While my predictions over the past NFL season were decidedly average or less than, I did fairly well when it came to games involving the San Francisco 49ers. It helped that I chose the 49ers to win most of the time, and usually they not only won but also covered. With Super Bowl XLVII drawing ever closer and the 49ers facing their toughest challenge yet in the similarly physical Baltimore Ravens, it’s time to look ahead and examine exactly what I think will occur.
It won’t surprise you that I’m predicting that the 49ers will win on Sunday. I thought they had a great chance to win the Super Bowl after falling just short last year, and I picked them to win the Super Bowl when we all made our selections before the playoffs.
I’m not taking the 49ers simply due to West Coast bias-related reasons. I also think the so-called distractions facing both teams this week equal out to a wash. Ray Lewis was reported to have used a banned substance to recover from his triceps injury and Joe Flacco used the word “retarded” in reference to playing the Super Bowl in a cold-weather city. Randy Moss explained why he believes he’s better than Jerry Rice, and we all know what happened with Chris Culliver.
In the end, talent and scheme will win out. And that’s partly why I’m choosing the 49ers to win.
— Six 49ers were named First Team All-Pro, while the Ravens only had one selection: kick returner Jacoby Jones. Three 49ers were named to the Second Team (four, if you count Justin Smith getting a nod at two position), while two Ravens made that list.
— In the 49ers’ first two playoff games, most observes gave the quarterbacking edge to Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, due to the impressive resumes of each player. While Flacco has played very well this postseason, there’s nothing to suggest he is better than Colin Kaepernick.
— With Harbaughs leading both teams, the coaching matchup would appear to be even. The 49ers have enjoyed more continuity, with the Ravens replacing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with Jim Caldwell before the playoffs, but we can only assume that both staffs are up to the challenge of preparing their respective teams.
Better players with more time to prepare usually mean good things, and statistically the 49ers have played better in every phase of the game besides field goal kicking and kick returning. They also have the best offensive line and front seven in the game, which generally bodes well.
The people who are picking the Ravens to win — and there are many — seem to be swayed by Baltimore’s inspirational playoff run. They shut down Indianapolis, then won a thriller in Denver. Then they crushed the Patriots in Foxborough, holding New England to 13 points.
Impressive? Sure. But people are forgetting that the AFC is the lesser conference, and has been for quite some time.
If I can switch sports for a minute, this reminds me of the San Francisco Giants’ title runs in 2010 and 2012. Most people chose the Rangers and Tigers to win those series, because the American League was widely considered to be superior to the National League for years. That may have been true in 2004, but it certainly hasn’t been true over the last three seasons.
The same is true in the NFL, where the NFC has been the superior conference since 2010. That held true this year. The Texans didn’t defeat a good team all season. The Broncos, even with Peyton Manning playing like an MVP, were not as good as their 13-3 record. The Patriots showed flashes of brilliance, but were nowhere near as dangerous as perceived after losing Rob Gronkowski. On the other hand, the Packers, Falcons and Seahawks were all extremely good teams. The New York Giants didn’t even make the playoffs. The 49ers didn’t “beat the odds” like the Ravens to get to New Orleans, but they defeated better teams.
49ers 21, Ravens 16
Defense will rule the day, and the 49ers know what they need to do: prevent Dennis Pitta, Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice from converting third downs in the middle of the field while preventing the big play from Torrey Smith and/or Jacoby Jones on the outside. The last time these teams played was a fierce defensive battle. While I don’t envision a high scoring game on Sunday, there are several reasons (Kaepernick, Alex Boone instead of Chilo Rachal, an improved Michael Crabtree) to believe that the 49ers’ offense can score a few touchdowns this time.
Today is your last chance to enter to win one of TWO 20-PERSON PIZZA PARTIES FROM AMICI’S EAST COAST PIZZERIA FOR SUPER BOWL SUNDAY.
We’ve been asking you to comment. Once you comment on one of the contest posts, you’re entered. I’ll randomly select two winners tomorrow (Friday).
Today’s final contest question is…
Who do you think will win the Super Bowl, and why?
If you’d like to include a score, by all means. And feel free to comment on the other three contest posts to increase your chances (you can enter to win a pizza party once per post, but you can comment as much you like).