Beyond the Bro-Bowl: Five Super Bowl Storylines

Believe it or not, there's more to the Super Bowl than John and Jim Harbaugh

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014  |  Updated 5:24 PM EDT
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Harbaugh Brothers Talk Super Bowl Faceoff

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Kaepernick's ascent is one of the biggest stories of this Super Bowl.

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Harbaugh Brothers Talk Super Bowl Faceoff

The Harbaughs, San Francisco's Jim and Baltimore's John, will be the first pair of brothers to coach against each other in the Super Bowl. The competitive brothers upcoming game is being widely hyped as a "Harbowl" or a "Superbaugh" depending which nickname you prefer.
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Unless you've been experimenting with living life as if it were 1682, you've probably heard that the Ravens and 49ers are coached by John and JIm Harbaugh, the first brothers to face each other as head coaches in the Super Bowl. 

It's the breakout storyline of Super Bowl XLVII, but it's already been discussed from every possible angle with a week to go before we actually get to the game itself.

So let's turn our attention elsewhere. Here are five other storylines worthy of attention, starting with the guy making his 10th NFL start on Super Bowl Sunday:

  • The 49ers QB switch from veteran Alex Smith to rookie Colin Kaepernick was the boldest move of the 2012 NFL season. But it's clear that Jim Harbaugh was right, even though Smith led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game a year ago. Kaepernick's blend of passing skills and running ability have given the 49ers' offense a dimension they didn't have with Smith at the helm. 

Beyond the impact on the 49ers, Kaepernick's success has also helped legitimize the read-option as an offensive force in the NFL. The offense -- which prizes dual-threats like Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III -- makes for an especially exciting and aesthetically pleasing brand of football. A win for the Niners would point in the direction of more innovation in the NFL, something that's always welcome. 

  • Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco can't run the read-option, but he's done just about everything else right during Baltimore's run to the Super Bowl. Flacco's thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the three wins, improving his record in the postseason to 8-4 over his first five seasons. 

    And he's hot at just the right time. Flacco's contract is up after the season, which has led to a season-long dialogue about his worth to the team. He's erratic and isn't going to be the next Peyton Manning, but Flacco's obviously doing something right, and he'll likely become very wealthy this offseason as a result.

  • The pending retirement of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis may be the only story more beaten into the ground than the Harbaugh brothers, but he's not the only Raven icon who could be moving on after the game. Safety Ed Reed said he's not going to retire -- he's flirted with it in the past -- but he will be a free agent on Monday morning. There will be plenty of bidders for a future Hall of Famer, which could mean a dual departure in Charm City. 

  • 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith partially tore his triceps near the end of the regular season, costing him a few games and leaving the 49ers without their most valuable defensive player. He's played in each of the playoff games and says he's feeling fine, good news for a unit that discovered how essential Smith was when he was forced out of the lineup. 

  •  We'll save the nitty gritty of the game preview for a bit later in the week, but there's one spot that should be particularly worrisome for the 49ers. Kicker David Akers, who set NFL records for field goals made and attempted in 2011, made just 29-of-42 kicks for the 49ers in the 2012 regular season. He missed a key kick in the NFC Championship Game  -- if not for San Francisco's staunch defense, his miss could have cost the team a spot in the Super Bowl. The 49ers contemplated replacing him, but will stick with the veteran -- another bold move from the younger Harbaugh brother. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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