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Super Bowl XLVII-13 Biggest Storylines to Watch in the Big Game

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This is for all the marbles!

Two teams, two brothers and four quarters of football to decide who will be crowned Super Bowl Champions.

In the blue corner representing the AFC are the Baltimore Ravens led by their star quarterback Joe Flacco and defensive leader Ray Lewis.

The Ravens have had to overcome plenty of adversity on their way too New Orleans and eliminated two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks from the Playoffs along the way.

With the passing of their former owner Art Modell at the beginning of the season and with Ray Lewis playing in his final game as a Raven, Baltimore won’t be short of motivation for this one as the go in search of their second Super Bowl win.

In the red corner representing the NFC are the San Francisco 49ers who are back after the golden years of stars like Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice to try and win their first Super Bowl since 1994.

The 49ers have had a truly incredible season and after making a quarterback switch in Week 11 from Alex Smith to Colin Kapernick and they now find themselves just one win away from being crowned Super Bowl champions for a sixth time.

So with the world watching and the Mercedez-Benz Superdome in New Orleans awaiting, it all comes down to Super Bowl XLVII next Sunday night.

With one week to go, here are my 13 biggest storylines to watch in the big game.

Harbaugh vs Harbaugh

Judging by recent season storylines, one would be forgiven for thinking that Hollywood writers have been hired by the NFL to write scripts for the blockbuster movie that is: an NFL season.

After last year’s dramatics involving quarterback Tim Tebow and the cultural phenomenon that was ‘Tebowing,’ we now have an even more Hollywoodesque storyline involving two brothers.

Older brother John Harbaugh (Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens) will go head to head with his younger brother Jim (Head Coach of the San Francisco 49ers) on the biggest stage of all, the Super Bowl.

The Harbaugh Bowl features two of the best coaches in football right now and is almost worthy of its own film.

The Harbaugh Bowl: Two Brothers Collide

Tom Cruise uses his football knowledge gained from Jerry Maguire to take on the role of older brother John and Brad Pitt trades baseball strategy from Moneyball for blitz packages to play as Jim.

Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis summed up the moment perfectly after the AFC Championship Game and said “this is our time.”

#52 is looking for one final victory before he leaves the game for good and retires.

Can Lewis complete his Hall of Fame career by bowing out on top and winning the Super Bowl?

Randy Moss

Lining up on offense across from Ray Lewis will be another one of the game’s all-time greats in Randy Moss.

Unlike Lewis, Moss is playing for his fifth NFL team and is looking to pick up his first Super Bowl ring.

Will the veteran who began playing all the way back in 1998 step up and be the x-factor for the 49ers offense?

Michael Oher

Michael Oher’s story really is a Hollywood one after the successful book and film The Blind Side.

The once homeless teenager makes his way to the Super Bowl as “Big Mike” gets ready to protect Joe Flacco.

Is there a Hollywood ending in store for Oher?

Patrick Willis

Just like Michael Oher, Patrick Willis is a fellow Ole Miss Rebel with another heartwarming story to tell.

He had personal troubles of his own and was adopted at the age of 17 after difficulties with his father.

Will Willis lead the 49ers to a victory over Michael Oher and the Ravens?

Quarterback Battle

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been brilliant in the Playoffs and is playing the best football of his career.

49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick faces the toughest test of his career in just his 11th NFL start.

Who will come out on top in this crucial battle for quarterback supremacy?

Ravens Wide Receivers vs 49ers Secondary

Ravens wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are one of the best duos in the NFL.

The 49ers secondary is struggling and they face a tough test to contain these two.

Can Torrey Smith put on a Julio Jones like performance vs the 49ers secondary?

49ers Running Game vs Ravens Run Defense

The 49ers running game will be crucial for their offense as they look to exploit their clear speed advantage.

Starter Frank Gore is helped out by backup LaMichael James along with the running threat of Kaepernick.

How will Haloti Ngata and co. deal with the 49ers rushing ability?

Kickers

The battle of the kickers has the potential to be the biggest storyline of them all.

Ravens rookie Justin Tucker is in terrific form whilst 49ers veteran David Akers looks highly inconsistent.

Does experience or youth prevail if the game comes down to a last second field goal?

National Anthem

So now we get to the Super Bowl traditions with the National Anthem first on the list.

