After a long and exiting NFL season full of surprises, it all comes to an end Sunday evening live from the New Orleans Superdome. Ray Lewis’ last football game, last pre-game dance occurs in a battle of brothers, Jim vs. John Harbaugh. The storylines are written, all that’s left is the playing of the football game, and as we’ve done all season for you here at the Sports Geek, we’ll try and come up with another winner for you loyal readers.
After last season’s heartbreak in the AFC Championship game, it’s been anything but easy for the Baltimore Ravens to get to this game. The Ravens had to beat both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on the road for the honour to take on the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, and are ready for anything in their final game of the season. Their defense has been eviscerated by media pundits throughout the season but has rebounded nicely in the post-season. This is a veteran group that has been here before, and won’t be fazed by the hype surrounding this contest. Though they’ve got a wealth of players who are banged up and battling injuries, it’s no different from what the 49ers are going through. Their only key loss took place earlier in the year when cornerback LarDarius Webb went down with a torn ACL. Baltimore is primed and ready for an improbable run to Super Bowl glory in New Orleans. All year the team has been underappreciated and Sunday is Baltimore’s opportunity to show the world they’re the NFL’s best this season.
On the other hand, big things were expected from the San Francisco 49ers from the outset of the season. Since their early season dismantling of the Packers at Lambeau Stadium, football pundits took note of how dangerous the 49ers could be. Their power running game, combined with a rock-solid defense gave opposing teams fits. And while it’s not a surprise they’re in this position, it hasn’t been Alex Smith that has led them here. Instead, it’s been young quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has been spectacular since taking over for Smith mid-season. Kaepernick rejuvenated this team, providing a spark for a stagnant offense. His uncanny ability to thread passes in tight spaces, and speed and elusiveness from the pocket has terrorized defenses, and it’s safe to assume if head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t make that switch, the Niners aren’t playing in Sunday’s contest. There’s a worry of it being “too much, too soon” for the Nevada product, though Kaepernick appears to have the poise of a veteran. This is a team, like Baltimore, that takes on the personality of their head coach. The Niners are simply a tough bunch that has had to overcome a wealth of adversity to get to this position. Their combination of power running and stout defensive play possesses difficulty for any team, and it’s not a surprise to see them squaring off against Baltimore on Sunday. Aldon Smith enters this game as healthy as he’s going to be, and in a battle of two evenly matched football teams, Super Bowl XLVII should be a very entertaining contest.
49ers vs. Ravens Spread Betting Odds:
Baltimore Ravens +4 (-110)
vs. San Francisco 49ers -4 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv <– Sign up for $250 Free Super Bowl Bet
49ers vs. Ravens Super Bowl XLVII Spread Pick:
I should preface this selection by saying this is going to be an extremely close, back-and-forth affair. I’d be stunned if this game was a blowout one way or the other, as both defenses should rule the game on Sunday evening. Of the previous forty-six Super Bowls, the spread has only mattered a staggering six times! This means that the team that wins the big game, more often than not will also cover the spread. I expect that intriguing trend to hold true yet again this year. These teams are about as evenly matched as two squads can be, and with brothers squaring off against one another, there won’t be many secrets revealed during the 60 minutes of game action.
The biggest x-factor in this game in my mind will be the play of second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick will be making just his 10th career NFL start against the Ravens, and while he possess rare talent and ability, he remains a raw product and that could work against the Niners. Entering this game, he’ll have had the third-fewest starts of any Quarterback ever to start on a Super Bowl Sunday. The Ravens defense is constantly bashed for being old, washed-up, and past their prime, and while all of that may be true, this is a unit that has had success stuffing quarterbacks who employ similar styles to Kaepernick. Against Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III, the Ravens were impressive in halting their rushing ability, and they’ll be primed for success against Kaepernick.
Baltimore struggled early in the season at both rushing the passer and stuffing the run, but have improved in both regards of late. Whether it’s added concentration, or healthier bodies, or a combination of both, the Ravens defense enters Sunday looking as good as it has all season. Terrell Suugs and Paul Kruger will get to the quarterback and wreak havoc in the 49ers’ backfield. All weak, Baltimore has been squarely focused on stifling the effectiveness of Kaepernick’s legs. If he’s going to beat the Baltimore defense, he’ll have to do it with his arm. Unluckily for the Niners, the Ravens possess the top-ranked pass defense over the past month and moving the chains won’t come easy.
For the Ravens on offense, it all revolves around the recently impressive play of Joe Flacco. Flacco’s contract status remains in limbo heading into the season finale, and he’ll want to get paid. I can’t think of a better way to do that, than going out and winning a Super Bowl for the city of Baltimore and the Ravens organization. Let’s face it, Joe Flacco has been great this post-season. Beating Manning and Brady in back-to-back weeks on the road is no easy feat, but going against the 49ers scary defense will be his toughest test to date.
San Francisco excels at rushing the passer, and finding a way to win the battle along the line of scrimmage. Flacco has been fortunate to date that he’s only had to endure four sacks all post-season, and if his offensive line can hold up, Baltimore may find some openings in the Niners’ secondary.
San Francisco’s one vulnerability within their defense is their secondary, and Flacco loves to air it out with the deep ball. He’s got a perfect target for it in Torrey Smith, and the speed of Jacoby Jones should also possess problems for the Niners’ defensive backs. San Francisco’s Donte Whitner surrendered more touchdown passes this year than any other safety and look for Flacco to do his best to exploit this. Matt Ryan continually found ways to beat San Francisco deep in the NFC Championship, and Joe Flacco is every bit as good as Matt Ryan.
Opening up the aerial attack will allow offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to call some plays for the elusive Ray Rice in the ground game. Expect the Ravens to use great balance to keep San Francisco off-guard, and their multi-faceted attack could prove problematic for the Niners. Again, if Baltimore’s offensive line can give Flacco the necessary amounts of time, they could very well be Super Bowl XLVII champions. However, that protection remains a big ‘if’.
This is going to be a great contest, featuring a plethora of smash-mouth and defensive football. We will not see many points, or a shootout. Prop players have a knack of leaning ‘overs’ with all their selections, but in what promises to be a tight, hard-fought, low-scoring encounter, that may not be the wisest of choices. While I understand why sportsbooks favoured the 49ers entering this contest, to do so by four points seems a little much. The Ravens are a veteran-laden group that always finds a way, despite all the adversity in their way. Ray Lewis will be classic Ray Lewis, and will lead that Baltimore defense to greatness in his last ever football game. Flacco is elite, and he’ll prove it against one of the better defensive units in the game. Ultimately, the mutltitude of ways the Ravens can attack will overhwlem San Francisco, and in particular their secondary. Ray Rice and Torrey Smith are primed for breakout games, and Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker has been lights-out good this season. Look for Tucker to make a last minute field goal, and propel the Ravens over the Niners by a 21-20 scoreline. Enjoy the big game, folks!
PICK = Baltimore Ravens +4 (-110) <– Click for $250 Free Super Bowl Bet