The time has come. After a week off and enough media coverage to wear on even the most avid football fan, the Super Bowl is finally a day away. As if you didn’t know by now, the AFC Champion Baltimore Ravens will take on the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Ravens earned their trip to the Super Bowl by defeating the New England Patriots 28-13. The 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 to punch their ticket for New Orleans.
The Ravens enter this game on an incredible hot streak. After finishing the regular season as losers in four of their last five games, the Ravens began their playoff run by defeating the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 in a home wildcard game. It was the first game of the season that the Ravens defense saw Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ed Reed on the field at the same time and it showed. The defense was staring to gel.
The Ravens then traveled to Denver and avenged an earlier loss to the Broncos 38-35 in double overtime. If not for two special teams touchdowns by the Broncos, the Ravens would have closed this game out in regulation. Instead, they needed a 70 yard Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones touchdown to force overtime. The defense stepped up big with an interception leading to the game winning field goal. This win was further evidence of both an offense and defense coming together at the right time. It was a big change from the 34-17 week 15 home loss.
In the AFC Championship, the Ravens hammered the Patriots. Their defense shutdown the NFL’s top offense while Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin connected twice on touchdowns. The Ravens team is peaking and it is thanks to a healthy offense and defense finally getting to play together. Also, do not underestimate the power of rallying around Ray Lewis. After announcing his retirement effective at the end of the season, the Ravens have circled the wagons and helped take their emotional leader, the heart and soul of their team, back to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers enter this game as the most complete team in football. Since inserting Colin Kaepernick in as starting quarterback, the 49ers are 7-2. In the regular season, they ranked 11th in total offense and third in total defense. Of course, the offensive ranking would be much higher if Kaepernick had been running the offense all season. In the regular season, Kaepernick threw for 1,814 yards and 10 touchdowns against three interceptions. More importantly, he ran for 415 yards and five touchdowns.
The 49ers had a bye during wild card weekend. In the divisional round, the 49ers crushed the Green Bay Packers 45-31. The 49ers defense held an explosive Packers offense in check. If not for a last minute touchdown, the 49ers dominance would have been evident in the final score. Kaepernick caused all kinds of problems for the Packers as he threw for 263 yards and ran for 181 yards. Running back Frank Gore also ran for 119 yards. It was pure dominance on both sides of the ball.
In the NFC Championship, the 49ers rallied to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24. Down 24-14 at the half, the 49ers Super Bowl hopes looked to be over. Not so fast. Their defense shutout the high powered Falcons offense in the second half. The offense did its job by scoring two downs on two solid drives.
So, who is going to win? On paper, the 49ers have more talent on both sides of the ball. Specifically, their offensive and defensive lines hold slight advantages. Their pistol offense still appears to be indefensible. It gives so many different formations and will cause matchup problems for the Ravens. If Kaepernick is making the correct decisions, you are either looking at a four yard run by Gore or a potential long run by Kaepernick. It is no wonder Vegas has the 49ers as solid favorites.
My head says to take the 49ers. They are younger, have more talent, and are playing an offense that I am not sure the Ravens can stop. My heart says to take the Ravens. They are hot and playing for Ray Lewis. Flacco has been on fire since Jim Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator. The Ravens seem to be a team of destiny.
Despite what my head is telling me, I am going to go with the Ravens. I am not totally sure how they will do it. Maybe the big game is too much for Kaepernick who is making only his tenth start. Maybe Flacco continues his remarkable postseason run that has seen him throw for eight touchdowns against zero interceptions. Maybe the 49ers play tight while the Ravens play loose. I don’t know. All I know is that the Ravens are inspired. They are playing for Ray Lewis. They seem to be a team of destiny and who am I to go against that? The Ravens pull off the upset and send Lewis into the sunset with the Lombardi trophy.
Ravens 27 49ers 21