Hello Gang. Thanks for keeping Football Pros looking great. Here are a few things I will be watching for in Super Bowl 47.
1) How much help does Bryant McKinnie need blocking Aldon Smith? McKinnie has been terrific during the playoffs. This re-shuffled offensive line of the Ravens has allowed 4 sacks in three games and is a big reason for Joe Flacco's stellar play. Aldon Smith has been hearing all week about how ineffective he has been without a healthy Justin Smith and his streak of 5 games without a sack. He has to be ready to explode. McKinnie will need help, the only question is how much? The 49ers have to put Joe Flacco on the ground and Aldon Smith against Bryant McKinnie is a must win for Jim Harbaugh's squad.
2) How will the Ravens play the read option? Most teams are sitting back and allowing Colin Kaepernick to make a comfortable read in the option game. I would propose doing the opposite. Pressuring the "Mesh Point" of the option does two things: First, it creates turnover possibilities. Remember, the running back doesn't know if he will get the ball or not. Often under pressure he will clamp down on the ball even though the QB is trying to pull it out. Turnovers happen in the option game, but only when pressured. Secondly, attacking the "Mesh Point" gets you closer to Kaepernick when he executes option 3 and throws the ball. Defensive ends have been frozen by the run action and haven't gotten pressure on the 49ers young QB. If the Ravens sit back, I think they lose. As a former option QB in high school and college, pressure is the only way to attack the option. I know the "Pistol Offense" makes it tougher because the "Mesh Point" happens deeper and quicker, but you have to attack to win.
3) How much Man Coverage with the 49ers Linebackers Play on Ray Rice? Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis play the most man coverage of any inside linebackers in the NFL. The match-up against Rice will be a tough one. He is an excellent receiver and this will be a fast track. The Ravens rarely flank Rice out of the backfield, but I would not be surprised to see it in this game. The 49ers stayed with their man coverage against the Patriots flanked out running backs earlier this year, and the Patriots have exceptional receiving backs. For Rice to be fresh on third down, Bernard Pierce will have to help carry the load on first downs. Pierce has been terrific in the playoffs and is a physical runner. Rice agrees that Pierce is the key to keeping him explosive on third down.
4) Big Hitting Safeties: This game has two of the hardest hitting safeties in the game in Donte Whitner and Bernard Pollard. Both will be tested in the middle of the field. It would not surprise me if a fumble caused by one those two safeties decides this game. The flip side is that a key helmet-to-helmet penalty on a defenseless receiver could also play a key role. Watch the fireworks from the safeties in this one.
5) Kaepernick's Speed on the Turf: Atlanta decided that Kaepernick was not going to beat them running the football. Only once did we see him run on that turf in the dome, but what he showed was impressive. People take wrong angles trying to catch him on turf. Long striders like Kaepernick are always hard to judge. He is always fast, but inside on the turf, he is scary fast. 49ers fans should cheer for Kaepernick to take some early hits. Most people don't realize that getting hit early settles you in big games, especially QBs. I expect the 49ers to run Kaepernick early and often in this one. Last week's game in the dome has to help the 49ers here.
6) Terrell Suggs: Suggs was last year's Defensive Player of the Year, but he has not had that kind of impact so far this year after his Achilles injury. It is possible that the extra week off will put a little bounce back in his game. With the way that Paul Krugar has been playing on the other side, if Krugar and Suggs are both healthy and fast, this defense will have a look it hasn't had all year. At his best Suggs disrupts and creates turnovers. He has been getting better every week, and this could be his breakout game.
Enjoy the game. We will talk about it next week.