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Friday, November 17 2017

NFL Predictions 2012: Super Bowl XLVII

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The playoffs have not been an overall success for me this season. I was 1-1 straight (7-3 overall) and can live with that. I went 2-0 against the spread (5-5 overall) and 0-2 on the over/under (4-6) which means the best I can hope for is breaking even in the playoffs versus Vegas. Now I have to deal with a very difficult Super Bowl to predict.

 

Baltimore (13-6) vs. San Francisco (13-4-1): There are so many angles to this game that people are looking at, but none of them seem as critical to me as the line play. It’s awesome that two brothers are coaching on opposite sidelines in the big game, Ray Lewis is ending his career in a Super Bowl and of course players are saying stupid things as they always doing leading up to Super Sunday. I want to know which line is going to dominate. It’s truly a shame that next year’s game will be in cold weather (New Jersey) and not this one. I would love for this contest to take place at Soldier Field in Chicago actually.

 

It won’t of course. The indoor setting is going to make it difficult for the respective defenses to be as intimidating as they might be on grass outdoors. The physical element of football is already being toned down by league rules and on the turf where speed kills, hesitation (should I hit him or will I get flagged?) is going to cost the defenders trying to make big plays. This would be a slugfest on natural surface in cold weather.

 

Instead we’re going to see Colin Kaepernick on the biggest stage of his life trying to yet again prove himself. Every step of the way he has quieted the critics. Is MNF under the lights against Chicago, who finished 10-6, too much for him? Clearly not, the team romped 32-7. The following week he had to do it on the road in a dome, the same dome he will now play in. They beat the Saints, albeit with the help of 14 points out of the defense. There were stumbles in St. Louis and Seattle, but another primetime affair on the road (New England) was a success. So was his playoff debut, and his road playoff debut. There are more hits than misses with him.

 

His opposite number Joe Flacco has been waiting for this game a long time though, and has a lot more big game experience. The whole team does. Even though the 49ers were within OT of reaching last year’s Super Bowl, most of these players have at most 4 playoff appearances under their belt. The Ravens are loaded with playoff experience and veteran players who realize this could be their last shot at a ring. I don’t see the 49ers having that kind of desperate “nothing to lose” energy. Their roster is set up to contend for the rest of this decade. They will, and should, be favored the win the next Super Bowl regardless of how this game turns out.

 

The impact of this is going to be on defense. Baltimore has Ed Reed in the secondary ready to make the big play and get his hands on the football. Early on I expect the Ravens to get the opening kickoff, drive the field and get ahead 3-0. San Francisco is going to answer with a touchdown on a long drive to take the lead 7-3 where it will stand after the first quarter. There will be long drives in this game and the clock is going to be running quite a bit as the teams focus on running the ball.

 

Baltimore has players in the passing game who can hurt San Francisco’s defense down the field. The 49ers aren’t rushing the passer like they were early in the season. Justin Smith isn’t healthy and Aldon Smith can be doubled up as a result to neutralize his impact. The Ravens have got a cohesive offensive line now and are satisfied with picking up 3 yards when they run the ball. It puts them in manageable situations where they can throw to Anquan Boldin over the middle or their tight ends, maybe even a screen to Ray Rice.

 

The Ravens are much better on offense under Jim Caldwell, who by the way coached his own team to a Super Bowl win just a few years ago. Their offense is going to move the chains and get their field goal kicker in the game a lot. After slicing the lead to 7-6 their defense will force a stop, then maybe the teams will exchange punts as the game slows down in the second quarter. When Baltimore get the lead 9-7 as the clock wins down in the first half Kaepernick will start to run wild and make plays on a touchdown drive to put San Francisco up 14-9 at the break.

 

At this point, the game is going to change for one team or the other as it did during the respective Championship Games. They both dominated after halftime and I think one team might in this one as well. I think Kaepernick trademarking his bicep kissing embarrassment is a bad sign. The Ravens have had two weeks to get ready for him, more time than any defense thus far has. After seeing him in the first half they will adjust and force him into bad situations in the second half. San Francisco’s first drive is going to end in an interception.

 

Baltimore will take full advantage of the turnover, taking the lead with a touchdown on a deep ball to Torrey Smith. Up 16-14 they will go into running mode. The 49ers will repeatedly try to answer only to be shut down by another turnover and the dreaded missed field goal, a long one, by David Akers. They could also turn it over on a failed fourth down because Jim Harbaugh is going to roll the dice at least once in this game. There won’t be any more scoring in the third quarter, but early in the final frame the Ravens will extend their lead with a field goal to make it 19-14.

 

San Francisco’s offense is going to start breaking through and when they get into scoring position a decision will need to be made because the time remaining and score will dictate that sending out the kicker again is a bad idea. Kaepernick will misfire on fourth down, and Baltimore will drive the field to chew up most of the remaining time for a 22-14 lead. The young quarterback might have the veteran defense right where he wants them in a hurry-up situation, and that’s how it will be. He is going to get the touchdown he needs, but not the conversion to send the game into OT for the first time ever. After a failed onside kick it will be all over: Baltimore 22, San Francisco 20 (BAL +4/under 48)

 

 

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NFL Predictions 2012: Super Bowl XLVII
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