As excited as I am for baseball season to start, I’m equally excited that I get to discuss football for one more week! Next week I’ll get back to baseball but for now, let’s look at the Super Bowl.
This year’s Super Bowl features the NFC’s #2 seed (San Francisco 49ers) vs. the AFC’s #4 seed (Baltimore Ravens) and will be played in New Orleans, Louisiana on Sunday. Interestingly, the two teams that are playing in the Super Bowl are coached by brothers for the first time in NFL history – the Ravens are coached by older brother John Harbaugh while the 49ers are coached by little bro Jim Harbaugh.
While the male population is excited about the game itself, I have heard from numerous sources that the female population is more excited about Beyoncé’s performance at halftime (and that maybe Jay-Z will show up!) – which, don’t get me wrong, should be very entertaining, but I’m more excited for the football.
Ravens (+3.5) vs. 49ers (-3.5)
The Case for the Ravens – Both of these teams are riding some momentum, but nobody expected Baltimore to ever reach the Super Bowl so they have a little bit of the “Nobody Believes in Us” factor (a la the 2012 Giants, 2010 Saints, and 2007 Giants) which seems to help teams. Their offense has really caught fire during the playoffs and quarterback Joe Flacco has proven himself to be one of the premier play callers in the league. Defensively, they are captained by Ray Lewis who I discussed a couple of weeks ago and I think he is a big advantage and a major reason why the Ravens made it this far.
The Case for the 49ers – The 49ers are a great team and play with the confidence that a great team should play with. Furthermore, coach John Harbaugh knows his players and gets the most out of them on every single play, so I don’t expect them to take any plays off. Rookie sensation Colin Kaepernick has led an electric 49ers offense through the playoffs after starting the final 7 games of the season. The defense is anchored by Pro-Bowler Patrick Willis and was second in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game.
I’ve already decided who I’m picking, but I’m going to break this down a little further before all of my readers head to Vegas to place their bets.
Overall Offense – Both of these teams can stretch the field, but because Colin Kaepernick can beat you with his arm and his legs and they have multiple weapons at RB and WR, the edge goes to the 49ers.
Quarterback – All of the weapons surrounding him on top of his running ability are what make Kaepernick so terrifying, but if there is only 2 minutes left in the game and you need to drive the length of the field, who would you rather have? I’d rather have an experienced Joe Flacco than a rookie. Plus, Flacco has been playing lights-out all postseason. Edge goes to Baltimore.
Running Back – Frank Gore has finally stayed healthy and proven why he remains one of the premier backs in the league. And with LaMichael James getting his fair share of touches, what’s not to love? Edge goes to the 49ers.
Defense – Both of these teams boast fantastic defenses and they are pretty evenly matched, but because of the matchup with the Ravens’ offense, I’ve got to give the edge to the 49ers.
Special Teams – Football Outsiders has ranked Baltimore as the #1 special teams unit in the NFL, and has San Francisco all the way down at #20. When the whole season comes down to one game, and that game could come down to one play, special teams are huge. Ravens get the edge.
Intangibles – I’m not messing with Ray Lewis’ mojo. (but SNL is – have you seen the sketch they did last week? Check it out, it’s pretty hilarious). Edge: Baltimore.
The Pick: I’m taking Baltimore +3.5. Statistically, I think the 49ers are a little bit better but I’m not betting against Ray Lewis in the last game of his professional career.
I’m only 21 years old so Ray Lewis has been a staple of the NFL for virtually every season I’ve followed professional football and it’s a little bittersweet to see this era come to an end. Regardless of how this game turns out, it’s been a pleasure to watch him compete and show everyone what it really means to give it everything you have and leave it all on the field. Even if you aren’t a big fan of Ray or the Ravens, you can’t argue that he hasn’t appropriately personified competitiveness in an era where many of our athletes aren’t great role models and been a great example countless kids tackling their dads in the backyard.
Thanks for everything, Ray.