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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

Playoffs Preview- NFC Championship Game

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Mike Smith

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

The NFC Championship Game sees the top two seeds go head-to-head in Atlanta as the number 2 seed San Francisco 49ers take on the number 1 seed Falcons.

So without further ado, here are is my preview and prediction for the big game.

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons

Keys to the Game

Offense

49ers Passing Game

Colin Kapernick

  • The 49ers running game is a constant threat for their opponents with a rushing attack that was the fifth best in the league this season. Led by veteran running back Frank Gore and behind a solid offensive line, the 49ers can depend on Gore and co. in the run game to be successful but it’s their passing game which is the key issue tomorrow night.
  • 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was fantastic last week in their win over the Green Bay Packers with four total touchdowns and over 400 total yards. Now the pressure is on Kapernick to reproduce this week against a struggling Falcons pass defense who will certainly provide plenty of opportunities for targets like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.

Falcons Running Game

Michael Turner

  • Looking at the Falcons offense now and its the running game that needs to step up and produce. The Falcons were the fourth worst team running the football this year after veteran starter Michael Turner failed to pass the 1,000 barrier for the first time since the 2009 season.
  • The Falcons face another difficult rush defense this week against a 49ers defense led by by their Pro Bowl pair of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman at middle linebacker. If the rushing attack fails to get going for Atlanta, this piles the pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan in the passing game and Ryan is coming off his first ever 200 yard passing performance in the Playoffs.

Defense

49ers Pass Rush

Aldon Smith

  • With Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan putting on poor performances in Playoff football throughout his career (six interceptions in four fames) the last thing he needs is to be facing this ferocious 49ers pass rush. Led by All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith, the Niners pass rush will look to put pressure on Ryan early and often in this one.

Falcons Linebackers

Sean Weatherspoon

  • If the Falcons are going to have any chance of stopping the 49ers running game, they will need the help of their linebackers to combat the Niners running duo of Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore. Look for linebacker Sean Waetherspoon to be given the role of playing quarterback spy on obvious passing downs to prevent Kaepernick from taking off and running.

Prediction

Jim Harbaugh

It all comes down to the number 1 and number 2 seeds for the NFC Championship Game tomorrow night.
After knocking off my preseason pick for the Super Bowl title last week, I think the 49ers will win this one and advance to a Super Bowl of their own.
49ers 26 Falcons 17

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

Playoffs Preview- NFC Divisional Round

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Aaron Rodgers

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

The first of two NFC divisional games takes place on Saturday night as the Green Bay Packers travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers.

The second game is on Sunday in Atlanta as Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks tackle Matt Ryan and the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

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

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Mike McCarthy

Keys to the Game

When the Packers have the ball…

Aldon Smith

Aaron Rodgers vs 49ers Pass Rush

  • The 49ers boast one of the toughest defenses in the NFL led by star linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman. However, it’s one of the Niners other starting linebackers that will provide the biggest test for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and that is pass rusher Aldon Smith.
  • Smith had an outstanding 19.5 sacks in the regular season and is one of the most feared pass rushers in the league coming off the edge. Rodgers will be under pressure from Smith and the rest of the 49ers pass rush throughout the game and faces his biggest test of the year on the road in San Francisco.

When the 49ers have the ball…

Frank Gore

Frank Gore and 49ers Running Game vs Packers Run Defense

  • Whilst the 49ers passing attack has been inconsistent this season, their running game has remained one of the best units in the league led by starting running back Frank Gore. Gore rushed for over 1,000 yards again this campaign and he is also helped out by backups Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James along with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
  • The Packers defense is still a work-in-progress vs the run and rank as the 17th best team in the league. How Clay matthews and co. handle Frank Gore and the 49ers running game will be key to the outcome of this one.

Prediction

Clay Matthews

The Packers are coming off an impressive wildcard victory against their division rivals Minnesota Vikings and this will be a huge game in particular for their quarterback Aaron Rodgers against the team that passed on him in the 2005 Draft.

The 49ers are coming off a first-round bye and have the added pressure of having Colin Kaepernick as their starting quarterback with Kaepernick starting his first ever Playoff game.

In this contrast of quarterbacks between Packers starter Aaron Rodgers and 49ers backup Alex Smith, I think Rodgers proves yet again that the 49ers made the wrong decision.

