Apparently, there are some brothers teeing it up in the Super Bowl. I imagine you'll have heard about that storyline 857,333 times by kickoff.
But it makes you think ... What kind of siblings were John and Jim Harbaugh growing up? Did the elder John pick on his little brother, giving him noogies or sticking his Star Wars figures in the dog doo? OK, they might've been a little old for Star Wars figures ... But did they at least play PONG? Were they down with Dungeons & Dragons and the 20-sided dice? One wonders.
One also wonders how much tape of last season's Harbaugh Bowl Jim has watched. Sitting on the set of NFL.com Live during that Thursday nighter between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, fellow NFL Network analyst -- and former center -- Jamie Dukes and I wondered aloud how the Niners' pass protection could be so ineffective. Make no mistake, it was the key factor in Baltimore's 16-6 win. San Francisco's offensive line didn't give Alex Smith any time to mount a drive (or a comeback). When the smoke cleared, the Niners quarterback had been sacked nine times. That was my first thought regarding the upcoming matchup. Others?
I hear ya, Dennis. Thing is, the Pittsburgh Steelers had their own O-line issues this year. For the record, I think San Francisco's line will fare just fine on Super Bowl Sunday. As for the rest of my (early) thoughts on the game, take a look below. As per usual, feel free to contradict those at your leisure: @Harrison_NFL is the dropbox.
Elliot Harrison went 1-1 on Championship Sunday, giving him a 146-71-1 record since taking over this space in Week 4. How will he fare in his final prediction of the season, Super Bowl XLVII? His pick is below, with the "home" Niners listed second:
49ers' line should acquit itself just fine, it's also important to note that the
Ravens' pass rush is not nearly as stout as it was in 2011. Last season, with
Terrell Suggs at full health and defensive coordinator
Chuck Pagano running the show, Baltimore racked up 48 sacks. Well, Suggs got hurt, Pagano went to the
Indianapolis Colts and the sack total fell to 37 this season. Certainly not a poor number, but an 11-sack drop-off is an 11-sack drop-off. Baltimore has totaled six so far through three playoff games.
We should probably mention that Colin Kaepernick isn't exactly the easiest guy to get to, either. The second-year man out of Nevada has been trapped once -- just once -- in each of the past five games. The Ravens had trouble with the closest thing to Kaepernick they faced this year: Robert Griffin III (until he was hurt in that game).
The 49ers' rushing attack should be effective against this Ravens defense, a unit that's allowed 128.3 rushing yards per game in the playoffs.
However, I'd like to point out -- especially while we're on the subject of running the football -- that this isn't all about the 49ers' offense. Put plainly, San Francisco hasn't faced a running back like Ray Rice all season. Sure, Vic Fangio's defense saw Adrian Peterson in September. Marshawn Lynch came down the pike twice. But while those guys are two of the best runners from the tailback position, they're not major factors in the passing game. They combined for 63 receptions in 2012. Rice had 61 by himself (and 76 last season). He'll present a problem for the 49ers' linebackers.
As if that's not enough, safety Dashon Goldson can't afford to get caught in no-man's land like he did last week against Julio Jones. If there's one guy who can sprint like Julio down in the schoolyard, it's Ravens wideout Torrey Smith. If the secondary brackets Smith? Fine. Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin have proven they can beat zone and single-man coverage throughout the playoffs.
So, Super Bowl XLVII is stacking up to be a pretty close shave. How close? Here's how I see the matchup, piece by piece:
Coaching: Advantage 49ers. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has more play-calling experience than the Ravens' Jim Caldwell. Dean Pees is also in his first year as Baltimore's DC.
Quarterback: Advantage Ravens. Flacco has played very well, and is now 8-4 in his postseason career. This will be Kaepernick's 10th NFL start.
Running Back: Advantage Ravens. We've discussed Rice. "Backup" Bernard Pierce has rushed for 169 yards on 6.3 yards per carry in the playoffs.
Receivers: Advantage Ravens. This is tight, but Baltimore's wide receivers have all made HUGE plays over the past three weeks. Boldin was unstoppable on Championship Sunday.
Offensive Line: Advantage 49ers. They'll have an easier time with Baltimore's front.
Defensive Line: Push. San Francisco has been better up front all year, though the Niners couldn't get any pressure last week. Aldon Smith completely disappeared.
Linebackers: Advantage 49ers. Yes, this is Ray Lewis' last game, but he's just not the player he once was, and easily gets blown by in coverage.
Secondary: Advantage 49ers. While Goldson was beat last week, let's not forget the shutout he and the rest of the Niners secondary pitched in the second half against Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
Special Teams: Advantage Ravens. About 31 NFL head coaches would trust Justin Tucker over David Akers right now. Even Andy Reid.
Tie! But the Ravens aren't the Rams, so that's out the window. After giving it considerable thought, I'm giving the edge to the 49ers. Even though it's a "push" at defensive line, the upside clearly sits with them. The extra rest afforded to Justin Smith's triceps should be beneficial. And Aldon Smith did have nearly 20 sacks in the regular season. If either of those pieces improve their play, the entire defensive advantage will sit with the Niners. Combine that with quality coaching and a quarterback who doesn't make a lot of mistakes, and the San Francisco 49ers improve to 6-for-6 on Super Bowl Sundays. #BALvsSF
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.