Super Bowl Predictions

By Doug Pitorak

by: Doug Pitorak and Nader Ihmoud

For the first time in NFL history, two brothers are the head coaches of opposing Super Bowl teams. John and Jim Harbaugh, who coach the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, respectively, will give new meaning to the term ‘sibling rivalry’ when their teams face off in front of the entire world Feb. 3. In similar fashion, The Chronicle has pitted two Sports & Health staffers against each other to compete for the most accurate Super Bowl prediction. Their picks, below.

Nader’s prediction:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could not have written a better story line for the league’s biggest game of the year. But story lines do not win championships; players do. This game will come down to execution, perseverance and one big play.

The Ravens will be the team that keeps its composure by allowing leaders on both sides of the ball to make big plays.

Yes, the 49ers win the statistics battle, but during the Super Bowl, past stats are for losers. Statistically, the 49ers are the better defensive team, but they did not face a team as hot as the Ravens during

the playoffs.

The Ravens’ road to the championship has prepared them for this type of pressure, especially quarterback Joe Flacco. Baltimore had to enter two hostile environments against two of the game’s greatest quarterbacks, and prevailed both times.

Flacco went to the ‘Mile High’ city and defeated the hottest team in the NFL, the Denver Broncos, who had won their previous nine games before losing to the Ravens in overtime. He outplayed Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning during overtime of the AFC divisional playoff game. Manning threw an interception that would lead to a

game-winning field goal by the Ravens.

Flacco also defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., one of the toughest places to play an AFC Championship game during the last decade because of Brady’s 4–0 record in AFC Championship games at home. Trailing 13–7 at the half, the Ravens defense did not allow another score the rest of the game, and Flacco helped seal the win by throwing three touchdowns on three straight second-half drives.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that Flacco has wide receiver Anquan Boldin as a target. But if the Ravens really want to be successful against the 49ers, they will have to have a balanced attack. Baltimore has one of the best running backs in the league: Ray Rice. His ability to execute short routes can lead to bigger downfield plays.

Offense is great, but the first defense to make a big stop will help its team come away with the win. I foresee the future Hall-of-Famers on the Ravens’ side coming up with a big play when needed. Linebacker Ray Lewis, the 17-year veteran, is well known around the league for his abilities, but there’s more to that defense. The most important piece to disrupting quarterback Colin Kaepernick is Raven’s safety Ed Reed and he’s no stranger to causing havoc. He’s an 11-year veteran who has already made 60 interceptions. Do

the math.

The 49ers are 4 1/2 point favorites to win the game, but the Ravens have been underdogs most of the postseason. That momentum will ultimately doom San Francisco.

Doug’s prediction:

Move over, Pittsburgh.

Come Feb. 3, the San Francisco 49ers will join the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only other NFL franchise with six Vince Lombardi trophies to its name.

Not that they won’t have a qualified and formidable opponent.

Leading the Baltimore Ravens in his first Super Bowl is quarterback Joe Flacco, who has won eight out of 12 playoff games in his five seasons. When 49ers upstart quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, he will be making just his 10th NFL start.

On top of that, Flacco is playing better than ever. He averaged 284 passing yards a game during the postseason and has beaten future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. Throughout this playoff run, Flacco has yet to throw a

single interception.

In short, Flacco has done everything right. But there is one thing he can’t do: make plays with his feet.

Enter Kaepernick. Flacco has rushed for 16 yards this postseason. Kaepernick has gained 202 yards on the ground. And more importantly, he has recorded two rushing touchdowns, helping the 49ers score approximately 37 points a game on the road to their sixth Super Bowl appearance, where they’re 5–0.

Kaepernick’s ability to make moves outside the pocket only adds to his otherwise proficient performance. In his first NFL postseason, Kaepernick is averaging 248 yards per game throwing the ball, not far off from Flacco, who has played one more game this postseason. Flacco has passed for eight touchdowns, helping the Ravens average 30 points per game. Kaepernick has only thrown for six points on three occasions, giving Flacco an apparent edge. But, in addition to completing a better percentage of his passes than Flacco—63 percent to Flacco’s 55 percent—Kaepernick’s ability to gain yards on the ground will ultimately put him and his team ahead come game time.

Both teams play physical, both offensively and defensively. Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, at 6’1” and 223 lbs, has been personifying this playing style by bullying smaller defensive backs, which will work to his favor when he faces a 49ers secondary with an average height of 5’11”. Vernon Davis, tight end for the 49ers, is San Francisco’s response. Measuring 6’3” and 250 lbs, Davis hauled in five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in the NFC Championship game.

Both teams play hard and both teams hit hard, but when time is running out and the play breaks down, Kaepernick will be able to scramble for that extra yard, which will make the difference between winning and losing the Super Bowl.

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