Earlier Sunday, Around The League editor Gregg Rosenthal explained why he picked the Baltimore Ravens to win Super Bowl XLVII. Around The League writers Dan Hanzus and Marc Sessler picked the San Francisco 49ers, and they decided to offer a rebuttal to their boss with some reasons why the NFC champions will hoist Lombardi Trophy No. 6.
Running the ball out of the pistol
The perception that Colin Kaepernick was held in check on the ground two weeks ago against the Atlanta Falcons is faulty. Sure, he ran the ball just twice for 21 yards, but the 49ers churned out big chunks of yardage at will by feeding their backs out of the pistol formation.
The 49ers have slashed teams on the ground out of pistol sets all season. This isn't a good matchup for the Ravens, who often struggled against the run this season, giving up 122.8 yards per game on the ground.
The pistol creates havoc for defenses by lining up the back directly behind the quarterback. Defenses struggle to see plays develop, and we saw that against the Falcons. Atlanta was overwhelmed by Frank Gore and Co., and you can't commit to stopping the inside run game with the threat Kaepernick presents on the edge.
Crabtree has made the leap
A year ago, the 49ers were done in against the New York Giants in part because their wide receivers had zero impact on the game. That's no longer the case, thanks in large part to the excellent chemistry between Michael Crabtree and Colin Kaepernick. Crabtree had 15 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the 49ers' two playoff wins and should be targeted early and often against the Ravens.
Monster offensive line
When we talk about San Francisco's run game, we must touch on its offensive line. The 49ers love to roll out their "Brutus" and "Bully" blocking packages, bolstering their behemoths up front with a host of tight ends and fullbacks. The Ravens will struggle to go blow for blow when the 49ers shift into their power sets.
Vernon Davis is back
When Vernon Davis went off in the NFC Championship Game (five catches for 106 yards and one TD), it made you wonder what took so long. Davis is a dangerous playmaker, but he struggled to connect with Kaepernick before enjoying success against the Falcons. Davis can wreck game plans with his hands and athleticism, and the timing of his reemergence gave the Ravens something to chew on during the two-week break in action.
Aldon Smith due for monster game
Justin Smith playing through the pain of a partially torn triceps slowed San Francisco's pass rush down the stretch, but the defensive lineman fully practiced this week, and that's good news for Aldon Smith.
Aldon hasn't recorded a sack since Week 14, largely because Justin hasn't been able to swallow up multiple blockers the way he did for much of the season. Both Smiths were solid against the run in the NFC title game, and while Aldon was sackless against the Falcons, he tormented Matt Ryan with seven quarterback pressures, per ProFootballFocus.com. Expect him to be set loose Sunday.
Willis, Bowman rule
The Ravens' linebackers get more publicity (did you know Ray Lewis is retiring?), but the 49ers are better at the position. Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are studs, probably the best tandem in football. Both are extremely versatile, giving the 49ers' coaching staff the ability to send their game plan in a variety of directions.
Jim Harbaugh, Greg Roman, Vic Fangio
The Ravens have an outstanding coaching staff, but we're giving the edge to the 49ers. Nobody was more impressive during this long week of interviews than offensive coordinator Greg Roman. He has outsmarted defenses all season with a diverse attack that keeps defenses guessing. In a league that has become more experimental than ever on offense, Roman leads the way. Fangio told us this week he's pleased with his defense because it has shown an ability to grow stronger as the game goes on. There isn't a glaring weakness on this team, a credit to the coaching of Jim Harbaugh and his staff.
The Kaepernick factor
Many have noted the similarities between Kaepernick's rise and the way Tom Brady exploded on the scene for the New England Patriots in 2001. The comparison isn't perfect, but Kaepernick -- like Brady -- appears to be a man of destiny. Being around Kaepernick during the 49ers' media availability this week, it's clear the moment hasn't overwhelmed him. If anything, Kaepernick acts like somebody who hasn't yet processed his achievements. He's primed to make the Super Bowl stage his own.