(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)
We are just a couple days away now from Super Bowl 47 between the Ravens and the 49ers, and storylines abound, from the basic football stuff (San Francisco’s college-style offense), to the downright weird (Chris Culver’s homophobia and Ray Lewis’s deer antler P.E.D.’s). Oh, and the coaches are bro…never mind.
Anyway, please join me for a fresh batch of Super Bowl predictions plus a quick game preview, and when you're done, you can tell us who you're rooting for in the comments, if you like.
Baltimore’s path to the big game came at the expense of straight long-time nemeses: Indianapolis, who they had never defeated in the postseason and rarely beaten at all, Peyton Manning, who they beat in overtime in Denver, and, of course, New England, against which the Ravens were 2-7 all-time, including a divisional round playoff loss last year.
The Ravens also have a strong team of destiny vibe because of Ray Lewis, who returned from a triceps injury just in time for the playoffs, then announced that he would be retiring after the season. What followed was a misty-eyed media, reminiscing on Lewis’s Hall of Fame-worthy career. We saw impressive, inspired play from his teammates, and several hours’ worth of tribute videos at M & T Bank Stadium. From Lewis himself, there was a great deal of emotion, dancing, and inspiring speeches, more so than usual, anyway.
On offense, Baltimore is riding high behind the strong-armed Joe Flacco, who is averaging 284 yards per game and a QB rating of 116 in the playoffs with no interceptions, despite only completing 54% of his passes. Flacco’s offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell, a former defensive back, brings a unique perspective to running an offense, and he and Flacco have been finding ways to beat defenses since the former Colts coach arrived in Baltimore.
For all of the Ravens’ win-one-for-Ray mojo, there remains a very talented team standing in their way. The 49ers lead Baltimore in total offense, total defense, scoring defense, and most conventional statistical categories. On offense, San Francisco has averaged 476 yards and 36.5 points in two playoff games with QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Frank Gore leading the way in a read option attack.
On defense, former Indianapolis DC Vic Fangio’s unit has been nothing short of stellar all season, allowing just 17.5 points per game, pulverizing opponents’ rushing attacks, and allowing just a 33% third down conversion rate.
Former Colt Jim Harbaugh has molded the 49ers in his hard-nosed, never quit image. In Baltimore, the team follows the lead, for one more game at least, of Ray Lewis. San Francisco looks like the better team going in, but the Ravens are no slouches. While Baltimore’s defense hasn’t been as good statistically this year as in the past, both teams are still known for and defined by their aggressive defense. Both units will likely have their moments on Sunday, but their aggressive style puts both teams at risk of giving up big plays.
The game could come down to which team plays better on offense. Will it be San Francisco’s quick passes and option runs or Baltimore’s power running, pro-style attack? Here’s what our staff had to say:
Nate Dunlevy: 49ers. I love Jimmy Harbaugh too much to be objective about this.
Lou Pin: San Francisco – because no team with a name ending with "orty niners" has ever lost a Superbowl, and John's never been able to one-up Jim.
Greg Cowan: If I were Al Michaels and I were secretly not-so-secretly betting on this game, I would bet on the Ravens. My reasoning is simple. My crazy dad predicted, back in week 17.5 (the week between the end of the season and the first playoff game) that the NFL was, "going to give the Ravens the Jerome Bettis treatment" and make sure Ray Lewis got the year he announced his retirement. Crazy Dad is batting 100% so far, so I'm going all in with Crazy Dad Theory.
Scott Kacsmar: Ravens 23-20. It doesn't get much worse for a fan of the Steelers. Either the Ravens win a Super Bowl, or the 49ers tie with their sixth Lombardi.
Kyle Rodriguez: Ravens. Because deer antler spray.
Josh Boeke: I'm taking San Francisco. Homophobic cornerbacks aside, I just think San Francisco is the better team. Baltimore was perhaps the weakest regular season team to make the playoffs this side of the Colts, and while having their offensive line back healthy and getting high level, mistake free football out of Joe Flacco has propelled them to an unlikely Super Bowl bid, I still believe they have some serious flaws on that defense and despite his stellar play Flacco didn't morph into Tom Brady over night. I expect the Ravens run of mistake free football to end in New Orleans, Flacco throws a couple picks and the 49ers rush for 200+ yards. Personally I don't think it's that close.
49ers 31 – Ravens 10
Olly Dawes: Ravens – Ray's Rigged Run takes them all the way to glory and we have to watch the vomit inducing sight of Ray dancing FOR THE LAST EVER TIME.
Todd Smith: I gave up on making picks throughout the year, as it was just sad. This week I'll toss my hat in the ring and take Harbaugh's team. Putting all of the money in the Colts Authority piggy bank on it too.
Marcus Lee Dugan: This morning, Ray Lewis got out of bed, ate breakfast, and wept in triumph. Afterward, he gave an inspiring speech to his teammates, coaches, and a guy he met at the hotel. (It’s for the joke, I do respect Lewis. He’s heck of a player)
While I have a nagging feeling that this is the Ravens’ year, I will not be dissuaded. The 49ers are the better team, and, even if they weren’t, I am a Jim Harbaugh fan. I have been for 19 years. What he did for this franchise and fan base when it looked like the Colts might never become a winner was immeasurable. I liked him as a plucky underdog in Indy, and as a college coach, bringing two football programs back to life. It’s time for Jimmy Harbaugh to get his Super Bowl ring as an NFL coach.
‘Niners, baby. 27-24.
(Mmmm…Super Bowl meme image)
Have a great Super Bowl weekend. Stay safe and enjoy the game. I have a feeling this will be another great one.
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