Five key players
QB Colin Kaepernick is 7-2 as a starter and his dual-threat capability has produced 2,310 passing yards, 617 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns through 18 games.
"There was a day in practice where we couldn't gain a yard against our defense, so we called it up, and he ran 80 yards for a touchdown. So, we saw it in practice during a competitive scrimmage situation." -- Offensive coordinator Greg Roman on the first time they saw Kaepernick's explosive running ability
LB Patrick Willis was the 49ers' second-leading tackler in the regular season (171), and he has one of their two playoff sacks.
"We feed off each other a lot. Throughout any game, me and Pat are always on the same page. We're always just talking about anything. I think when it comes to it, our defense having any type of success, me and Pat have to be on our job, and we're always on it." -- Linebacker NaVorro Bowman
WR Michael Crabtree, breaking out in his fourth season, leads the team with 100 receptions and 11 touchdown catches.
"We were one step away last year, and now we are here, and we just have to take over. I feel like I still have something to prove. I just have to go hard and do my job on Sunday." -- Crabtree
RB Frank Gore has been the offense's heart and soul since 2005, and he has rushed for 1,423 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
"He's just like a bull. He goes downhill on you really fast. I think he's more loose than people think he is. I have respect for his game because if you watch Frank Gore, he doesn't take the hits. He actually delivers them because of his low center of gravity." -- Ravens running back Ray Rice
K David Akers has made just 30 of 42 field-goal attempts this season and missed his only attempt (38 yards) in the NFC championship game.
"It's not like I forgot how to kick. I've had issues come up, like misjudging the wind." -- Akers
1. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Greg Roman previously served as Ravens assistants and know their opponents well. Fangio was a defensive assistant in Baltimore from 2009 to 2010, and as much as he has raved about quarterback Joe Flacco, he also knows how to attack him.
2. The Superdome is a familiar venue for the 49ers, who played in New Orleans every season from 1970 to 2001 and beat the Saints there this season. The 49ers know the surface, the sounds and the atmosphere that awaits them. The Superdome was the site of the franchise's fourth Super Bowl victory -- the 55-10 rout of the Denver Broncos, the most lopsided game in Super Bowl history.
3. The 49ers are favored, and they also are seeking redemption for a 2011 Thanksgiving night loss at Baltimore in which their highly acclaimed offensive line allowed nine sacks in a 16-6 defeat. Look for Jim Harbaugh to seize on that aspect, along with trying to defeat his brother, John. As Michael Crabtree said: "I'm sure when you're younger, you want to beat your brother. Why not now?"
Three matchups 49ers must win
1. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith is seeking to snap a five-game drought without a sack, and he'll most often have to get past 11-year veteran Bryant McKinnie. Smith will need to flash the burst that helped him rack up 19½ sacks in the first 13 games, and he'll need to find a route past the game's biggest body in Mount McKinnie (6 feet 8, 354 pounds).
2. Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman will need to neutralize one of the NFL's best fullbacks in Vonta Leach, who has been selected to the past three Pro Bowls. Overcoming Leach will go a long way to stopping Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Leach: "He's dominated some linebackers around the league, inside linebackers in particular. And we better be ready to take him on."
3. Tight end Vernon Davis' playoff prowess will be put to the test against linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Ray Lewis. Davis had a breakout game in the NFC championship against Atlanta, and the Ravens would be wise to take away those same underneath and intermediate routes. If the 49ers don't test those linebackers, the more perilous option is to have Davis run through a secondary featuring nine-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed.
Five key numbers
4 -- Of Colin Kaepernick's 101 incompletions this season, only four have been the result of an underthrown pass, though one came in the Superdome and resulted in a Saints interception Nov. 25.
15 -- The 49ers have 15 players who were first-round draft picks; the Ravens have eight. The 49ers are Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree, A.J. Jenkins, Ted Ginn Jr., Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner, Patrick Willis, Leonard Davis, Joe Staley, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Randy Moss, Vernon Davis, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith.
163 -- In their five Super Bowls, the 49ers threw 163 passes without an interception, including 122 from Joe Montana in his four victories (with 11 touchdown passes). Their touchdown to interception ratio is 17:0.
236 -- The 49ers have rushed for an average of 236 yards in their two postseason games. The only team with a better average (in at least two games) was the 1941 Chicago Bears (242.0 yards per game). The 49ers are averaging 6.6 yards per carry, including 11.2 by Kaepernick.
357.8 -- Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 357.8 passing yards in the 49ers' four playoff games under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who hasn't minded "as long as we come out on top."
Top 3 strengths
Run defense: NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are arguably the league's two best inside linebackers, and they'll combine with an outstanding supporting cast to try forcing the well-balanced Ravens into a pass-oriented mode.
Stat: The 49ers allowed only 94.2 rushing yards per game in the regular season; 92.5 per game through two playoff games.
Run offense: The 49ers' average of 236 rushing yards per game is a tribute to outstanding blocking and, of course, the talented trifecta of Frank Gore, LaMichael James and Colin Kaepernick. The pistol and read-option formations spark their production and keep them unpredictable.
Stat: The 49ers' 2,491 rushing yards in the regular season were the fourth-most in franchise history.
Ball protection: Rarely do the 49ers commit turnovers, and when they do, they typically respond with a touchdown drive, as has been the case after each of Kaepernick's four career interceptions.
Stat: Their 16 regular-season turnovers tied for the second-fewest in franchise history, behind only the 10 turnovers they had last season.
Top 3 weaknesses
Field-goal kicking: After setting NFL records last season by making 44 of 52 field goals, and opening this season with a record-tying 63-yarder at Green Bay, David Akers has struggled mightily. The 49ers brought in Billy Cundiff to challenge Akers before the playoffs, and Akers retained his job.
Stat: Akers has missed 14 of his past 38 field-goal attempts (a 64 percent conversion rate).
Sacking quarterbacks: How can this be a weakness when Aldon Smith set a franchise record with 19½ regular-season sacks? Because he has none in the past five games, and the 49ers' pass rush hasn't been the same since Justin Smith injured his left arm Dec. 16.
Stat: The 49ers have compiled only 12 sacks over their past seven games. They didn't sack Joe Flacco in their 2011 meeting.
Committing penalties: Communication issues resulted in Colin Kaepernick drawing two delay-of-game penalties in three road games: at New Orleans, Seattle and in the NFC final at Atlanta. Defensively, Dashon Goldson has been flagged five times for unnecessary roughness (once in the NFC title game) and twice for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Stat: Only one NFC team had more penalty yards than the 49ers (59.4 per game) this season. Then again, no team in the league had more than the Ravens (69.2 yards per game).
-- Cam Inman, Staff