NFL – 2013 SUPER BOWL PREDICTION

UPDATE, FEBRUARY 5, 2013:  Result – The Ravens beat the 49ers, 34-31.  The only solace I have postgame is knowing that my gut was right- this game was close & could have gone either way.  Unfortunately, costly mistakes & turnovers by San Francisco were the difference.  If only the 49ers could have been more efficient and not too far behind so early…

Alas, it’ll be fun to see these two teams go head to head next season, a true rivalry has begun.  And, it’ll be interesting to see how Flacco manages without Ray Lewis, the spiritual leader of that team.  Any way you look at it, this result will bring Flacco respect, like it did for Eli Manning.

As for Kaepernick, the biggest moment in his career was technically a loss, but he should build upon this experience and come back out of the gates firing next year.  My only worry is that opponents will have thoroughly scouted Kaepernick during the off-season.  His legs will become a target.  It seems that coaches will need to beef up his passing game and give him different options and looks for continued success.

Can’t wait for next season already.

POST, JANUARY 29, 2013:

Who will win Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers?

My heart & my head tell me the 49ers.  But, my gut is on the fence.

As I described in a blog article on October 28, I’ve been a fan of the 49ers since Joe Montana was quarterback in the 1980s.  So, of course I’d love for my favorite team to win.

But, what does my head say?  These teams are very similar statistically, yet the 49ers have an advantage – their quarterback.

Coach John Harbaugh of the Ravens articulated well the similarities of the two teams during a press conference after Baltimore took the AFC Championship from the Patriots: “I’d like to think that when you look at (the) two teams, you’re looking at mirror images.”

Indeed.  Take a look at Picture 1 below, which contains the NFL rankings of both teams in categories on offense & defense:

NEW CHART 1A

We can see from the stats that where one team does not have an advantage, the other does.  And, in the post season, especially, both teams ended up with very similar statistics.  By just looking at these numbers alone, it’s a close call as to which is the better team at this moment.

However, if we peer into Quarterback numbers, we can see that Kaepernick excels in one area that Flacco does not- rushing.

NEW CHART 1B

 Flacco may be a fine passing quarterback, but via the stats in Picture 2 above, it’s clear that he only made 32 rushing attempts in all of the regular season, gaining just 22 yards and averaging 0.7 yards.  Whereas Kaepernick doubled that number (in less games) with 63 rushing attempts, gained 415 total yards, and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.  That statistic is astoundingly higher than Flacco’s.

Even in the post season, Kaepernick outran Flacco.  Kaep attempted to rush 18 times, picked up 202 yards total, and averaged 11.2 yards per carry.  In contrast, Flacco only rushed 8 times, gained only 16 yards and average 2.0 yards per carry. And, that’s what sets these very even teams apart.

Thus, I think it’s fair to say that, on paper at least, Kaepernick’s legs alone may be the extra quality that could help the 49ers win the Super Bowl.

Yet, there is something else which leaves me unconvinced that it’ll be a slam dunk for San Francisco: the Ravens acceleration in the post season.

If we look at Picture 1 again, we can see that the Ravens suddenly improved in every category on offense & defense in the post season.  They beat the Broncos in OT for their Division, and then took out the Patriots in Foxboro for the Conference Championship.  Even Joe Flacco performed better, almost flawlessly.  Why the sudden surge? Ray Lewis.

Ray may have been away for some of the regular season due to injury, but there was more than just his physical return to the team that I think helped this team excel.  It was the emotionality of his imminent retirement from the sport at the end of this season which lifted the Ravens up.  His aura and leadership permeated every person in that locker room and he made them believe that destiny is a Super Bowl ring for all of them.  Even Coach Harbaugh said after winning against the Denver Broncos on January 13: [the team] “stood together and never cracked”.  He credits it all to their “spiritual strength”.

And, this intangible quality, the ability of the Ravens to believe in themselves through the leadership and vitality of Ray Lewis is the equalizer for me.   Where the Ravens may lack (slightly) on offense and defense against the 49ers (and QB skills), I feel the team makes up for it in chemistry, leadership, and emotional strength through Ray Lewis.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Ravens are a good, well-coached team with a ton of talent.  But, something propelled them forward into the post season.  It certainly wasn’t Joe Flacco’s leadership, who is an admittedly reserved quiet man.  (Even his Dad said he was boring..)

So, what does my gut ultimately say?  It’s just too close to call.  However, my sense is that the (if) the Ravens contain Kaepernick and rattle the inexperience out of him, as well as tap into that beautiful intangible quality they have through Ray Lewis, they can win against the 49ers.

If not, the 49ers will win the Championship.

Here’s hoping…

 


Sources :

NFL.com Team Stats: http://www.nfl.com/stats/team
ESPN NFL Stats - Kaepernick: http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/14001/colin-kaepernick
ESPN NFL Stats - Flacco: http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/11252/joe-flacco

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