The Harbaugh Brothers, Ray Lewis and his alleged use of deer antler spray and idiot reporters asking players how ticklish they are – all the hype ends Saturday. Finally we get down to the intrigue of the game itself … and this year it’s a hugely intriguing game.
I am extremely curious to see if the Ravens, with several of their most important players aging, can keep up with the more youthful 49ers. I am curious to see whether Baltimore’s coaching staff can come up with a way to neutralize phenom quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
While the storylines off the field have been many, this year’s game on the field also is as intriguing a matchup as we’ve had in a few years. Here is how we see it playing out:
|Pointspread||Baltimore +3.5||San Francisco -3.5|
|Moneyline||Baltimore +155||San Francisco -175|
|Over/Under||Over 47.5||Under 47.5|
This game is a tossup. The teams are relatively evenly coached. Both quarterbacks are playing well. The 49ers’ defense is younger and probably a bit better, but the Ravens’ defense is playing inspired ball as its leader prepares for retirement. I expect that the Ravens will try to hang onto the ball by running Ray Rice quite a bit. If they are successful, I think they have the edge. Honestly, I have no idea what to expect, but I do think it will be entertaining. I’m going to go with Baltimore in a slight upset, in part because I think this team realizes several teammates are aging and soon to be on the way out. Lewis, Matt Birk, Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Bryant McKinnie and Brendon Ayanbadejo are all 30-plus guys with double-digit years of experience in the league who are playing in their first Super Bowls. If that doesn’t create some urgency, nothing will.
Final Prediction: Baltimore 28, San Francisco 24
I think it will be a tightly contested game, but ultimately I think San Francisco’s defense has a lot more likelihood of shutting down enough of Baltimore’s weapons that the Ravens have of beating the 49ers. With two running options on the field at all times (Kaepernick and Gore/James), combined with a trio of Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and a presumably motivated-to-show-up-Jerry-Rice Randy Moss, the Ravens will need to play an almost perfect defensive game to stop them all consistently, and I don’t think they can do that for a full four hours. Meanwhile, if the 49ers can take Ray Rice out of the game and force the game into Joe Flacco’s hands, they still have a decent shot at stopping him via a pass rush, or with their defensive backfield.
Final prediction: San Francisco 24, Baltimore 16