7:43 PM AKST, January 31, 2013
49ers 20, Ravens 19
If you think the best team on paper will win the Super Bowl, you will pick the 49ers. They are the more complete team of the two and probably can win games in more ways. But if you think the team with the hot hand will win the Super Bowl, you will pick the Ravens.
After losing four of their last five regular-season games, the Ravens have turned it on and won three straight, including two road games that few thought they had a chance of winning. They have not played a team like the 49ers, who may be the most physical team in the NFL. Of course, the Ravens also are one of the league's more physical teams.
But the 49ers have the edge in a number of areas.
Ravens 27, 49ers 23
We have been treated to some exciting Super Bowls over the last five years, and I suspect Sunday's game between the Ravens and 49ers will make it six in a row.
These teams have obvious similarities besides the DNA that their head coaches share. They both have physical, opportunistic defenses led by linebackers who wear No. 52 and explosive offenses with emerging quarterbacks.
The Ravens will stick with the script that got them to the Super Bowl, bending on defense but not breaking in the end zone and opening up the vertical passing attack.
My gut tells me the Ravens will win and Flacco will be your Super Bowl MVP.
Ravens 27, 49ers 24
Los Angeles Times
The Ravens have lost four of their last five regular-season games. That might sound like a negative, but in this case it's a positive.
The team walked to the edge of the cliff, and now its players can appreciate winning that much more. The sting of losing is fresh, and the team isn't going there again.
What's more, this figures to be a close game. I don't like 49ers kicker David Akers in those situations. But the game's in a dome, you say, and he won't have to worry about the wind? He could say the same about the NFC title game in Atlanta, where he missed a pivotal 38-yarder.
There will be wind in the dome Sunday — and it will all be at the back of the rolling Ravens.
49ers 26, Ravens 21
I admit it. I'm not a Joe Flacco believer. He has to show me he can win this Super Bowl against the 49ers, the most complete team in the NFL.
The 49ers are always on the attack — running, passing, against the run, against the pass, even punting. San Francisco punter Andy Lee is among nine 49ers, including all four linebackers, to make All-Pro.
I respect the Ravens, and Flacco. They're a good team. That second-half shutout against the Patriots in the AFC championship game was masterful.
But the 49ers are the better team. And 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is the better Harbaugh.