Well it seems as if everybody else has made a prediction for Super Bowl XLVII, so why not me? So for the sake of this article, call me “The Swami”. No, really! Seriously. STOP LAUGHING!!!!
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the winning coach’s last name will be Harbaugh. OK so it’s more like a popsicle stick than a limb.
In all seriousness, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are almost mirror images of each other. So much so that this sets up to be one of the most physical Super Bowls ever played. Both teams get after the QB and are very opportunistic when it comes to creating turnovers (and there is no way I’m going to give you the cliche’ line about winning the turnover battle…DUH!). Both defenses have the ability to get to the QB with just their front four; leaving more helmets underneath for pass coverage. Lastly, neither are particularly consistent in stopping the run but get stingy when it matters most. Both offenses have a big, athletic, physical front which are able to protect the QBs and open up holes in the running game. That said, both teams have been able to run the ball with a measure of success.
“What is going to be the difference in this game?” you ask. Good question! Aside from the aforementioned turnover battle, I think this game is going to be decided by the “French” Quarterbacks (see what I did there?) and special teams.
Quarterbacks: The styles of the two signal callers, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick are stark. Flacco is a big, strong, upright pocket passer with a big arm who is able to keep plays alive by shrugging off would-be tacklers. Kaepernick, also pretty big and strong can beat you from the pocket or pulling the ball down and taking off with it. Flacco has not thrown an interception since Week 15 against the Denver Broncos. New offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell has taken the chains off and has allowed him to use that big arm to unleash a dangerous vertical passing game. In three playoff games, Flacco has 8 TD passes and no INTs. That kind of ball protection will force the 49ers to make the most of their offensive possessions. Kaepernick led the Niners to wins in their two playoff games in two different fashions. Against the Green Bay Packers, he rushed for a QB playoff record 181 yards and 2 TDs. The following week agains the Atlanta Falcons, he stayed in the pocket and threw for 233 yds with 1 TD. I think both have the physical traits to lead their respective teams to the championship. Thus, whichever QB handles the big moment with more poise probably wins this thing.
Special Teams: This is where Harbaugh paved his path to a head coaching job…oh yeah, John Harbaugh that is. Despite giving up a record 256 return yards and 2 TDs to Denver’s Trindan Holliday in the divisional round, the Ravens’ special teams are usually very reliable. There are many times when they are down-right explosive. Jacoby Jones is arguably the best KR/PR in the NFL and is always a threat to break one for a quick score. If this game comes down to a field goal, Justin Tucker has shown that he is one of the most accurate kickers in this, his rookie season. As for the Niners, they have a game-breaking return man of their own in Ted Ginn, Jr. As you may recall it was a serious case of Fumblitis by the PRs in the 2011 NFC title game that kept San Fran out of Super Bowl XLVI. One would think that this will not enter the minds of Ginn and/or Delanie Walker, but the mind can reek havoc. As for the kicking game, the once reliable David Akers has mysteriously come down with a case of Cundiff-itis.
So in my final analysis I think the 49ers are a more attractive pick on paper; an opinion which is supported by the Las Vegas oddsmakers. However as we painfully found out on January 12th, this game is not played on paper. As the Maryland locals and media like to proclaim, the Ravens do seem like they are a “Team of Destiny”. That said: Baltimore 27, San Francisco 24
Bonus prediction: MVP – Joe Flacco