Packers 28 49ers 19

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Russell Wilson

Keys to the Game

When the Seahawks have the ball…

Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch and Seahawks Running Game vs Falcons Run Defense

  • Just like the 49ers in their game, the Seahawks offense will likely lean on their rushing attack led by their Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch. Lynch rushed for a career-high 1,590 yards this season en route to helping the Seahawks to the league’s third best ground game averaging over 160 yards per game.
  • The Falcons defense ranks in the mid-twenties in terms of NFL rankings for both passing and rushing yards allowed per game but surprisingly, they only allow 18 points per game which is the fifth best in the league. Their run defense will set out to put the pressure on Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson in this one by shutting down Marshan Lynch and their running game.  

When the Falcons have the ball…

Julio Jones

Falcons Wide Receivers vs Seahawks Secondary

  • This is a key matchup in this game with two of the league’s best units going head-to-head with the Falcons wide receivers vs the Seahawks secondary. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez will also be a target for quarterback Matt Ryan in the passing game.
  • Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones both had over 1,000 receiving yards this season with Jones in particluar emerging as a reliable weapon for the Falcons offense. The Pro Bowler will likely be covered by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman with Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas also being a key player for the Seahawks secondary.

Prediction

Matt Ryan

The Seahawks pulled off an upset last week in a win over RG3 and the Redskins on the road in Washington and they face another tough test this week on the road in Atlanta.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons may have lost their last regular season game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the number one seed appear to be favorites at home in this one.

I picked the Seahawks to lose last week and I’m doing the same again this time around.

Seahawks 17 Falcons 20

Mike Smith

So those are your previews and predictions.

For more Playoff updates, follow me on Twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

Monday Night Football- Bears vs 49ers Preview

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Patrick Willis

After some great games yesterday, Week 11 comes to a close tonight with an exciting NFC clash between the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers.

The game will be live on ESPN in America and on the BBC Red Button in Ireland.

Now without further ado, here is a full preview of Monday Night Football Week 11.

Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers

Brian Urlacher

Stadium– Candlestick Park

Kick Off- 5:30 p.m. in San Francisco/1:30 a.m. in Ireland

What to Watch

Backup Quarterbacks

  • Consussions apear to have become a common problem in the modern game and that is the case for both of these teams at the quarterback position. With both Jay Cutler and Alex Smith doubtful for the game, both teams will be relying on their backup quarterbacks.
  • The Bears will be counting on veteran Jason Campbell whilst the 49ers will look to second-year player Colin Kaepernick. It will be interesting to see how these two perform tonight.

Defense

  • For fans of old skool defensive football, this will certainly be a must see game. With both defenses ranked in the top 10 in the league, expect to see a low scoring physical game tonight.
  • With so many standout players on both sides to choose from- Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Biran Ulracher and Julius Peppers just to name a few, points should come at a premium tonight. For a backup quarterback, things don’t come much tougher than this.

Who to Watch

Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall- Wide Receiver- Bears

  • Brandon Marshall will need to be at his best for the Bears offense tonight in the absence of Jay Cutler.
  • Projected Stats: 8 Catches for 69 Yards and 1 Touchdown

Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers- Defensive End- Bears

  • Peppers will be a key player for the Bears defense as they look to contain the elusive Colin Kaepernick.
  • Projected Stats: 4 Tackles with 2 Sacks and 1 Forced Fumble

Frank Gore

Frank Gore- Running Back- 49ers

  • He will be tasked with leading the 49ers offense once again and will surely see 20+ carries.
  • Projected Stats: 22 Carries for 110 Yards and 1 Touchdown

Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith- Outside Linebacker- 49ers

  • #99 will set out to dominate as he goes in search of reaching double digit sacks for the year.
  • Projected Stats: 8 Tackles with 1 Sack

Prediction

Colin Kaepernick

This game should be a low scoring battle as both teams face injury concerns at the quarterback position and so will look to lean on their respective defenses.

After their surprising tie against the St.Louis Rams last week, I think the 49ers will bounce back this week and get the win vs the Bears.

Bears 10 49ers 20

So that’s your preview and prediction, hope everyone enjoys the game.

Follow @PodgeOH