Alicia Keys will be performing this year’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Will her performance bring Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to tears?

TV Ads

Super Bowl ads are a pretty big deal which is why companies pay up to $3 million for a 30 second commercial.

Popular commercials to watch out for include Coca-Cola and Doritos.

Will any of this year’s crop join this illustrious list of greatest commercials in Super Bowl history?

Halftime Show

After a mixed performance from Madonna last year, this year’s Halftime show looks a lot more promising.

Beyonce is set to perform fresh off her performance at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration.

Will Destiny’s Child re-unite on stage or will husband Jay-Z join her for an encore?

Verdict

Sorry 49ers fans but when it comes down to the final outcome of the Harbaugh Bowl, I’m picking the Ravens to get the win with an MVP performance from Joe Flacco to give Ray Lewis the perfect ending to his legendary career.

49ers 19 Ravens 30

So there is my preview and prediction for Super Bowl XLVII.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the game!

Follow @PodgeOH

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Playoffs Preview- AFC Championship Game

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Bill Belichick

After one of the most exciting divisional round weekends in NFL history, the Playoffs continue this week with the conference Championship games.

The AFC Championship Game is a repeat of last year’s matchup as Ray Lewis the Baltimore Ravens travel to New England to tackle Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Now without further ado, here is my breakdown of the game with profiles of the key players for both teams.

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

Key Players

Ravens

Joe Flacco

  • As the old cliché goes, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and quarterback Joe Flacco is the first key player to watch for the Ravens. After claiming to be an ‘Elite quarterback’ for many seasons now, he is finally turning his off-field confidence into success on the field.
  • With five touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the Ravens last two games, Flacco is playing arguably the best football of his career as he goes in search of his first AFC Championship victory at the third attempt.
  • Key Question: Can Flacco take advantage of the weapons at his disposal and continue his impressive play against a less than perfect Patriots secondary?

Ray Rice

  • When the Ravens beat the Patriots back in the Divisional Round of the 2010 Playoffs, running back Ray Rice had over 150 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. In fact, he has rushed for 292 yards in three meetings against the Patriots and has been a constant threat to Bill Belichick and the Pats defense.
  • Despite a down year statistically compared to his 2011 campaign, Rice has seen his production increase in the Playoffs and is coming off an impressive performance in the Ravens win vs the the Denver Broncos last week. He ran the ball 30 times in that game and will likely see another large number of carries again this week.
  • Key Question: Can the Ravens running back carry the load again and have success vs a Patriots run defense that ranked ninth in the NFL in the regular season?

Ray Lewis

  • On NFL Total Access after the Ravens wildcard win over Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, former General Manager and NFL Network anaylst Charlie Casserley claimed Ray Lewis was too old and looked too slow on the field. There’s no denying his age, but his performance on the field has been spectacular for the Ravens defense if you ask me.
  • Leading your team in tackles two weeks in a row and providing the type of leadership that only he can bring is exactly why sugar Ray will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer after he retires this season. After defeating a legendary qiuarterback last week, Lewis goes up against another one of the game’s best this week vs Tom Brady.
  • Key Question: Will the greatest middle linebacker of all-time add to his legacy by reaching another Super Bowl or is this the last stand for #52?

Patriots

Tom Brady

  • As long as Tom Brady is in New England, he will always be the first key player to bring up for the Patriots. The three-time Super Bowl champion is looking to bounce back from last year’s defeat at the hands of the New York Giants and return to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season.
  • Last week’s victory vs the Houston Texans now means that Brady has the most Playoff wins for a quarterback in NFL history with 17. He will be out to prove that he is still the best quarterback in the business despite missing one of his favorite targets in tight end Rob Gronkowksi.
  • Key Question: Can Brady turn around his recent struggles vs the Ravens defense and lead his team to yet another Super Bowl?

Wes Welker

  • Wes Welker is perhaps the most underrated player in the NFL and he has been for quite some time. Standing  just 5 foot 9 inches and weighing in at just over 185 pounds, the 31-year-old veteran is after completing yet another season of over 1,000 yards and 100 catches.
  • He now holds the Patriots franchise record for receptions and also holds the NFL record for most seasons with over 100 catches after a 118 catch performance this campaign. With tighe end Rob Gronkowski now out indefinitely with a broken forearm, Welker will continue to be Tom Brady’s go to target in this game.
  • Key Question: How much of an impact will Welker have in the Patriots passing game with the Ravens pass defense fixed on stopping him?

