Super Bowl XLVII Could Come Down to Kickers

Just as we predicted, the Baltimore Ravens were crushed by the Denver Broncos in the NFL playoffs, the San Francisco 49ers fell to the Green Bay Packers, and Super Bowl XLVII will feature the New England Patriots against Aaron Rodgers and the boys in green and gold.

Wait, what?

That didn’t happen?

Well, that’s embarrassing.  Normally, we’d say something like, “That’s why they play the games” or “On any given Sunday…” or some other overdone cliché to explain away our total incompetence in predicting Super Bowl opponents.  But instead, we’re not going to say anything about it and just hope that no one notices how badly we whiffed.

Is it working?

Speaking over overdone, is anyone else tired of hearing about the Harbaugh Bowl, Ray Lewis, Colin Kaepernick, the pressure of the big game, and the Ravens defying all odds to get to Super Bowl XLVII?  Ugh.

Most of the storylines of Sunday’s game have already been beaten to death, but one aspect of the Super Bowl seems to have been overlooked for the most part:  the kickers.

The 49ers and the Ravens both have potent offenses, with San Francisco averaging 24.8 points per game and Baltimore averaging 24.9.  Both squads have staunch defenses, too.  The Niners allow a mere 17.1 points per game; the Birds permit 21.5.

It’s quite conceivable, then, that Super Bowl XLVII could come down to a kick.  So who has the advantage?

San Francisco’s kicker is 14-year veteran David Akers, while Baltimore relies on the leg of rookie kicker Justin Tucker.

Akers is a six-time Pro Bowl kicker who holds NFL single-season records for most field goals attempted (52) and made (44) as well as most points (166) without a touchdown, and he tied the league’s distance record with a 63-yard field goal earlier this season in Green Bay.

Tucker, on the other hand, has a grand total of 32 field goals on his NFL resume.

On paper, we’d take Akers over Tucker in the Super Bowl 100 times out of 100.

But Akers has been struggling mightily lately, missing 14 of his last 38 attempts (that works out to just a 63 percent conversion rate) and most recently, bouncing a 38-yard field goal off the upright against the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter of the NFC Championship Game on a kick that would have tied the game.

Akers has been so shaky that the 49ers actually considered replacing him with — of all the ironies — Billy Cundiff prior to playoffs.  Cundiff used to kick for the Ravens and shanked a 32-yard field goal attempt that would have sent Baltimore into overtime with the Patriots in last year’s AFC Championship Game.  Cundiff never got a chance to redeem himself because Tucker beat him out of his job this preseason.

Tucker hit a 47-yarder against the Broncos in double overtime to eliminate Denver from the postseason a few weeks ago, but that’s about the sum total of his “pressure” experience.  Nevertheless, the rookie has converted 32 of 35 field goals this season, including both attempts in the playoffs.

No one is asking Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh who his kicker will be in Super Bowl XLVII.  A lot of people, however, are asking the question of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Beyond what may be going through Akers’ head this week, we have to also wonder what’s going through Jim Harbaugh’s head.  With his confidence in the veteran kicker shaken, will the 49ers opt to attempt a fourth down conversion rather than a field goal with the game on the line?

We’ll find out on Sunday, but for now, it looks to us like Baltimore has a distinct advantage in what could very well become an important aspect in a close game.  As such, we predict the following final score for Super Bowl XLVII:

Baltimore Ravens 27, San Francisco 24

Which means, of course, that given our history, you should immediately run out to Las Vegas and put all your money on David Akers and the Niners.