Unlike the Baltimore Ravens, who have been ravaged by injuries throughout the year, the San Francisco 49ers have been healthy, relatively speaking -- and that health could be a factor in Super Bowl XLVII.
ESPN's Mike Sando pointed out that the Baltimore Ravens have had only two defenders start in each of Baltimore's games this season -- safety Ed Reed and cornerback Cary Williams. Every other member of Baltimore's starting group for Super Bowl XLVII has missed some amount of time this season -- most notably, Ray Lewis, who suffered a torn triceps muscle during Baltimore's win over the Dallas Cowboys.
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By comparison, Sando points out that San Francisco has had nine members of its defensive unit start each and every game for the 49ers this season.
Justin Smith suffered San Francisco's most notable injury on defense, when he tore his left triceps during San Francisco's thrilling win over the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Originally feared to be lost for the duration of the season, Smith returned to the field during San Francisco's Divisional round win over the Green Bay Packers, and believes that his triceps tendon has improved since he returned to action.
Still, injuries could very well .dictate part of the story in Super Bowl XLVII. Though Baltimore's defense has played well in recent weeks, limiting Tom Brady and Peyton Manning en route to victories over the Patriots and Broncos, Baltimore's defense is still an aging one -- and one that hasn't played together on the field for an extended period of time.
Dylan DeSimone wrote about Colin Kaepernick's speed and how it could give Baltimore's aging defense trouble over at Niners Nation -- and it's certainly possible that the banged up Baltimore defense will prove to be incapable in containing the dynamic Kaepernick.
In addition to the statistical edge, San Francisco's defense has the health edge -- and in the Super Bowl where one or two plays could make or break the game, that's a nice advantage to have.
Much has been written about and spoken of Baltimore's defense over the past weeks, as the Ravens managed to shut down Manning and Brady. Further, Baltimore's defensive leader, Ray Lewis, announced that he will retire following the end of the season, and it also seems that Ed Reed will likely test the free agent market.
With all the attention focused on Lewis, Reed and Baltimore's defense, little has been said for San Francisco's quietly consistent and dominating defense. If it shows up on Super Bowl Sunday, then the Niners will likely be the ones hoisting the Lombardi Trohpy at the end of the night.