Vince Wilfork

  • The veteran leader of the defense, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has been spectacular for the Patriots again this season and was named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl. Wilfork is a standout star on the Pats defensive line with his 325 pound frame providing for a consistent road block for opposing running backs.
  • He will provide a big test for the Ravens offensive line protecting quarterback Joe Flacco from pressure in the pocket. Luckily for the Ravens, Wilfork will face much of the game going up against two of the very best interior linemen in the league in Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda.
  • Key Question: Will Wilfork be a disruptive pass rushing force for the Pats defense and also stop Ray Rice in the run game?

Prediction

John Harbaugh

So just as I had predicted before the season started back in August, it’s the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots who meet in the AFC Championship Game.

This is a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game which finished with a Patriots 23-20 victory after Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a crucial field goal that would have sent the game into overtime.
With rookie Justin Tucker as their kicker this time around and with veteran Ray Lewis sure to put on another inspired performance on defense, I think the Ravens will find a way to win in Foxborough.
Patriots 20 Ravens 23

So that’s my breakdown of the game. Feel free to have your say in the comment section below and for more Playoff updates, follow me on Twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

Written by podgeoh92

January 19, 2013 at 10:00 am

Playoffs Preview- AFC Divisional Round

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Ray Lewis

After a typically dramatic wildcard weekend, the Playoffs continue this week with the divisional games just around the corner.

The first of two AFC divisional games takes place on Saturday night as the Baltimore Ravens travel to Denver to tackle the Broncos.

The second game is on Sunday with an intriguing matchup in store as the Houston Texans go on the road to New England to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Now without further ado, here are my previews and predictions for the games.

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning

Keys to the Game

When the Ravens have the ball…

Ray Rice

Ray Rice and the Ravens Run Game

  • Running back Ray Rice has seen his role in the Ravens offense reduced this season after he had only 257 carries which was his lowest total since the 2009 season. He wasn’t much of a factor in their wildcard win last week against the Colts either and he rushed for just 68 yards.
  • The Ravens will be looking for Rice to step up in this game against a solid Broncos defense. Joe Flacco can’t do it all by himself and so he needs help from Rice and rookie Bernard Pierce to provided solid support on the ground.

When the Broncos have the ball…

Demaryius Thomas

Peyton Manning vs Ravens Veterans

  • Peyton Manning may be the league’s best veteran offensive player but the NFL’s probable MVP is going up against two of the best veteran defensive players in this one. Two names immediately jump out from the Ravens and those are star linebacker Ray Lewis and playmaking safety Ed Reed.
  • Both players are Future Hall of Famers and Lewis is coming off an emotional game last week when he led the team with 13 total tackles in his final home game. Manning will have to be at his best going up aganist these two leaders in what will be a football version of a chess game featuring some of the smartest players in the game.

Prediction

Ed Reed

The Colts beat the Ravens 34-17 back in week 15 on the road in Baltimore and as the number one seed, they will be the favorites in this game at home in Denver.

However, I see the Ravens pulling off an upset led by star linebacker Ray Lewis on defense along with help from Joe Flacco and the offense.

Ravens 20 Broncos 17

Houston Texans at New England Patriots

J.J. Watt

Keys to the Game

When the Texans have the ball…

Arian Foster

Matt Schaub and the Texans Passing Game vs Patriots Pass Defense

  • It’s no secret that the Patriots pass defense is the team’s biggest weakness and it has been for a number of seasons now. They ranked as the 4th worst team vs the pass this year after giving up over 270 yards to opponents per game.
  • The Texans offense is led by star running back Arian Foster and so they can beat opponents both on the ground and through the air. However, if Foster and the rest of the Texans running game struggles, the pressure will be on Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and co. in the passing game to step up against a poor Pats pass defense.

When the Patriots have the ball…

Tom Brady

Tom Brady vs Texans Pass Rush

  • When the Patriots have the ball we will see two of the best players at their respective positions going up against each other. The headline may say Tom Brady vs the Texans pass rush but it will most likely be a battle of Tom Brady vs J.J. Watt as the Pats quarterback and the league leader in sacks go head-to-head.
  • Watt had 5 tackles and 1 sack last week in the Texans win last against the Bengals and the second year player is coming off a season in which he had an incredible 20.5 sacks. Tom Brady will need to keep a close eye on pressure coming from Watt off the edge every time he drops back to pass.

