Both the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are obviously thrilled about going to the Super Bowl, already nicknamed as the Harbowl, but these two weeks will be about more than just enjoying New Orleans. They’ll be mostly about fixing the problems on each team, and fining a way to overcome and/or expose the others’ weaknesses.
David Akers ranked 30th in the NFL, making only 29 of his 42 field goals, 69%. Only Mason Crosby of the Green Bay Packers had a worse season, which was very surprising from Akers, coming off three consecutive seasons of more than 82% conversion rate. He missed a 38 yard field goal attempts against the Atlanta Falcons, in a dome.
Another problem is the 49ers’ secondary. Their front seven and their ability to hold off teams not using too much of a blitz is an advantage, but Matt Ryan had his way with their secondary during the first half of the NFC championship game, enjoying the ability of Julio Jones and Roddy White, while the 49ers focused on Tony Gonzalez. The second half did see a change, but it also had to do with Mike Smith becoming a lot more conservative with his play calling instead of keep going with Ryan’s arm with deep throws. Joe Flacco has a bigger arm, but a less talented receiving crew. Unlike the Falcons, Flacco has a great running back to use as a receiver in the flat if he’s being rushed.
For the Baltimore Ravens, defensive worries are the problem. Ray Lewis is the team’s emotional leader on and off the field, playing in his final postseason, fittingly reaching the Super Bowl to be his final game. Still, the linebackers have a problem covering the pass while having to worry about Colin Kaepernick and the read option, while trying to get through the Niners’ fantastic offensive line.
These two teams met in 2011 in the Harbowl on Thanksgiving, when the Ravens won 16-6. Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata weren’t carrying injuries like they have all season in 2012, which might make them a little less effective. The only other time this season they played a quarterback who is a running threat, they lost to the Washington Redskins. They did keep Robert Griffin III on only 34 rushing yards, but the Redskins (Kirk Cousins also played) did a great job in the passing game, while Alfred Morris ran for 129 yards. Finding the balance between tracking Kaepernick and handling Gore and Vernon Davis is going to be quite a challenge, something the Falcons weren’t able to do.