It seems like every Super Bowl sees a surprise hero emerge. In Super Bowl XLVI for example, it was receiver Mario Manningham, who made a clutch catch to help push the New York Giants past the New England Patriots. Who will step into the limelight in a big way in Super Bowl XLVII?
With all of the Ravens' weapons, a tight end might slip through the cracksIt could be Dennis Pitta. He might not be the game's MVP, but given the attention San Francisco's safeties must pay to Torrey Smith, and given Anquan Boldin's ability to beat single coverage, who is going to cover the Ravens tight end? Sure, the 49ers' linebackers -- particularly NaVorro Bowman -- could pick him up, but Ray Rice is such a threat out of the backfield that Pitta could wind up being the forgotten man ... by the defense, anyway.
Another candidate might be rookie Ravens running back Bernard Pierce, who has been fantastic in spelling Rice. (I'm hearing the peanut gallery, meanwhile, chant Randy Moss' name.)
Niners rookie LaMichael James could hit a home run vs. BaltimoreMy pick would be San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James. Though James won't get an abundance of touches, the rookie has the potential to cause problems for the Ravens, really stressing the perimeter of their defense via toss sweeps and option plays. He is a breakaway speedster who could make things tough on Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger, who are bigger, downhill-type defenders.
James also is a home-run threat in the kick-return game. We saw the Denver Broncos' Trindon Holliday take both a kickoff and a punt to the house against the Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs, so the potential is there.
Michael Crabtree primed for a breakout nightWith receivers Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham both suffering season-ending injuries, Michael Crabtree has become the single most-important weapon on the San Francisco 49ers' offense. However, despite the nice campaign he's had, I'm still not sure Crabtree's name resonates on the national level just yet.
That could all change in the Super Bowl. Colin Kaepernick loves throwing it his way, which could make for a massive, eye-opening night for Crabtree, who is probably the most capable of putting together a performance worthy of MVP consideration.
Keep an eye on PittaMy vote goes to Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta. The 49ers are going to focus their attention on slowing down the Ravens running game and limiting big plays from Torrey Smith. That will create space in the middle of their defense, where Pitta is capable of doing a lot of damage. I could see Pitta catching six or seven passes and a touchdown when all is said and done.
Randy Moss is the manRay Lewis continues to grab tons of press in the run-up to the Super Bowl, but another elder statesman is going to make the big plays in the big game: Randy Moss. The receiver is going to have a huge night for the 49ers, which will help cement his legacy and earn him the send-off he deserves. After quietly contributing for the past couple of weeks, Moss is going to make a move on the game's biggest stage.
Watch out for Delanie WalkerThough he had just 21 regular-season receptions, Delanie Walker made them count, averaging more than 15 yards per catch and scoring three touchdowns. With the attention that Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree are sure to draw, Walker could get a sneaky touchdown or a big third-down conversion at a critical point in the game.
With Niners focused on stopping Baltimore wideouts, Pitta will go largeI'm going to go with Dennis Pitta for the Ravens. The tight end will be the beneficiary of playing against a defense that's going to go all-out to stop Torrey Smith deep and a suddenly rejuvenated Anquan Boldin over intermediate distances.
I can see quarterback Joe Flacco connecting with Pitta time and again on big third downs, and even in the red zone. I don't think there's going to be a lot of points scored in this one, but Pitta has shown he can be a big part of the offense, and I think he's capable of having a 70-to-80-yard day with a touchdown.
I'm ready for the "Dennis the Menace" or "I Pitta the 49ers" headlines to come after a Ravens win.