Reuters and Getty photos
While his offensive teammates spent the week insisting that Joe Flacco (pictured) has played this way all year, there's no disputing that the quarterback has elevated his game significantly in the playoffs with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Exhibiting a better pocket presence, he's found open receivers underneath and kept defenses honest by taking deep shots. The reshuffled offensive line has mostly given him a clean pocket and his wide receivers have made some tough plays in traffic. However, the Ravens' task will be much harder this week against a defense that hits hard and covers a lot of ground.
The 49ers have three Pro Bowl defensive backs and they finished the regular season with the NFL's fourth-best passing defense, allowing just over 200 passing yards per game. But this group has looked vulnerable in the playoffs. In the NFC championship game, the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan threw for 396 yards and wide receiver Julio Jones torched whoever was covering him. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner (pictured) are big hitters and playmakers. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith finished the regular season with 19.5 sacks, but he's been shut out in five straight games.