Well… here we are.
The Super Bowl.
The entire season has come down to this one game in the Louisiana Superdome with everything on the line. A season of trials, tribulations, heartache, success, injury, and bionic-man Adrian Peterson. If you’re not a Baltimore or San Francisco fan you may even be shedding a tear right now… or you are already looking at the NFL Draft with hope for next year. No matter where you sit in the grand scheme of the football world… this game means something, even if it’s just the commercials.
But you already know all of this, so let’s get to the game.
So, by now I’m sure you have heard of all the storylines heading into Sunday’s game. There is Ray Lewis and the questions surrounding PED use, the ongoing backpedalling of 49ers CB Chris Culliver after he said homosexual players would not be welcomed in the team locker room, the numerous reactions to those comments on both sides and elsewhere, 49ers WR Randy Moss making a motion at the “Greatest Wide Receiver of All-Time” title, QB Alex Smith saying he wants to play elsewhere next season, Ravens S Ed Reed preparing for possibly his last game as a Raven and obviously Ravens LB Ray Lewis preparing for his final football game… ever. Oh and its the “Harbaugh-Bowl” with brothers, Jim and John coaching against one another.
And that’s just a few of the many storylines… Did you follow all that?
While some stories are relevant to Sunday’s game, most are not, so I may revisit those and provide my two-sense at a later time. Until then, I want to dive into the real stories of the Super Bowl.
Ok, so maybe these are things that only interest me, but this is the final game of the season after all. We might as well have a little fun before the dark clouds of the offseason roll in masking all happiness until April’s NFL Draft and then again in the proceeding months until August training camps when it starts all over again.
So let’s begin with San Francisco. On the football field they got here with a great defense, a power run game and the late-season emergence of QB Colin Kaepernick who took over the starting spot from former first overall pick, Alex Smith. Off the field, there is another power at work.
The Bud Light commercial.
I’m sure you have seen this, but in case you haven’t, check out the video below. The premise is that there is a man who is visiting the household of complete strangers simply because he used to live there and sit on the couch in the exact same spot for every game the 49ers played as they went on to win the Super Bowl. This commercial is new to this season and, while it obviously has no correlation to the game at all, it is a little odd to watch every week as the 49ers continue to move closer and closer to a Championship as “virtual commercial 49er fan” sits in the exact same spot.
Am I the only one who thinks so?
Yeah, I thought so…
For you Ravens fans out there, there is a similar phenomenon out there. Ray Lewis announced heading into the playoffs he was retiring, but some may not know that he actually is featured on the newest Madden game (Madden 13). He actually makes more appearances than cover-athlete, Lions WR Calvin Johnson. Lewis has an opening scene where he talks, as only Lewis can, about leaving a legacy and proving people wrong.
This was before the season began and now he sits on the doorstep, ready to cement his legacy among the greats he references in the Madden introduction. The video is below.
There is actually another one recently uploaded by EA Sports on YouTube of a longer version. For your viewing pleasure…
Now do I honestly think that these videos had anything to do with their respective teams success?
Not at all.
But what’s the harm in revisiting some of the odd correlations that are made throughout a football season? Plus, I still think it’s pretty interesting to look at.
Still just me who thinks it’s interesting? Ok… that’s fine.
As for other videos and such, how about some other predictions. Speaking of Madden 13 above, they made their prediction. While this is just a video game, Madden predictions going back to 2004 have actually been correct seven of nine times, only missing in 2008 and 2011 when Madden thought New England would go 19-0 beating the Giants and Pittsburgh would beat Green Bay, respectively. Here is the Madden 13 pick below.
Madden thinks Baltimore wins on a late inception by Ed Reed as the 49ers drive down the field. For an added bonus, here is the “Tecmo Super Bowl” Super Bowl 47 Prediction…
Tecmo is more on the 49ers’ bandwagon. So, now that I have completely overwhelmed you with an odd combination of YouTube videos and predictions made by video games, let’s get into the football.
I picked 1-1 in the Conference Championship games. I honestly thought Atlanta would have the home-field advantage and the talent at receiver, primarily, to pull off the win and, honestly, they looked like they had it during the first half, but the inability to move the ball and slow down San Fran’s rushing attack (and cover TE Vernon Davis) ultimately doomed them. If you’re keeping count, I have incorrectly picked against the 49ers every single game this post season.
I did correctly call the Baltimore @ New England game. I said in the prediction that Baltimore would need to hope Patriots QB Tom Brady was a little off and that Ravens QB Joe Flacco outplayed him. I thought both would occur and it just so happened that it did, saving myself a little during Conference Championship weekend. If you’re keeping track with Baltimore, I have picked the Ravens twice during their Super Bowl run. I missed when they travelled to Denver during the Divisional playoff week.
Sunday, 2/3 – 6:30 pm ET – Louisiana Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Baltimore Ravens 10-6 @ San Francisco 49ers 11-4-1
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens, 28-23
Yeah, I’m trying the score prediction thing again and picking Baltimore in the “upset”. Baltimore isn’t really the underdog… well… technically they are, but they are here because they have demonstrated through their playoff push that they are one of the top two teams in the league. As for the score, there is more that follows on that.
