After 17 weeks in the regular season and three rounds of the playoffs, the 2013 Super Bowl matchup is finally set.
The San Francisco 49ers will take on the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb.3. Both teams won their respective championship games on the road on Sunday.
San Francisco defeated the Atlanta Falcons in a comeback victory. They were able to overcome a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter, and thwarted a late drive by the Falcons that ended on the 49ers 10-yard line.
Baltimore was dominant in their AFC Championship win over the New England Patriots. Like the 49ers, they didn’t allow any points in the second half. The Ravens gave up just 13 points to the NFL’s top offense, which put up almost 35 points per game in the regular season.
The Super Bowl is two weeks away, but both teams will enter the game playing at a very high level. The 49ers beat the No.1 seed in the NFC, as well as the Green Bay Packers, who were considered by many to be the favorites in the conference. Baltimore defeated the top two seeds in the AFC, with both wins coming on the road.
According to the oddsmakers, the 49ers have the best chance of taking home the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The betting line has them as four-point favorites at most Las Vegas casinos.
The point spread, though, hasn’t meant much to the Ravens in the postseason. They were heavy underdogs in each of their last two contests, and covered both lines easily.
The biggest reason for Baltimore’s run might be the play of Joe Flacco. Often criticized for not taking the next step to become an elite quarterback, Flacco has performed at an elite level in this postseason.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the two greatest signal callers of their generation, but both were outplayed by Flacco in the past two weeks. Flacco threw three touchdowns and no interceptions in both contests. Manning and Brady each threw two picks.
Like Flacco has done with the Ravens, Kaepernick has changed the dynamic of the 49ers offense. With Alex Smith at the helm, San Francisco was a strong defensive team that controlled the clock on offense. Now, they have become an explosive offensive unit, averaging 36.5 points in their playoff wins.
Kaepernick is so dangerous because he has shown the ability to beat opponents with either his arm or his legs. Against the Packers, he set a quarterback record by rushing for 181 yards. In Atlanta, Kaepernick only ran twice, but registered a 127.7 passer rating.
With both offenses playing at such a high level, the defenses might decide the outcome.
Throughout the season, the 49ers had the consistently better unit. They finished the year second in the NFL, allowing 17.1 points per game. The Ravens weren’t as dominant as they have been in years past, allowing 21.5 points per contest.
Baltimore has been susceptible against the run, an area where San Francisco is among the league leaders. The combination of Frank Gore, LaMichael James and Kaepernick could be the Ravens undoing.
Still, look for the trend of competitive Super Bowls to continue in 2013. Ray Lewis’ return in the playoffs has helped improve a defense that was simply average in the 2012 season. San Francisco has also struggled on defense, lately, allowing at least 28 points in four of their last five games.
Brothers Jim and John Harbaugh have proven to be among the best head coaches in football. Both will have their teams prepared for the big game in New Orleans. The 49ers quicker and younger defense, though, should propel them to their first Super Bowl win in 18 years.
Prediction: San Francisco 30, Baltimore 23