Super Bowl XLVII Preview: Three Things to Watch For
If you’re one to bet on Super Bowl boxes or those fun wagers from Vegas (will the first TD be scored by an odd or even numbered player), this analysis may not be for you, but we wanted to provide you with three story lines that could determine who wins the big game this year.
We also will not mention the names of the head coaches, the halftime show, or which commercial we most anticipate. We’re the guys who get who will watch the eight hours of pre-game coverage (if our wives and girlfriends let us) and keep a seat on the couch open in case Jon Gruden stops by to talk football.
Here is what you should be looking for next Sunday:
1. Will the two weeks refresh or stall the Ravens?
Much has been made of the aged Ravens, especially on defense. And we’re sure you have seen and endless number of stories about Ray Lewis and his retirement after this game. The truth is that the Ravens have played tired for much of their playoff run. In the Wild Card round, the Colts dominated the time of possession, 37:32 to 22:28; Denver held the ball longer, 40:06 to 36:36 in that double overtime game in which the Ravens were visibly spent midway through the fourth quarter. It wasn’t until their road game at New England that Baltimore could breathe easy, but not initially. The Ravens did win the time of possession overall, but in the first half, New England lead 18:12 to just 11:48 in that category.
After what must be a distracting and tiring Super Bowl week on which players run purely on adrenaline, it will be interesting to see how the Ravens come out. Can Lewis lead and inspire his team to overcome all distractions and give their physical all for 60 minutes?
2. Run first, and then what?
These two teams have entirely different offenses, but they do have this in common: they need to establish their talented run games in order to make the whole machine hum with efficiency. Whichever team effectively moves the ball early will open up their playbook for the potentially huge big play that we’ve seen so often in the Super Bowl.
Colin Kaepernick needs to resist his desire to run early in this game. If it’s not something he shows early, and Frank Gore can grind out chunks of yards, then Kaepernick’s play-making ability with both his legs and his arm will be that much more effective. Joe Flacco, for his part, needs Ray Rice to be effective so that he can operate his more traditional offense to victory.
3. Battle of the QBs
When the NFL promotes its season, or prints Super Bowl brochures, there is sure to be a Manning on the cover, Aaron Rodgers, or one of the league’s exciting young QBs. I doubt you can find much propaganda from pre-season or earlier in the year with Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick. But this duo provides a pretty exciting matchup. Kaepernick, of course, unseated a pretty good QB in his own right, Alex Smith, with a combination of scrambling speed and a strong arm. He’s been efficient and fundamental. In his second year, he’s seemed to have the poise of a crafty veteran, with the exciting skill-set of a Cam Newton. Even if the Ravens contain his running, he can beat them with his arm. Randy Moss would love nothing more than a long TD catch in the Super Bowl. Joe Flacco, constantly on the edge of that silly “elite status” discussion, is a solid quarterback even if his numbers don’t excite you. He too has a strong arm and has been a good, quiet fit for this defense-first franchise.
Instead of looking to the numbers to determine which QB had the better day, look closely at their decision making. Chances are they will minimize risk and make smart choices, including playing a field position game if the defenses are strong, not forcing passes like it’s a week 3 game, and making smart adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
There are plenty of storylines and things to watch out for on Sunday, but if you focus on those three things, you’ll have a good indicator of why the team that takes the Vince Lombardi trophy actually deserves it.