The Ravens have beaten two surefire Hall of Fame quarterbacks and a rookie who looks like he could be in that class in a couple of years to get to the Super Bowl. But they've yet to see anything like what they will see Sunday night.
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Kaepernick orchestrates a reflexive, responsive offense from that "pistol" position in which he reads what defenses try to take away and goes in the other direction. Where the other quarterbacks the Ravens faced were predominantly pocket passers, Kaepernick is at his most dangerous when he is outside the tackles, running with his sprinter's speed and long strides, creating plays.
Against an aging Ravens defense that includes five players with 10 or more years in the NFL, Kaepernick's speed should be able to get him to the outside.
He'll also make Frank Gore a more dangerous weapon. While the Ravens usually rely on their wits to anticipate plays and be in the proper place -- middle linebacker Ray Lewis is among the best ever at the chess game that takes place at the line of scrimmage -- against a read-option that anticipation will be neutralized. Kaepernick will be reading the defense and get the last word on where the ball goes. If the defense focuses too much on him, as it should, Gore gets an advantage.
A running back hasn't won Super Bowl MVP since 1997. The award usually goes to the quarterback. Gore has a good chance to stop that trend today, and it's because of the quarterback.
"The league has changed and a lot of guys love throwing the ball," Gore said. "Everyone wants the quarterback to be the MVP. There is a chance for me because they have to respect Kaepernick."
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers defense is just as imposing as the Ravens', but younger and faster. They ranked third in total defense, second in points allowed, and their balance was astounding: they were ranked the fourth best against both the run and the pass. Linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are dominant players in the middle and should be able to contain the Ravens' biggest offensive treat, Ray Rice.
PREDICTION49ers 17, Ravens 14