brilliant in two facets of the offensive game for the 49ers.  He can both run and pass the ball, and the read-option that the team has decided to incorporate has been deadly.  Kaepernick has gone 11-3-1 as a starter in the NFL so far this season, and his stats have been jaw dropping.  This postseason he has passed for 496 yards and three touchdowns, showing better accuracy and vertical passing as the games have gone along.  The facet of the game where he has been ridiculous is running the ball.  Against the Packers in the 2nd Round, Colin rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, breaking Michael Vick’s record for most yards by a QB on the ground in a game in NFL history.  If Kaepernick starts slow, the 49ers are doomed.

 

Another key player for San Francisco is RB Frank Gore, who has made his way to the end zone three times this postseason.  The ground game for 49ers is vital for their success, and with an all-pro caliber back in the backfield, they should be good to go.  Gore has had the second most rushing yards of his career this year, and incorporating the option has helped to lighten his load and keep him fresh.  With the ball in Gore’s hand, San Francisco should be able to bug Ravens Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs all night, as long as of course, Gore pulls his socks up high enough (which is apparently a rule in the No Fun League).

 

The last offensive key for San Francisco is WR Michael Crabtree, who has, despite being accused of a sexual assault after a playoff win against the Falcons, has found his stride this year.  Lining up with all-time great Randy Moss, Crabtree, a four-year pro out of Texas Tech, has allowed the Niners to be able to attack vertically in the passing game.  Crabtree posted 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season, along with 176 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs.  The Niners are 7-0 when Crabtree finds the end zone this season, so this bides well for Harbaugh and his San Francisco squad if Kaepernick can get him the ball.

 

On defense for the 49ers, they are extremely stout and well coached.  They also have a MONSTER linebacker core, led by Patrick Willis, a six-year pro out of Ole Miss, and NaVorro Bowman, a three-year pro out of Penn State.  52 and 53 have proven to be two of the best in the biz’.  San Francisco is known for its defense, and if these two have a strong outing, they will definitely be influential towards a 6th Super Bowl title for San Francisco.

 

The last Super Bowl key player is definitely one of the overlooked players in the NFL, and you would never expect him to be an impact player.  Punter Andy Lee is a huge ticket to success in New Orleans, because of the field positioning he will offer the 49ers.  If he can pin the Ravens down deep, that will help to take stress off the defense and allow for the offense to get the ball rolling.  Lee is an all-pro punter who averages about 48 yards a punt and has pinned the opposing teams inside the 20-yard line almost 40 times this season.  With field-positioning like that, the Niners are undoubtedly going to drive Flacco and the Ravens absolutely bananas.

 

So without a doubt there are a bunch of key players to watch out for in this Super Bowl.  As Baltimore looks for its second title and San Francisco looks for its sixth, the game will be thrilling from start to end.  The Battle of the Harbaughs, Beyoncé, children from Newtown, CT, Alicia Keys, and commercials will definitely be interesting and entertaining parts of the night, but in the end its all about which coach gets the Gatorade bath and the Lombardi Trophy.

 

Without further ado,

 

Ravens 31, 49ers 28

 

Tucker comes up with the biggest kick of his life, despite valiant efforts by Kaepernick, Gore, and Crabtree.  Ray Lewis goes out on top.

 

Look for this to one to be an instant classic and keep you on your toes from the “O say can you see” to the drop of the last strip of confetti.

(Photo Courtesy: SB Nation, CBS Sports, Bleacher Report, USA Today, Baltimore Sun, AP Photo, Yahoo Sports, CBS Pittsburgh, ESPN, Zimbio)