Prediction

Vince Wilfork

The Texans are back in the Playoff divisional round for the second year in a row but question marks still remain about their ability to take the next step into the Playoffs.

As for the Patriots, playing at home after a first-round bye and Tom Brady and co. will certainly be well prepared for this one by head coach Bill Belichick.

In a high-scoring game, I’m picking Tom Brady and the Pats to come out on top and advance to the AFC Championship Game.

Texans 21 Patriots 31

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

So those are your previews and predictions.

For more Playoff updates, follow me on Twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

Playoffs Preview- AFC Wildcard Round

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Ray Lewis

The AFC Playoffs kick off tomorrow with the first of two wildcard games as the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Houston to take on the Texans.

The second wildcard game takes place on Sunday with an exciting matchup in store as rookie quarterback Andrew Luck leads his Indianapolis Colts on the road in Baltimore against veteran linebacker Ray Lewis and the Ravens.

Now without further ado, here are my previews and predictions for the games.

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

Marvin Lewis

Keys to the Game

When the Bengals have the ball…

Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton vs Texans Pass Rush

  • Andy Dalton may not be among the elite when it comes to the quarterbacks on show in the Playoffs but he is still a solid quarterback nonetheless. Back-to-back 3,000 yard passing seasons have been an impressive start to his career for the second-year player out of TCU.
  • Dalton’s favorite target is wide receiver A.J. Green who was drafted in the same draft class back in 2011. Green has also had a fantastic start to his career with 162 catches for over 2,400 yards in his first two years in the NFL.
  • The success of the Bengals offense in this game will largely depends on how they handle the Texans fearsome pass rush. Led by star pass rusher J.J. Watt, the Texans defense will look to put pressure on Dalton throughout the game.

When the Texans have the ball…

Arian Foster

Arian Foster vs Bengals Defense

  • When it comes to the ground battle in this one, these two teams are pretty evenly matched with the Texans offense averaging just over 132 yards per game and the Benglas defense giving up a little over 107 yards per game.
  • The Texans rushing attack is led by star running back Arian Foster. Foster has been one of the league’s most consitent backs in recent years and is arguably the best running back in the NFL outside of Adrian Peterson.
  • The Bengals defense will have to be at their best to contain Foster but they certainly have the players capable of doing so. Linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga along with standout defensive linemen like Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson will all be looking to put on a big performance.

Prediction

J.J. Watt

The Bengals have never won a Playoff game under head coach Marvin Lewis and face an uphill battle to do so on the road in Houston.

With an exciting offense led by standout players Arian Foster and Andre Johnson along with a defense which includes the league leader in sacks in J.J. Watt, the Texans are favorites to win this game and progress to the next round.

Bengals 19 Texans 27

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

Chuck Pagano

Keys to the Game

When the Colts have the ball…

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck vs Ravens Defense

  • Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has been fantastic for the Colts this year and he is my pick for the Rookie of the Year award. Luck set a new NFL record for most passing yards in a season fro a rookie with a 4,374 yards. He has also been effective scoring for the Colts this season with 28 total touchdowns.
  • As for the Ravens defense, veteran linebacker Ray Lewis announced news of his impending retirement this week and he will hang  up his cleats once the Playoffs are finished. There have been reports that #52 will join the ESPN crew as a member of their “Monday Night Countdown” program.
  • Back to matters on the field however and Luck faces a very tough test against Lewis and the rest of the Ravens defense. The rookie is facing his first postseason test and he will need to be wary of the Ravens blitz packages along with keeping a close eye on safety Ed Reed.

When the Ravens have the ball…

Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco and Ravens Passing Attack vs Colts Secondary

  • In my humble opinion, Joe Flacco is not an elite quarterback. But with the Ravens defense on his side, he doesn’t  need to be. Flacco just needs to step up in the clutch and stop making mistakes in key moments of games to take the next step in his development.
  • However, getting close isn’t good good enough with a team this talented and so the Ravens will be looking to get the win in the AFC Championship Game this year. Flacco will need more help from his wide receivers this postseason with players like Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith on the outside.
  • Looking at the opposite side of the ball now and the defensive backs tasked with stopping Flacco and co. are led by cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Darius Buter. These two starters will need to be sharp and they will also have to keep an eye on running back Ray Rice who will be used as a receiver out of the backfield in the passing game.

