Senior NFL Columnist

Monday Musings: Some early thinking on Super Bowl XLVII

The Harbaugh Bowl is less than two weeks away, and already I am excited about some of the potential things we will see. Such as:

How does Baltimore defend Colin Kaepernick? Do they play it like Atlanta did and dare him to beat them from the pocket? He showed he could do it.

The 49ers are vulnerable to the deep ball, and the Ravens love going deep with Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith. I see a lot of big-play chances for Smith.

The San Francisco pass rush has been nonexistent in two playoff games. The Ravens offensive line, a reshuffled group, has been really good. What gives there?

Does Aldon Smith (no sacks in four games) finally come alive against Bryant McKinnie

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Ray Lewis passing the torch to Patrick Willis.

Things I am tired of already

Bro Bowl. The Harbaugh Brothers Bowl. This will get annoyingly old.

Ray Lewis in his pulpit-speak mode. You're a linebacker. Not a preacher.

Jim Harbaugh's disposition. I don't know him well, but every time I am around him he comes off as strange.

Will Randy Moss talk? Who cares?

Is Joe Flacco elite? Not even if he wins. But he's damn good.

As Matt Ryan left the Falcons' locker room late Sunday night, he did so with his father next to him. Ryan had his arm in a sling and was clearly hurting more than just from the shoulder injury. "It popped out," he said. Ryan hurt the shoulder on the second-down play before he threw two incomplete passes on the Falcons' final drive. He stayed in the game -- why wouldn't he since it was his nonthrowing shoulder? -- and tried to win it. Except for one pick, on a play that Roddy White slipped down, and a fumbled snap, Ryan played a flawless game. He was accurate, calm and seemed on the verge of getting to his first Super Bowl before the final drive was stopped. Anybody who doesn't think Ryan is a top-10 quarterback is way off base. Ryan is expected to have surgery, but if the Falcons made the Super Bowl he might not have been able to play.

Ryan or Flacco? That has been the argument since they came into the league. With Flacco winning his sixth road playoff game, and now getting to his first Super Bowl, it might be Flacco for now. I have a feeling this one will go back and forth throughout their careers.

The Ravens have to pay Flacco now. As happy as Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti seemed in the post-game locker room, he won't be as happy to write that big-fat signing bonus for Flacco this spring. But he has to. Flacco rolled the dice and came up big. He's about to be paid.

The Falcons have to get more help for their pass rush. John Abraham is coming back for another season, but he was clearly hurting with the ankle injury Sunday against the 49ers. They had little pressure on Kaepernick. Look for that to be a need in free agency and the draft for Atlanta.

The New England Patriots are the best at scheming guys open. Tom Brady is usually spot on doing so. But at some point, the Patriots need to get faster. They don't get big plays down the field in the passing game. They don't scare vertically. When Moss was with them in 2007, they scared. Since then it hasn't been an issue. Teams don't fear the deep ball. The Patriots don't spend big on guys in free agency, but Mike Wallace might be worth a look. He can stretch a field and any supposed issues he would have would be washed away at the car wash on the way inside the Pats facility. That car wash has washed away many a stink on veterans in the past.

What the heck were the Patriots doing at the end of the half? That's on Brady. He's the veteran who should know better. When he ran the ball, he should have called timeout right away. They could have had a few shots into the end zone. Instead, they called timeout and settled for a field goal when the clock ran down to four seconds. That's on Brady.

Is it time to put some heat on Brady? He has lost four times now in his past four playoff and Super Bowl appearances as a favorite. Each time, the Patriots had the best team. Twice, they lost at home. Two other times, they lost as big favorites in the Super Bowl. The Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since Spygate. Brady is 7-7 in his last 14 playoff starts. Brady is still one of the all-time greats, but it's been a while since he's hoisted that Lombardi Trophy.

It's obvious that 49ers defensive end Justin Smith isn't close to being the same player he was before tearing his biceps muscle on his left arm. He can't use his arm. That is key for him -- or anybody -- to getting pressure. Without his ability to get by the guards and tackles, the 49ers struggled to get pressure against Ryan. They can't allow that to be the case against the Ravens. They don't cover well enough.

I know Carlos Rogers always slides inside to cover the slot, but when he did that against the Falcons, it left Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver on White and Julio Jones. That makes no sense. Rogers should have stayed outside on Jones. Instead he was inside on Harry Douglas most of the day.

We had a Moss sighting in Sunday's game. He actually looked quick on a couple of receptions. Where was he all season? Of course, he didn't talk after the game. That's just Randy being Randy.

Loved seeing Shannon Sharpe light up Belichick for not talking to CBS. That was vintage Bill and nobody ever questions the guy. Good move, Shannon.

 
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