For starters, we need to react to the writers who denied Strahan's entrance into the Hall of Fame. Of course there was always the "chance" that he would not get in on his first ballot. And of course, #92 will get in. But that does not pardon the error of denying his swift entrance into the Hall. Let's list the reasons why Strahan is a first ballot Hall of Famer:
1) Tremendous pass rusher
2) Tremendous run stopper, arguably as good if not better vs the run than the pass
3) Tremendous at maintaining pocket integrity on his pass rush
4) Tremendous team leader and Super Bowl Champion
5) Consistent, Righteous Ambassador of the Game
Maybe some of the writers didn't like it when he called them out for selling newspapers at the expense of the truth and team unity. Strahan was simply a complete player in every respect, top to bottom, in all areas of the game, on and off the field. It is a cosmic joke that Warren Sapp is in before Strahan. It is a cosmic joke that a Guard, Larry Allen, is in ahead of Strahan. A Guard? A f*****g Guard?!!! Guys like Allen, Sapp, and Ogden are all Hall-worthy. And Cris Carter has gotten in after many attempts, so that is cool. But none of these players did it as consistently and as completely as Strahan. In his final year, 2007, they still RAN AWAY from Stray to Osi's side. Case closed.
Back to the Super Bowl.
Many Giants fans have been struck how the 4 teams that made it to the Conference Championships last year all made it back, except the Gmen. Both Harbaugh teams lost last year, so maybe it was the hunger that finally put both teams over the top and into the Super Bowl a year later. It is a long season when you go to the Super Bowl. You are playing in February, and there are OTAs only weeks later. The winner gets feted in all kinds of ways with a myriad number of appearances in the media. Let's see if the Giants can retool and use the extra time of not being in the playoffs as a way to recharge for XLVIII.
A number of weeks back, as the playoffs were starting, this NY Giants blogger said he'd be rooting for RGIII. After he got his knee turned into a pretzel, we stayed on the theme of the read option QB, believing that Wilson or Kaepernick would be our pick for winning the title. In this light, it is obvious that our pick remains Kaepernick to take the favored 49ers to their 6th title. I will be rooting for a good game, but would not make any gambling prognostication, because Kaepernick is still essentially a rookie QB in his second year in the NFL. He plays with a great deal of poise which belie his inexperience. Two Aprils ago, our draft analysts, Wonder and Pete, both touted Kaepernick as one of their 5 "green" undervalued players in the draft. We heard this week how Jim Harbaugh had rated Kaepernick as the single best player in the entire draft, jumping up 9 spots to take him at 34 in the draft.
As Kaepernick goes, so go the fortunes of the 49ers. In Week 6, the Giants went out west and manhandled the 49ers, led by Alex Smith. What a difference a QB makes. Both teams' paths went in opposite directions after that loss. With the exception of Seattle crushing SF near the end of the season, the 49ers have been playing very good football. They have a solid OL. Vernon Davis is a tremendous TE who, along with Jimmy Graham, should probably be banned for being un fair to the rest of the league. Mario Manningham is gone with an ACL tear, or the Niners would have an even better passing game than they have. Crabtree is a competent WR who has not yet delivered on his early first round pedigree, but that can all change with one or two key plays this evening. At RB, we actually like the changeup Kendall Hunter more than the meat and potatoes pounding of Gore. Gore runs so hard that, at 29, he is no longer the game breaker he once was. While we can expect Gore to get the rock to keep the Ravens defense honest, I look for guys like Hunter and Kaepernick to light up the highlight reel more. Watch also for another TE favorite, Delanie Walker.
On defense, the 49ers LBers are always the lead story, but we have to watch the pass rushing of Aldon Smith to see if Joe Flacco will be able to get his patented bombs off before getting hurried/knocked down/sacked. The 49ers Secondary is vulnerable if the pass rush is not there.
For the Ravens, on offense, it is all about balance and chess. This team understands the value of small ball. Sure, Flacco loves to air it out, but just as quickly they will throw underneath to Ray Rice. Next to Darren Sproles, Ray Rice was #2 in the league in pass receptions for a RB. I love that stat in today's passing NFL, where you must get your RB out in space. Rice will have a much harder time vs the solid LBers of SF, but you have to stretch that defense in every way possible, so stretch them w small ball. Add Pitta and Dickson at TE and you have plenty for the Ravens to do. We did not even mention Boldin and Smith, who do so many things at WR. The key for the Ravens offense is NOT to get bogged down- they cannot go for stretches where they disappear. This means making sure that Rice gets the ball underneath for 7 yards and that Pitta gets the sticks moved on 3rd down. If the 49ers play two deep safeties vs Flacco, then go underneath.
The Ravens defense unfortunately will get compared to the 2000 defense, and that is not fair. The story here is how guys like Suggs came back to play after early pre/season injuries. The extra two weeks off will be a godsend for older defensive veterans like Suggs (30), Lewis (37), Reed (34) and Kemeeatu (33). Ed Reed plays centerfield, and it will be great to see how he does vs Kaepernick. There are so many solid defensive players on this team like Ellerbe, Kruger and Graham. They bend, but they don't break.
In the final analysis of this game, I believe the 49er defense will give the Ravens offense just enough trouble to disrupt them and throw them out of rhythm. This is why I cannot emphasize enough how important small ball will be for the Ravens offense in maintaining rhythm vs the 49ers. Those TEs and RBs and short slants may not seem as glamourous as the Flacco bomb, but they keep you on the field for the Flacco bomb. As fans of the NFL, we are looking forward to a competitive game which we hope goes down to the wire. See you on Twitter.