It's hard to believe Colin Kaepernick wasn't a starting quarterback when the season began. Now many feel he's the prototype for the next generation of NFL quarterbacks. It's hard to say his most impressive quality, whether it's his rocket arm or turbo-fired legs or precocious way of reading the defense. My vote is for his calmness under pressure. He has embraced this late-season and playoff-time run with composure worthy of a 10-year veteran. He has to keep that against a Ravens defense that will throw new twists at him, as well as Ray Lewis.
San Francisco has a terrific defense most games. They also can offer something other Baltimore opponents may have lacked in the postseason – a cohesive, effective secondary. Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown have spent the season together. They won't likely allow Ravens receivers to get past them or misplay balls that end up with Flacco's deep passes turning into touchdowns. They can't afford an off-game, however, because Flacco will burn them.
The might be an oxymoron. Harbaugh the younger is as manic as any coach on the sideline. He's jittery. He's reactionary. He's a blur sometimes in how quickly he moves from task to task. He needs to make sure he displays the patience that tells his players the Super Bowl is a long game. Early plays don't win or lose the thing. If Baltimore scores early and gets a lead early, it's not a deal-breaker. If Harbaugh concentrates more on coaching and less on officiating, his team has a better chance.
The 49ers need to slow Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce and make Flacco become a pass-first quarterback. Flacco's deep throws can be things of beauty, but San Francisco is pretty adept at preventing long receptions. If they force Flacco into a steady diet of passes, they have a much better chance at the turnovers that inevitably swing a game. Aldon Smith is aching to deliver some sacks, too. He's 0-for-the-postseason.
Akers has been a quality field-goal kicker throughout his NFL career, but this has been a rocky season. He's only made nine of 19 attempts outside 40 yards. The Ravens have been fairly strong at preventing red-zone touchdowns throughout the season, so Akers will likely need to deliver. If this is his swan song, he needs to go out kicking.