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The Schein Nine

Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens, 49ers offer stories beyond headlines

Did you know that the coach of the Baltimore Ravens has the same parents as the coach of the San Francisco 49ers?

Yes, Super Bowl XLVII will feature Harbaugh v. Harbaugh, and the lives of brothers John and Jim -- and their brilliant and bold coaching decisions -- will be talked about at length before the big game.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, meanwhile, will be center stage. He always is.

For those who would like to look beyond the broad headlines, I present nine under-the-radar Super Bowl storylines as we get set for New Orleans.

1) The kickers

In the biggest game of the season, you have a rookie kicker versus a total adventure. Get your popcorn ready.

For all of the legit hype and excitement surrounding Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick, chances are good that this even matchup will come down to a kick.

In which case the Niners have a problem. David Akers can't kick. After he clanked a 38-yard attempt in Atlanta during the NFC Championship Game, Jim Harbaugh made a face that was half scowl, half "I just sucked on a lemon."

The Ravens, of course, know the pain of having a shaky kicker all too well, after Billy Cundiff's shank kept them from the big game last postseason.

Baltimore's Justin Tucker is a neophyte, but he's had a much better season than Akers. That's a major advantage.

2) T-Sizzle's sizzle

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs is flying under the radar. You know that's going to change the minute this motor mouth gets a taste of media day.

Suggs was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, but he's been a shell of that player since coming back from an offseason Achilles injury. However, you can make the case that he's been at his best in Baltimore's three playoff games.

I bet Suggs makes an impact -- not just on media day, but on Super Bowl Sunday, even against that 49ers offensive line.

3) Where's Aldon Smith?

Have you noticed that the 49ers' sack artist has been rather quiet lately? Eerily so, in fact. He hasn't brought a quarterback down since a two-sack effort in Week 14. San Francisco's defense isn't complete without him.

4) Linebackers not named Ray Lewis

Expect Lewis to -- rightly -- dominate everything next week. The all-time great leader and player helped will his team to the Super Bowl on a magic carpet ride, providing surprisingly strong play along the way. Lewis has never met a microphone or a stage he hasn't loved, and in New Orleans, it will be "all Ray, all the time," to an almost nauseating extent.

Lewis will also be the fourth-best linebacker on the field. San Francisco employs the other three.

Patrick Willis is the Niners' equivalent of Lewis, only without the dancing. Willis is their heart and soul, the leader of the defense and the team.

It's not just all about Willis, however. In fact, you can argue that NaVorro Bowman has actually been the better player over the past two seasons. Either way, Willis and Bowman make up the best linebacker pair in the NFL.

Ahmad Brooks, meanwhile, has been an under-the-radar playmaker for San Francisco all season. Along with Bowman, he made the key plays against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan with the NFC Championship on the line.

5) Joe Flacco's wallet

For a while this season, it seemed like Flacco and his agent would be in a losing position as the Ravens quarterback headed into free agency. Now, though, Flacco and Joe Linta can basically name their own price with Baltimore, assuming Flacco continues his flawless postseason -- and continues to shut up the skeptics, like me.

6) The Ravens' offensive-line shuffle

Earlier this year, I did a zany and explosive interview with offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie on SiriusXM NFL Radio, who basically said former Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron refused to play him because he didn't like him.

Well, Cameron has since been fired and McKinnie is now the starting left tackle for the AFC Champions.

You can't make it up.

Baltimore's offensive line has been reshuffled, and it's now better than ever, with McKinnie at left tackle, Michael Oher -- no longer on the blind side -- shifting to right tackle and rookie Kelechi Osemele at left guard. A healthy Marshal Yanda, meanwhile, is one of the best guards in the NFL.

7) The rookies

Osemele has been strong for the Ravens, while linebacker Courtney Upshaw has played a role on the defensive side. I think running back Bernard Pierce is the unsung hero of that team, however. He is a big and speedy back who can keep Ray Rice fresh and collect chunks of key yards at the same time.

San Francisco really didn't have any rookies making an impact ... until change-of-pace back Kendall Hunter was lost for the season in late November and Jim Harbaugh dusted off LaMichael James. In a crucial spot in the NFC title matchup, the running back responded by producing a rushing touchdown.

8) Underrated defenders

When the Ravens are rolling, pass rusher Paul Kruger is a beast. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome and assistant GM Eric DeCosta -- who run the single best front office in the league -- wouldn't leave the 2009 NFL Draft without Kruger, and we've seen why this season. Kruger was great against the Indianapolis Colts in their wild-card matchup, collecting 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He'll be a key component if Baltimore is going to win the Super Bowl. Also, don't forget about cornerbacks Corey Graham and Cary Williams, who stepped up in a big way after Lardarius Webb went on injured reserve earlier in the season.

On the flip side, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith rightly get tons of attention, and the Niners' linebackers -- as we documented -- are superb. But don't sleep on lineman Ray McDonald. He's been solid in every single phase and, like Kruger, is an Energizer Bunny.

9) Harbaugh v. Harbaugh -- from the players' perspective

You've read all the articles. You will read more. You've seen the family photos. You will see more. Personally, I can't get enough. This matchup is historic and amazing.

But what might not get played up enough is the fact that it matters to the players. The Niners and Ravenslove their coaches. Both Jim and John Harbaugh have done an incredible job in turning these programs around. Their respective players don't want one bro to lose to the other.

"It is a big deal," Rice told me and Chris Carlin on "Loud Mouths" on SNY this week. "That's our coach. I've been with Coach Harbaugh for the last five years. I have gotten to know him as a man, a person, a father. This is special. The family ties make it even more special. His family will appreciate everything with two brothers coaching in the Super Bowl. And we want to win for him."

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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