The climax to the NFL season is the most watched single sporting event in the world, with over 167 million people worldwide tuning in to watch last year's game. We all know about the Superbowl half-time show, an event which has become internationally famous, not always for the right reasons, though. This year, international superstar Beyonce will be performing at half-time.
Extraneous things, like the half-time show, pale into significance, because the reason we're all watching is to witness the on-field action. This year, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens have battled through sixteen regular season games, and survived the play-offs to make it to the Superdome in New Orleans.
Of course, there is always drama at each and every Superbowl, but this year's fare promises to be the stuff of legends, regardless of who wins. San Francisco are led by the incredibly talented young quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, however, did not start the season for the 49ers. Veteran Alex Smith was the starter for the first ten games of the season, before succumbing to injury. Kaepernick so impressed as Smith's replacement, that Head Coach Jim Harbaugh made him the permanent starter, even when Smith returned to action. Kaepernick has been a revelation to the 49ers in the seven regular season, and two play-off games that he has started in. His mobility and running ability compliment his passing accuracy to create a dangerous mixture.
Kaepernick is supported in the offense by running-back Frank Gore, tight-end Vernon Davis, and wide-receiver Michael Crabtree, all of which have had great seasons. The 49ers are solid on defence, too. With the Smith 'brothers', Aldon and Justin, middle linebackers NeVarro Bowman and Patrick Willis, and defensive backs Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown, San Francisco have consistently been one of the top defences over the past two seasons.
The Ravens offense, which will attempt to break down such stiff defensive talent, is led by quarterback Joe Flacco and supported by running-back Ray Rice, tight-end Dennis Pitta and wide-receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. Flacco is best know for his production and accuracy when throwing deep down-field to his physical receivers. Back Ray Rice is one of, if not the best, in the league. He can destroy defences with his blistering pace and acceleration, whilst his low centre of gravity and stocky build make him very difficult to bring down. Rice goes into the match as the leading rusher in the post-season.
Baltimore have, in recent years, been renowned for their excellent defence, with it often winning matches for the Ravens. The defence is unquestionably led by future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who is due to retire following Superbowl XLVII. He is considered probably to be the greatest defensive player in NFL history, and will be sorely missed by the Ravens organisation. Lewis will have to step up on Sunday night, as the Baltimore defence has been hit by injuries to some key players. Star corner Lardarius Webb misses out, as does Lewis' inside linebacker partner Jameel McClain. However, outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger are fit, and have had great seasons, and they will look to pressurise Kaepernick at every given opportunity.
Safety Ed Reed is another star of the Ravens defence, and can usually be relied upon to make big plays when it really matters, whilst up front, defensive end Haloti Ngata and nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu are some of the best in the league at forcing sacks and errors by destroying offensive lines.
The final match-up and point of much drama is that the two opposing Head Coaches are, in fact, brothers. Jim Harbaugh coaches the 49ers, and John Harbaugh holds the reigns at the Ravens. Cue several awkward family dinners to come.
Superbowl XLVII kicks off at 11.30pm GMT, and promises to offer up one of the best games in recent history.