Super Bowl Picks

The Baltimore Ravens victory over the New England Patriots last Sunday is nothing less than an extraordinary accomplishment on a number of levels. Baltimore defeated the best playoff quarterback of our generation in a building where he had lost just three games in 14 playoff appearances.

By overcoming a 13-7 first-half deficit, the Ravens were the first team ever to beat Tom Brady in Foxboro after trailing at the half. Perhaps most astonishing, Ray Lewis once again stared football mortality in the eyes before fending it off for one last ride.

But Lewis cannot prolong his impending retirement any longer. Super Bowl XLVII will be Lewis last game, and he wouldnt have it any other way.

The matchup between the Ravens and the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers is on paper as good a matchup as any sports fan could ever hope for in a Super Bowl.

The 49ers and Ravens both ranked in the top five in points scored and yards per game during the regular season. Both teams also have defenses that ranked in the top 10 during the regular season, when looking at both total yardage allowed and points allowed per game.

Besides the statistical comparisons, the intrigue and storylines of these two teams are abundant. The coaches of each team are brothers, the 49ers are led by an out-of-nowhere rookie who is redefining the quarterback position, and the Ravens are trying to secure a Lombardi Trophy for the most important player in their franchises history.

Fittingly, one of the keys of this game will actually be how well Lewis can play. Obviously the leader of the defense always needs to play well, but the read option attack of San Francisco will put particular pressure on the front seven of Baltimore.

Interestingly, the Ravens faced a similar read option scheme when they lost to Washington in week 14. While Redskins running back Alfred Morris racked up nearly 130 yards on the ground against the Ravens defense, rookie sensation Robert Griffin III was held to just 34 yards of rushing in that contest before being knocked out with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.

I think Kaepernick and the 49ers will have their moments against the Ravens defense, but I also think that two weeks of prep and practice will give Baltimore the necessary time to formulate a defensive game-plan that can mitigate the big-play potential of San Francisco.

Furthermore, even if Kaepernick can pierce through Baltimores front seven, the Ravens secondary can be counted on to make punishing hits on ball carriers in the open field. We can be certain that if Kaepernick chooses to keep out of the read option, Baltimore will make him pay a steep price.

What this game may come down to is not San Franciscos quarterback but Baltimores. In reaching the Super Bowl, Joe Flacco has gone up against and defeated Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Two out of those three individuals are first-ballot hall of famers and the other is arguably the future of the position. But amazingly Flacco dramatically outplayed them all. He has simply been elite throwing for eight touchdowns and zero interceptions this postseason, while averaging 284 yards per game. As good as Kaepernick has been playing, Flacco has been better. And when you look at how the Atlanta passing game picked apart the 49ers secondary with passes of 20 yards or more last week, you have to think deep threat Torrey Smith will be chomping at the bit to do the same.

As of Monday evening, the 49ers were a five-point favorite over the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, and I totally understand and respect why this is the case. But the Ravens have pieces both tangible and intangible that are difficult to overlook. The defense has the speed to contain the read option of San Francisco, Joe Flacco has the opportunity to solidify himself as an elite quarterback in the national football league, and Ray Lewis has the chance to write the best possible conclusion to what has been one of the most dominant defensive careers of all time.

The 49ers will be a team that is expected to reach the Super Bow every season for many years to come. Baltimore cannot say the same; the window for a Super Bowl is closing and closing fast. This game will be an absolute dog fight, but dog fights are the type of game that Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens thrive in. Expect the same one last time.

The Picks:

Baltimore: Will and Josh

San Francisco: Jake,
Jeremy and Colin