Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 9:27 AM
Just when you thought that you had heard it all from a Super Bowl week comes talk of "deer antler spray" and phony arm tattoes.
Okay, so it's never quite "normal" in the immediate days leading up to a Super Bowl game and so why should this year have been any different for the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers and the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens?
It is interesting to note that some "experts" believe the fact the 49ers have played inside the Louisiana Superdome this year is an advantage- see the 31-21 triumph over the hometown New Orleans Saints back on November 25th- and you might not have been aware that the last time the Ravens played a regular-season game inside the Superdome was way, way back in 2006:
Baltimore bested the Saints 35-22 that day to mark one of six road wins for the '06 Ravens who didn't win a single playoff game that year and than waved bye-bye to then-head coach Brian Billick following the '07 campaign. So, it has been a long time between "Hurricane" drinks for the Ravens ... that's for sure!
Our complete and in-depth Super Bowl XLVII preview will come your way in tomorrow's jam-packed edition of Jim Sez but in today's column space we'll concentrate on a single key player on each side of the ball here. First, this key reminder ...
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will get you the Super Bowl XLVII Side & Totals Winners this Sunday morning (Jim has been on the right side of the big game in 22 of the last 27 seasons!) plus there's always lots of College Basketball and NBA Winners (23-10 overall in hoops over the past 2+ weeks) each and every day when you check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. The check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays/Holidays ... so get 'em while they're red-hot and make sure you finish off the football season with a real bang!
SUPER BOWL XLVII
Here's one player from each side of the ball- on both the Ravens and 49ers- who might wind up hoisting both/either the Vince Lombardi Trophy and the MVP hardware too come Sunday night:
Marshall Yanda, G - This 315-pound, sixth-year pro from Iowa has been a veritable star all year long for a Baltimore offense that did some massive reshuffling along the way but Yanda has saved his best stuff for this post-season where he has been tremendous. Okay, so anyone can tell you that QB Joe Flacco and/or RB Ray Rice will be "keys" here but put it this way: If Yanda paves the way on the ground game and handles the interior members of the 49ers defensive front than it's likely Baltimore will score a bunch of points ... and win. No doubt about it: Yanda has been the single-best offensive lineman in this NFL post-season and we trust that CBS broadcasters Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be paying close attention to him here.
Aldon Smith, LB - It's hard to believe that ole #99 has not had a sack since December 9th as he's now gone five consecutive games without one and that obviously includes zero post-season sacks this year. Smith- who registered 19 ½ quarterback sacks in regular-season play- must make his presence felt early on here or else Baltimore QB Flacco won't feel threatened by what's been a non-existent Niners pass rush the past few weeks. Remember, this is a dude who collected 5 ½ sacks in a prime-time win against Chicago this year and so he's quite capable of wrecking a game faster than you can say Lawrence Taylor!
No hiding the fact that QB Kaepernick must be sharp in order to lead the 49ers to their first Super Bowl title since the 1994 season but- believe us- if TE Vernon Davis doesn't step up to the plate here than the NFC champs will get sunk. Davis has six playoff receptions this year- he's averaging 25 yards a completion- and anyone breaking down this Super Bowl game knows he could cause major matchup problems for Ravens' LBs/DBs here. Let's just say that if Davis gets targeted 7 or 8 times here, the Ravens may pay with major chunks of yards. Could be a real dark horse MVP candidate at 10-to-1.
Bernard Pollard, S - Talk about LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed all you like, the fact of the matter is the bone-rattling Pollard led Baltimore in total tackles this 2012 regular season (98 in all with 71 of 'em coming in solo fashion) and he's made some monstrous/vicious tackles this post-season with his fumble-inducing hit on New England RB Stevan Ridley merely changing the complexion of that AFC Championship Game tilt two weeks ago in Foxborough. Pollard made news this week off the field while addressing the NFL's future- he predicted there would be no league in 30 years because of all the safety concerns- but he very well will make his biggest news on the field come Sunday night and it he's able to jar the ball loose from the likes of San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick or RB Frank Gore in red-zone situations than it could be a game-changer play.
NBA NOTEBOOK- THE TOP 5 TEAMS (THE WAY WE SEE IT)
OKLAHOMA CITY (34-11) - At last check, the Thunder is outscoring foes by a per-game average of 8.4 points a game (the best in the NBA) and the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook tandem gets the edge over any other one-two punch in the league and that includes the two gentlemen in Miami. Last year's NBA Finals losers have all the right pieces in place and- dare we say- haven't missed a beat even without the bearded one (a/k/a James Harden).
SAN ANTONIO (36-11)- Maybe the best thing you can say about this Gregg Popovich-coached club is they play hard every night (or at least every night "Pops" brings his players to the arena!) and they are ultra-consistent. The Spurs entered last night's home tilt against Charlotte riding an eight-game winning streak and a deep bench has made it a bit easier to overcome the occasional injury loss of Manu Ginobili- heck, this team sports three Hall of Famers with Ginobili, F Tim Duncan and G Tony Parker and so should there really be any shock about being one of the NBA's elite teams ... still?
MIAMI (28-13) - The defending NBA champs have not always seemed "interested" this 2012-13 campaign but when MVP LeBron James and mates have decided to go all out there really isn't a better team in NBA Commissioner David Stern's league ... agree? Still, our Jim Sez power ratings are based on what's happened from start-to-present in this round-ball league and so the Heat must settle for a "bronze medal" right now.
LOS ANGLES CLIPPERS (33-13)- Clearly the class of Hollywood these days, the Clippers are far from a finished product and all too often must rely on those "lob city" dunks by Blake Griffin and Company to get attention but the fact of the matter is when MVP candidate PG Chris Paul is healthy and strutting his stuff, this Clips crew is just a notch below Western Conference rivals Okie City and San Antone.
BROOKLYN (27-18)- The move from New Jersey to New York City has truly energized this franchise and the Nets have hopped up from being a non-descript hoops entity to one of the best five teams in the league even if there are clubs with better overall won/loss records. Keep in mind the transformation under "interim" head coach P.J. Carlesimo as the Nets have won at Oklahoma City and at Madison Square Garden since the start of the calendar year and PG Deron Williams is back to being one of the NBA's 10-best players after some shaky times under former coach Avery Johnson
NOTE: It's the Super Bowl XLVII Preview in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez- an absolute must-read for football fans!