49ers Offense Vs. Ravens Defense
I don't like any part of this matchup for the Ravens. Their defense hasn't stopped the run or pass this season; they ranked 17th in passing yards allowed and 20th in rushing yards allowed. The 49ers have the best run blocking offensive line in the game and plenty of explosive options to carry the ball including quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Ravens have allowed 128.3 rushing yards per game during their three playoff games, and now they get to face the 49ers zone-read attack. I think the Ravens will handle Kaepernick keeping it on the option better than Green Bay did, but they can't stop it all. The Falcons did a good job at maintaining their assignments and not crashing down, but the 49ers still ran for 149 yards, including 90 yards and two touchdowns from Frank Gore. If Kaepernick wasn't an effective passer, shutting down their offense would be as simple as crowding the box, but Kaepernick is just as deadly with his arm. Expect the Ravens to play the run first, especially with all of the play fakes the 49ers use, giving Vernon Davis plenty of room over the middle. The Ravens pass defense is decent on the outside and deep with Ed Reed, but their linebackers including Ray Lewis who has lost a few steps, can be abused over the middle. If Kaepernick takes what the defense gives him because they can't load up to stop both the pass and the run, the 49ers will move the ball easily all game long.
Ravens Offense Vs. 49ers Defense
The biggest weakness in the 49ers defense is their secondary. They ranked 4th in the league during the regular season in passing yards allowed, but they've looked average at best during the playoffs. In their two playoff games, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan combined to throw for 653 yards and 5 touchdowns. The 49ers have one of the best front seven groups in the league but their secondary is just average. Their pass rush has been able to cover up some of that, but with Justin Smith banged up, their pass rush has dropped off recently. Joe Flacco isn't Aaron Rodgers, but I expect him to have success through the air. Where the Ravens could get into trouble is if the 49ers are able to force them to be one-dimensional or force them to play from behind. The 49ers ranked 3rd in rushing yards per carry allowed and 4th in rushing touchdowns allowed this season; I don't expect Ray Rice to have much room to run.
I like both offenses in this game (and therefore the over), but I only trust one defense. Only one defense is capable of winning this game on their own, and that defense belongs to the 49ers.
MVP: Frank Gore
Prop Bet Predictions:
Who Will Score First: 49ers
Over/Under 47: Take the over
Joe Flacco Over/Under 20.5 Completions: Over
Neither Team Will Put Up 3 Unanswered Scores: Yes, that won't happen, this game will go back and forth.
Jack Harbough Shown On TV Over/Under 1.5 Times: Over