Prediction

Ed Reed and Ray Lewis

The Colts have overcome tremendous adversity this season due to the illness of head coach Chuck Pagano and they deserve great respect for getting to this stage with star rookie quarterback Andrew Luck under center.

Ray Lewis announced this week that he will be retiring after the Playoffs end but the future Hall of Famer won’t want to walk away from the game just yet and I see the Ravens led by veterans Lewis and Ed Reed getting the victory and advancing to the next round.

Colts 17 Ravens 20

Gary Kubiak

So those are your previews and predictions.

For all NFL fans it is now time to get ready for postseason football as the Playoffs are back.

Follow @PodgeOH

AFC Playoff Picture- Final Standings

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Peyton Manning

The Regular Season finished last night and the Playoff picture is now complete.

Some of the standout teams missing out on the Postseason from the AFC this year are the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers and the perennial underachieving San Diego Chargers.

Looking on the other side at some of the top teams now and Peyton Manning led his Denver Broncos to the top seed with Tom Brady the New England Patriots getting the number 2 seed.

The Playoffs kick off on Saturday night with the first of the two wildcard games.

So here are the final standings from the AFC.

East

1. Patriots 12-4

2. Dolphins 7-9

3. Jets 6-10

4. Bills 6-10

North

1. Ravens 10-6

2. Bengals 10-6

3. Steelers 8-8

4. Browns 5-11

South

1. Texans 12-4

2. Colts 11-5

3. Titans 6-10

4. Jaguars 2-14

West

1. Broncos 13-3

2. Chargers 7-9

3. Raiders 4-12

4. Chiefs 2-14

Playoff Seeds

1. Denver Broncos First-Round Bye

2. New England Patriots First-Round Bye

3. Houston Texans Division Winner

4. Baltimore Ravens Division Winner

5. Indianapolis Colts Wildcard

6. Cincinnati Bengals Wildcard

The first two seeds get a first-round bye, and the wildcard games see the number 3 seed vs  the number 6 seed and the number 4 vs the number 5 seed.

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

Andre Johnson

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

Ray Lewis and Ed Reed

A full preview of both these games will be posted later this week.

For all your playoff updates, follow me on twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

Written by podgeoh92

December 31, 2012 at 10:49 am

Week 14 Games- Live on Sky

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Joe Flacco

It’s now time to look ahead to this weeks exciting live action with some great games lined up on Sky.

Sky Sports 2 will be showing two live games tonight:

Baltimore Ravens at Washington Redskins

Robert Griffin III

Stadium- FedEx Field

Kickoff- 1:00 p.m. in Washington/6 p.m. Irish Time

Prediction: Ravens Win

New Orleans Saints at New York Giants

Drew Brees

Stadium- MetLife Stadium

Kickoff- 4:25 p.m. in New Jersey/9:25 p.m. Irish Time

Prediction: Saints Win

NFL RedZone

Eli Manning

Catch those live games along with the rest of the action on NFL RedZone via the Red Button.

Follow @PodgeOH

Written by podgeoh92

December 8, 2012 at 9:41 am

Week 13 Scores- Early Games

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Tom Brady

Tom Brady

This weeks early games have just finished and so here are the scores:

Jacksonville Jaguars 14 Buffalo Bills 38

Seattle Seahawks 23 Chicago Bears 17 (Overtime)

Indianapolis Colts 35 Detroit Lions 33

Minnesota Vikings 14 Green Bay Packers 23

Carolina Panthers 21 Kansas City Chiefs 27

New England Patriots 23 Miami Dolphins 16

Arizona Cardinals New York Jets 7

San Francisco 49ers 13 St.Louis Rams 16 (Overtime)

Houston Texans 24 Tennessee Titans 10

Remember that these final scores are just from the early games with the late games still to come.

One of the standout late games to watch is in Baltimore as the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Ravens with that game live right now on Sky Sports 2.

Highlights from all tonight’s games are available to watch here http://www.nfl.com/videos

Follow @PodgeOH

Written by podgeoh92

December 2, 2012 at 9:33 pm