So, I’ve basically had my mind made up since this matchup was set almost two weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been working to get my mind and my gut on the same page. Now that they are, I’m going to write that process out for you in this post.
First, let’s just put it out there. When the clock hits :00, the Ravens are going to be raising the Lombardi Trophy. Baltimore 32, San Francisco 27. There you have it. For those of you that were just looking for the pick, you’re welcome, and we’ll see you later. For the rest of you that want to know why the Ravens are going to be walking out of New Orleans as the champions of Super Bowl XLVII, buckle up, and let’s go for a ride.
Last week I profiled the two quarterbacks in this matchup and explained why, despite how much more dangerous and athletic Colin Kaepernick is, I’d rather have Joe Flacco under center. Just as a reminder, Flacco is three TDs sky of tying Joe Montana’s postseason record of 11 TDs with zero interceptions. And given his postseason-leading 114.7 QB rating, I’m taking the hot hand.
Aside from their signal caller, I’m giving the nod to the Ravens’ receiving corps. I’ll take Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and Jacoby Jones all day over Randy Moss (even though he thinks he’s the best receiver to ever play the game), Mario Manningham, and Michael Crabtree. Let’s look at some statistics, since they never do lie.
San Francisco 49ers
|Top 3, Receptions||175||168|
|Top 3, Receiving Yards||2,445||2,103|
|Top 3, Receiving TDs||19||15|
|Total Fumbles Lost||0||2|
Beyond the yards and TDs, this group flat out takes care of the ball. That’ll be big in a game that’s going to be close. And they’ve got speed on them as well. San Fran’s corners are going to face their biggest test of the season trying to keep Smith and Jones in front of them.
At running back, it’s a toss-up. Ray Rice and Frank Gore are both incredibly talented. If I had to pick who has the bigger game, I’d probably say Gore, due to the attention that the Ravens are going to pay on Kaepernick and keeping him contained. Still, I don’t think it’s going to be enough to keep up with Baltimore’s big-play ability
For all of the talk about the Ravens defense being old, the 49ers aren’t so full of youth themselves. In fact, they’re older than the Ravens according to this site Baltimore, the 24th oldest defense in the league (average age of 26.5) sits one spot ahead of the 49ers (26.67). While the Ravens do have more men over 30 (7 vs. 4) and more players with 10+ years of experience (5 to 2), they do have more rookies (6 to 4) and more men in general on the defensive side of the field (35 to 28). And you know what? Having more “old guys” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means more veterans to lead this team.
Guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed (probably the last time we see either of them on a football field in pads) that have been here, they can provide guidance and support for the younger players and set an example for others to follow. Talk all the hate you want, but that’s just how those men are regarded, and that’s why they’re both Canton-bound.
The key is going to be how they–the Ravens–handle the 49ers option game. Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee are going to be asked to do a lot on that front. How well they are able to get upfield and pick up on which direction the ball is going, will determine what type of night Baltimore is going to have.
I think they’ll do fine along with the rest of the defense and the offense. Baltimore has a lot to play for heading into Sunday–not to say that San Fran doesn’t–with this being Lewis’s “last-ride,” their long time owner, Art Modell, passed away earlier this year, Torrey Smith is still playing with a heavy heart after the passing of his brother, it could be Ed Reed’s last go ’round, OJ Brigance. The list could go on. There’s just so much. Too much. And when you add it all up, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going to equal a Baltimore Super Bowl victory.