Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We are down to the final NFL contest of the 2012-13 season - the Super Bowl featuring the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. If you are still alive at this point in your playoff fantasy league, congratulations and here is our final player analysis.
Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco has performed extremely well in the postseason, racking up 853 yards and eight touchdowns against zero interceptions, but none of the defenses he faced (Indianapolis, Denver, New England) compares to the 49ers' stout defense he'll matchup with on Sunday. The 49ers were fourth against the pass yielding just 19 passing touchdowns in 16 games.
We prefer San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick against a Baltimore defense that yielded 905 more yards than the 49ers. The key here is Kaepernick's ability to run the football. In his two playoff games he threw for a pedestrian 496 yards, but added 202 yards on the ground which is equivalent to throwing for another 500 yards. He also ran two into the end zone.
Lead running backs Frank Gore and Ray Rice should produce similar numbers in this game. Both have played well in the playoffs. Gore has totaled 257 yards from scrimmage and scored three times in two games while Rice 316 yards and a pair of scores in three games.
The best wide receiver on the field is Michael Crabtree, no matter what Randy Moss thinks. And Crabtree is our choice for top receiver in the game, primarily because Kaepernick seems to have tunnel vision for his big wideout. Crabtree leads the 49ers in playoff targets with 18 compared to just eight for Moss.
On the other side of the ball, Flacco has been even-handed when dealing with his two top receivers - Anquan Boldin (26 targets) and Torrey Smith (19). Between the two Ravens' wideouts, we think Smith will have a slightly better Sunday as the 49ers has proven to be vulnerable to the deep ball if they don't get a big pass rush.
San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis has been hot and cold, both during the regular season and the playoffs. We prefer the more consistent Dennis Pitta, who has been targeted 14 times in three playoff games, and hauled in 10 balls for 137 yards and two scores.
There is no contest in the kicking game. The rookie Justin Tucker is 32-of-35 (91 percent) this season including a 47-yard, game-winner in Denver. Meanwhile, David Akers led the NFL in missed field goals (13) and the 49ers have reached the point where they sometimes will forego the attempt and go for a first down.
The 49ers had better overall fantasy statistics in 2012-13, posting 163 fantasy points to just 123 for the Ravens, but the Ravens defense appears to be getting better due to improving health while the 49ers have had to deal with a couple of injuries in the playoffs which has caused their pass rush to disappear (two playoff sacks in two games). We'll call this one a push.
It's been a great season and we look forward to giving you advice again next season.