By Brandon Burnett (@B_Burnett49er)
Cold Hard Football Facts' Power Ranger
There are plenty of juicy storylines to discuss in the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLVII, and the matchup of the two Harbaughs on the game's biggest stage will undoubtedly be at the forefront of it all.
So, while Jim and John unwillingly soak up the spotlight, we'll get busy digging into the statistical storylines that will present themselves when the 49ers and Ravens take the field in New Orleans Feb. 3.
In the final edition (part one of two) of this season's Cold, Hard Football Facts Quality Stats Power Rankings coverage, we'll look closely at how both teams finished the regular season in each Quality Stat and how those numbers carried over to the postseason.
OK then, let's dig in. But before we start, don't forget to check back in next Wednesday for the second half of the Quality Stats breakdown.
Baltimore Ravens: 12th
John's crew finished the regular season with a mediocre record of 3-4 against Quality Opponents, or teams with a winning record. Much of the Ravens' struggles with high-quality opposition occurred late in the year and without the legendary Ray Lewis on the field. Baltimore dropped three of its final four, including losses to the Redskins, Broncos and Bengals—all playoff teams.
Clearly a healthy Lewis and improved chemistry played a big role in the Ravens postseason run as they steamrolled three Quality Opponents, two of them on the road, to reach Super Bowl XLVII.
San Francisco 49ers: 5th
Despite ranking seven spots ahead of Baltimore in this Quality Stat, the 49ers finished just one game (4-3) better than the Ravens against Quality Opponents in 2012. SF was 2-2 against teams with a winning record prior to Colin Kaepernick taking over as the starting QB in Week 10, and 2-1 after.
Including the postseason, the 49ers are 4-1 against Quality Opponents with CK under center. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Baltimore Ravens: 11th
Baltimore finished 2012 at No. 11 in Scoreability, averaging 14.17 yards per point scored. While the regular season number isn't the greatest, this team clearly stepped up its game in this regard heading into the postseason. The Ravens needed just 12.71 YPPS in the AFC Championship Game win over NE, 12.61 YPPS against Denver in the divisional round and 18.92 YPPS back in the Wild Card win over Indy.
The Ravens weren't very efficient against the Colts, needing 423 yards of offense just to hit 24 points, but the defense did its part in keeping Indy out of the end zone the entire game. The last two wins, however, Baltimore's Scoreability numbers stack up with the best in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers: 15th
It may come as a slight shock to see that a team averaging over 36 PPG in the playoffs finished the regular season as a middle-of-the-pack squad in this Quality Stat. But perhaps the main reason the 49ers are in the Super Bowl is because they have the ability to win in so many different ways.
In other words, they can win a football game whether they score 45 points or 13 points. SF has eclipsed the 30-point mark on seven occasions (playoffs included), but also held its opponent to less than 13 the same amount.
Baltimore Ravens: 8th
The Ravens entered the postseason faring pretty well in Bendability already, but what they've accomplished thus far in the playoffs is simply amazing. After posting a total of 16.33 yards per point against during the regular season, Baltimore went and held Indy to a mind-boggling total of 45.6 YPPA.
The Ravens didn't do the greatest job of keeping Peyton Manning and the Broncos off the board (11.37 YPPA), but the game did go to double overtime and two of Denver's scores were on returns. As if what Baltimore did to Indy wasn't impressive enough, the Ravens managed to hold Tom Brady and the Pats to just 13 points despite allowing 428 yards of offense (32.92 YPPA).
San Francisco 49ers: 7th
The Niners finished just ahead of Baltimore in the regular season, at 17.25 YPPA. We're talking about two squads that have prided themselves on a bend-but-don't-break style defense and it shows in the numbers.
The 49ers defense has gotten off to a slow start in each of its two postseason outings, but finished unbelievably strong down the stretch. The Niners are outscoring opponents 35-10 in the second half of playoff games this year, and the only touchdown allowed was against Green Bay with under a minute remaining in a game that was already over.
Real Passing Yards Per Attempt
Baltimore Ravens: 15th
RPYPA typically isn't one of the Ravens specialties, as they finished No. 19 in this Quality Stat in 2011 and No. 13 in 2010. But just because Joe Flacco and the Ravens aren't adept at getting the ball downfield during the regular season doesn't mean they haven't been able to do so when it matters most.
Flacco threw for a whopping 282 passing yards against Indy despite completing just 12 of his 23 attempts. A week later, Baltimore's QB went for 331 yards on just 18 completions. Flacco is averaging 9.17 yards per attempt in the postseason.
San Francisco 49ers: 8th
The Niners hold a considerable advantage in this stat, or at least they did in the regular season. SF actually improved from 6.62 YPPA to 6.91 YPPA after the QB chance in Week 10. Kaepernick's arm has helped open up the 49ers' offense and the numbers back it up.
Kaep has left the masses in awe after two spectacular playoff performances. Harbaugh's faith in the second-year pro has paid major dividends, and the youngster has even bested Flacco in terms of passing yards per attempt (9.54 PYPA) in the postseason.
Defensive Real Passing Yards Per Attempt
Baltimore Ravens: 16th
Another Quality Stat Baltimore didn't exactly excel in, the Ravens finished smack dab in the middle of the league in terms of Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt during the regular season.
Once the postseason came along, it changed completely. The Ravens started off by holding Luck to an average of 5.4 YPA in the wildcard round, and then Manning to 6.7 YPA the next week. Brady attempted a whopping 54 passes in the AFC Championship Game, but managed only 320 yards (5.9 YPA).
San Francisco 49ers: 3rd
For the most part, the 49ers have been masterful in pass defense all year long, holding opposing teams to 5.29 DRPYPA during the regular season. SF allowed an even 200 yards passing per game in 2012, also good for third in the NFL.
The 49ers were again successful in defending the pass in the divisional round, holding Aaron Rodgers to 257 yards passing on 39 attempts. Matt Ryan and the Falcons? Not so much. Not in the first half, anyway. Ryan completed 30 of his 42 attempts for 396 yards (9.4 YPA) in the game, but the 49ers adjusted nicely and shut the Falcons out in the second half.
Check in next Wednesday as we break down the second half of the Quality Stats for the 49ers and Ravens as we close in on Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.