Five Reasons the 49ers Will Win
1 Large and in Charge
San Francisco's O-line is indeed large—its starting five averages 6'5" and 317 pounds—but largely overlooked has been its health. The 49ers were one of just three teams to field the same five starters each game in 2012, which had a lot to do with the unit's earning the highest run blocking grade Pro Football Focus has recorded in its five years. That cohesiveness and absence of a weak link make San Francisco's run game less predictable. In the NFC Championship Game, for instance, Frank Gore ran left seven times, up the middle six times and right eight times.
2 This: Justin
Defensive end Justin Smith (above) suffered a torn triceps late in the third quarter of the Niners' Week 15 win in New England. Over the regular season's remaining nine quarters, San Francisco—which had been No. 1 in the NFL in scoring defense at 14.2 ppg—allowed 79 points. The 33-year-old four-time Pro Bowler is arguably the Niners' most important defender (sorry, Aldon Smith), and even though he hasn't fully healed, his return for the playoffs has particularly bolstered San Francisco's run D. That could spell trouble for the Ravens' Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
3 End Game
Vernon Davis, the 49ers' talented tight end, has been a forgotten man for most of the (brief) Kaepernick era, averaging just one catch a game from Week 12 through the division-round win over Green Bay. In the NFC Championship Game, however, Kaepernick hit Davis five times for 106 yards and a TD, and now the big man is poised for a second consecutive big game, facing a trio of Ravens defenders—inside linebackers Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe and strong safety Bernard Pollard—who aren't fast enough to stay with him.
4 Dome Field Advantage
Forty-seven years of predetermined locations and we're still awaiting the first Super Bowl featuring a team playing on its own turf—but the 49ers have more reason to feel at home in the Superdome than the Ravens. They beat the Saints under that roof in November, and they've played four games this season in domes—with their contained noise and artificial light—including the NFC title game in Atlanta. The Ravens haven't played in New Orleans since 2006 and had just one indoor game in 2012, a 43--13 loss in Houston that marked their worst defeat.
5 Smith on Line Two