Who are they?
San Francisco is an incredible team. As I mentioned before, they have talent on both sides of the ball and they are a sound and smart football team with a heck of a coach in Jim Harbaugh. On offense, they have found an identity with QB Colin Kaepernick running the show. Since taking over for Alex Smith, the 49ers offense has been a fluid machine. His ability to throw the ball accurately and on-time makes his incredible athleticism all the more terrifying. The biggest knock on him? He only has nine starts under his belt. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the 10th start is going to be a bad one, it just means he is still young and must perform on the biggest stage. Still, Kaepernick has the ability to simply take over the game if he gets space.
San Francisco is built around the run. Whether it is Kaepernick on the read-option with All-Pro RB Frank Gore, or just Gore out of the power formations, the 49ers can move opposing defenses and have done just that in key situations. Against Atlanta, the game turned in San Fran’s favor when they went to pounding the ball on the ground.
The passing attack is certainly a threat – you don’t get to this point by being one-dimensional – but it has to be considered the lesser of two evils compared to the run game. The main receiver to watch is Michael Crabtree and then there is obviously TE Vernon Davis, who made a lot of noise last week with a big game at Atlanta. Randy Moss is still a factor even at his old age, but he isn’t the threat he once was.
Defensively, San Francisco is built tough and they can bring most any offense to a standstill. The defensive front subs in multiple playmakers including DE Justin Smith, who is one of the best at his position and DE/OLB Aldon Smith, who is a premier pass rusher looking for his first sack in five games. The linebacking core is the best in the league with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman being two of the best in the league. The secondary is very effective, but this is what I would have to consider the “weakness” if there is one on this defense.
Baltimore sports a hot offense with Flacco playing the best football he has ever played. He is coming off consecutive games where he outplayed Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road and has yet to throw an interception during the playoffs. All his stats can be found here…
The Ravens changed Offensive Coordinators towards the end of the Regular Season when they replaced Cam Cameron with Jim Caldwell. Prior to Caldwell, the Ravens offense struggled to utilize perhaps their best weapon in RB Ray Rice. Now that Caldwell is calling the shots, Rice has been a key element of the Ravens offense making them very difficult to contain.
Also factoring into Baltimore’s offensive firepower are receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. Boldin and Smith have taken over the past couple games and are a huge reason why Flacco has been so sharp this postseason.
Defensively, it is a little hard to put context on the Ravens. First of all, they aren’t what they used to be. Ok, so I’ve said that countless times this season, but it is true. The heart and soul of this defense is LB Ray Lewis, who is still a solid player, but doesn’t seem capable of taking over games as he did in his prime. Ed Reed is in the same boat. He still has a lot of ability and I personally think both of these players will play very well, but on paper, Baltimore’s stars defensively aren’t what they used to be. Baltimore has struggled at times getting to the quarterback and at one point looked very exposed in the secondary, but since the playoffs began, the secondary has really shored up and played very well. This will be key in slowing down the 49ers’ high-powered offense.
I like Baltimore. There has been a lot of talk all week about how hard it will be to stop Kaepernick. By no means do I think it will be easy, but I do know that the Ravens have seen an offense like this when they lost at Washington against the “Robert Griffin III led” Redskins. Losing that game is almost more beneficial to Baltimore because it demonstrates flaws, which can be corrected the second time around. I also think Baltimore’s defense is much better than Atlanta’s, which successfully shut down the 49ers early in the game only two weeks ago. Kaepernick will have his moments, but I just think there is something about this Ravens team defensively that keeps him in check.
As for Baltimore offensively, I think Flacco will continue to play well. With Ray Rice in the equation again, the Ravens offense is no longer one-dimensional, which seems to be benefitting Flacco. I’m also not too concerned about Rice running against the 49ers’ defense because the 49ers’ 3-4 defense should remind Baltimore of Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense, and after butting heads with them and their top-five defense for years, I can only imagine they have a plan. I also think Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin will be just too much for the 49ers’ secondary. Don’t get me wrong… this will be close, but I think Baltimore has just enough more to put up points.
Speaking of the game being close…
My wildcard factor here is the special teams. Baltimore has returner Jacoby Jones, who is incredibly dangerous. I wouldn’t be surprised if he changes field position on at least one occasion just when they need it. More importantly though, Baltimore has kicker Justin Tucker, who is a rookie, but has played like anything but. He has been fantastic this season and momentum is everything for a kicker. San Francisco kicker, David Akers, isn’t in as good of a situation. Akers has been incredibly unreliable this season even missing one in Atlanta a couple weeks ago. Remember that score I gave? 28-23, Ravens? I think Akers misses a kick somewhere in the middle to late part of the game, which ultimately means San Francisco is looking for a touchdown on a late drive. Then I think that drive ends in a Kaepernick turnover finishing the game.
This looks to be a great game. I see two teams who have enough offense to put up points and enough defense to force mistakes. I think special teams will be the difference and when you add that all up, I think Ray Lewis gets his second Super Bowl ring as the Ravens pull off the win.