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Super Bowl 2013: Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis lead a linebacker-driven league

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Super Bowl XLVII will feature two hard-nosed football teams with great linebacking crops, while the "elite" quarterbacks watch from home.


If you're an NFL fan that appreciates great defensive play, you probably could not be more excited for Super Bowl XLVII. Who doesn't love some hard-hitting, in-the-trenches football? This is what kind of game this is setting up to be.

Most exist under the belief that this is a quarterback-driven league and whoever can score the most points will be in the Super Bowl. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are showing us that defense still wins championships.

At their core, these two teams have arguably the No. 1 and 2 best linebacker units in the league. These are physical teams that are defined by the downhill style of play from their LBs.

Baltimore: Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger

Lewis has anchored this Ravens linebacker unit for nearly two decades. Though the pieces around him have changed over the years, he has been the one constant. He keeps this group fiery and passionate, and it shows on the field.

They get a great edge rush from Suggs and Kruger. They are also big, stocky linebackers that set the edge and stop the run with great efficiency. Ellerbe has also been a solid tackler, working well in the box. This will be the best linebacking corps the 49ers have faced all season.

San Francisco: Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks

Willis was drafted in 2007 and hit the ground running. He established the foundation of this defense with Justin Smith, and they have since built around that. Brooks and Bowman were inserted, replacing Manny Lawson and Takeo Spikes. And then Smith came along to play rush linebacker.

It's All-Pros and Pro Bowlers across the board for the San Francisco linebacking corps. They can rush the passer, stop the run and cover the tight ends better than most teams.

Though, it is a little strange that the quarterbacks in this year's Super Bowl are Joe Flacco and a second-year player that doesn't even have double-digit starts. All the while, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers will be watching the game from the comfort of their couches.

The identity of the teams competing for the Lombardi Trophy this year are unlike some recent title winners. Since 2002, the Giants (E. Manning), Packers (A. Rodgers), Saints (D. Brees), Colts (P. Manning), Patriots (T. Brady) have accounted for 8 the last Super Bowl championships.

Only the Steelers, Buccaneers and Ravens have had strong enough defenses -- led by their linebackers -- to go against the grain.

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