While the Super Bowl extends beyond the world of football, this year there is a lot of history on the line for the two franchises – the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers – vying for the Lombardi Trophy (Sunday 6.30pm ET, 11.30pm GMT).
After a long and exciting year, the pinnacle of the football season is finally here. Everyone will be figuratively transported to the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana for the biggest American sporting event in history.
A franchise since 1946, the San Francisco 49ers, have an unblemished 5-0 record when playing in the Super Bowl. Their first title came in 1981 when Joe Montana led the team to victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Montana, who won the MVP, having scored both of the Niners touchdowns, went on to win three more championships in 1984, 1988 and 1989.
The team’s last title came in 1994 as Steve Young led the team to their fifth title in a remarkable five tries. On the line for San Francisco is more than just their perfect record. With one more championship, the Niners will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for most franchise championships with six.
The team standing in their way is the Baltimore Ravens, who are one-for-one when playing in the big one. The Ravens, a franchise since just 1996, boasts an impressive playoff record and the best winning percentage of any NFL team in the postseason. The team’s only Super Bowl came in 2000, when Baltimore easily bested the New York Giants 34-7. In that game, linebacker Ray Lewis, a big part of why the Ravens are back here 13 years later, was the MVP.
In what could easily be one of the better title games in recent memory, the 2013 match-up will be focused on history and rivalries. For the first time two brothers, head coaches John and Jim Harbaugh, will be pitted against each other. Also worth note is that this game will mark the last of Lewis’ career, something that could take center stage on Sunday. Finally, it will be a defensive showdown with two of the league’s better defenses facing off as well as two young quarterbacks going head-to-head, each with something to prove.
More than any other game in the regular season or playoffs, this event almost always comes down to the quarterbacks. In all, 25 of 47 big-game MVPs have gone to quarterbacks including five of the last six. As such, the 2013 event will feature two guys who both very easily could win the MVP.
For the Ravens, their man is Joe Flacco, a University of Delaware product who is now asserting himself as an elite QB. At just 28, Flacco has been in the league only five years but already has one of the most impressive playoff resumes of anyone. Flacco has led the Ravens’ to playoff appearances in each of his five seasons, making sure the team has not gone home without at least one win. Although this will be Flacco’s first Super Bowl appearance, he already has a postseason record of 7-5. In each of his seven wins, Flacco has starred, not throwing a single interception. He has been at his best in the biggest games, especially in 2012. Entering the game, Flacco has been a perfect 3-0 in this postseason, is completing nearly 55 percent of his passes, has thrown for 853 yards and has eight touchdowns to zero interceptions. His QB rating is a pristine 114.7.
His counterpart, Colin Kaepernick, has vastly less postseason experience but what he lacks in this category, he thoroughly makes up for in pure athleticism and talent. Kaepernick’s story is certainly one that took the league by storm. As a second year pro that played nothing but a wildcat quarterback in his rookie year, Kaepernick received the opportunity to start when Alex Smith went down with a concussion. The 22-year-old never looked back and as a result, head coach Jim Harbaugh put his trust in him and so far, it has completely paid off for San Francisco.
The Ray Lewis Factor
In the regular season, San Francisco clearly had the defensive edge, allowing nearly 60 less total yards and about four less points. That said, the playing fields have been evened with the way Baltimore has rebounded in the postseason. Perhaps the credit for the much-improved defense should go to Ray Lewis. After all, it was his return in the first week of the playoffs that catapulted an emotional and spirited run at a championship.
He announced his retirement and knowing that this will be his last game, the team no doubt wants to send him off in a blaze of glory. The only question that remains is if the 49ers, primed for their own blaze of glory, will be able to remain hot while cooling off Lewis’ squad.
Super Bowl Preview Final Betting Picks
Because of the Lewis factor and Flacco’s rise to prominence, many have called the Ravens the “team of destiny.” While I don’t deny this, I don’t necessary believe in a team of destiny nor do I think that the emotional run Lewis has taken the Ravens’ on can possibly last forever. Baltimore is headed on a collision course with a team that has been one of the best during the regular season and one of the best in the playoffs. That said, Baltimore is the first team in quite some time to beat both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in the same postseason, a feat that truly speaks for itself.
Both teams have managed to get hot just at the right time making picking this game not such an easy task. That said, the Ravens are staked as the 3.5 point underdogs in the Super Bowl betting, perhaps a perfect place for the team to be. They have excelled in that role this season.
The spread is tempting, but as I said, I think the team of destiny will fall short. Take the Niners to top this spread as Kaepernick outduels Flacco in a close encounter.