Ravens are playing their best football in all phases right now. I can understand why some would pick them. I just think the 49ers are more talented, faster, and dynamic.
I think the 49ers will stop Ray Rice and make them one-dimensional. A common misconception is that Rice is a very powerful runner. His yards after contact average was one of the worst among starting RB's. He's a slippery runner, but we have the best tackling defense in the league. He's not Marshawn Lynch or Adrian Peterson. Last year, we held him to 59 yards on 21 carries behind the same O-line (only difference being Osemele at LG). My biggest concern with Rice is him catching the football out of the backfield. We've done a nice job sniffing out RB screens lately.
Assuming we stop the run, I question the Ravens' ability to consistently beat us through the air. Flacco has been exceptional this postseason, but not unstoppable. He's only completing 54% of his passes. They've beaten teams deep over the top, and they will take plenty of shots against us. Taking away the deep ball is key, because I don't think they are capable of racking up 1st downs through the air against us. We should know what to expect. We've beaten better QB's with better passing options all year long.
It will be interesting to see how the Ravens choose to defend us. I hear a lot of analysts say all you have to do to stop the read-option is hit the QB constantly. Against our pistol set, it's not that simple. Often times we have Bruce Miller in the backfield to block the free rusher, adjusting his blocking angle depending on whether the QB keeps it or hands it off. Kaep has not been touched all postseason for a reason.
Offensively, we'll line up mostly in 2 TE sets. This is great for a few reasons. The Ravens have not defended well against 2 TE sets, and they have been vulnerable to the play-action pass. Since Kaep has been starting, we have been the best play-action team in the NFL. Pollard is an in-the-box safety, and he will have to play there if they want to stop our running attack. This leaves them susceptible to our play-action. Their best corner has been their nickel back, Corey Graham, who comes off the field in 2 TE sets. The starting corners, Williams and Brown, can be beaten consistently. Expect Crabtree and Moss to have nice games.
We also know that the Ravens will have to play a lot of zone coverage. No way they play man-coverage and turn their backs on Kaep, especially on 3rd down. Even then, Kaep has shown the ability to knife through the defense. His yards per attempt is actually higher than Flacco's, and his completion % is nearly 10 percentage points higher. Flacco throws a pretty ball, but Kaep has been the better passer.
Gore and James behind this O-Line has been a lethal combination. Nobody has had an answer for it yet. The Ravens were not very good against the run this year, and part of that has been due to injury. One guy that has been healthy is Haloti Ngata. He has the ability to be a game-wrecker, but even with him in the lineup, the Ravens have not been good at stuffing running plays at the line. They've improved in the postseason once they got Ray Lewis and Ellerbe healthy, but you can get to the 2nd level against these guys. With our diverse running game, Lewis and Ellerbe will have to be sideline-to-sideline players, which is not their strength.
Obviously I'm a bit biased, but all analysis of the matchups and schemes point towards the 49ers winning. This year we have two balanced teams, but the 49ers are younger, faster, more talented, and are doing some innovative things on offense. It's our time, and I honestly feel we will be too much for the Ravens to handle. Everyone is predicting a close game, but not me. We win by 2 scores.