NEW ORLEANS - It's a battle of the brother coaches, a duel between an upstart second-year quarterback and another who hasn't gotten enough credit over the years and perhaps the swan song for a couple of future Hall of Famers.
So, who will win when the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens lock shoulder pads at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday in the Superdome in New Orleans?
Our experts at ProFootballTalk, Comcast SportsNet and Yahoo! give their predictions:
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: 49ers 28, Ravens 17
There wasn’t a single point in the regular season when I would have said the Ravens were a better team than the 49ers. Baltimore had a better record than San Francisco during much of the first part of the regular the season, but the 49ers looked like a more impressive, more complete football team than the Ravens. And down the stretch in the regular season, the 49ers got even better after replacing Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick, while the Ravens lost four of their last five to close out 2012.
Super Bowl XLVII
When San Francisco has the ball, the running of Frank Gore and LaMichael James is going to pose big problems for the Ravens’ defense. (And the running of Colin Kaepernick will be a nice bonus for the 49ers.) When Baltimore has the ball, the San Francisco safety combination of Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson is going to make it tough for Joe Flacco to do what he likes to do best, attack opposing secondaries deep downfield.
I do expect Baltimore to have a decided special-teams advantage in this game, but I don’t think that’s going to produce enough game-changing plays to make the difference. The 49ers are the better team, and they’ll hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Ravens 30, 49ers 27
I’ve gone back and forth all week on this game. When I convince myself that the 49ers will win, I think of the reasons why the Ravens will prevail. And then I think of the reasons the 49ers will prevail. And then I think of the reasons the Ravens will prevail.
And then I wish there could be ties in the Super Bowl.
I’ll agree with MDS on one point — if the 49ers win, it likely will be by seven or more points. For the Ravens, it likely will be a close game with one score deciding the winner of the Lombardi Trophy.
The Ravens defense will need to contain Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore. The concern is that, if the Ravens figure out a way to solve the read-option in a way that keeps both from burning them, Kaepernick will pull the ball back out and fire a pass to Randy Moss, who will lollygag off the line of scrimmage before sprinting down the field.
Still, there’s something about the Ravens this year, between the impact of Ray Lewis and the emergence of Joe Flacco and the reality that, after this season, Baltimore could have some rebuilding to do. For the 49ers, they could be back on a much more regular basis. In the end, there’s a good chance that each Harbaugh brother will get a ring. For now, the first-born son becomes the first one to hoist the trophy.
Ray Ratto, CSNBayArea.com Senior Insider: Ravens 23, 49ers 21
I believe in Baltimore's ability to slow the game down to a crawl and keep the ball in Joe Flacco's hands long enough to limit the 49ers' offensive opportunities. I also believe that the Ravens' defensive players will be in closer proximity to their actual assignments on a more regular basis than their Packer or Falcon counterparts. Finally, take the 3 1/2 and the under. Your children, the ungrateful swine, will thank you for it.
Matt Maiocco, CSNBayArea.com 49ers Insider: 49ers 31, Ravens 23
Colin Kaepernick is a big-play threat every time he takes a snap, whether through the air or on the ground. And this isn’t just the Kaepernick Show, as the 49ers feature a strong offensive line, one of the game’s top all-around running backs, Frank Gore, and a defense that features six players selected to the Pro Bowl.
Paul Gutierrez, CSNBayArea.com Raiders Insider: 49ers 27, Ravens 23
Little brother Jim gets the last laugh (or is it the first of many Super Bowl matches to come between the battlin' Harbaughs?) as the Niners are simply too young, too fresh and too hungry for those old war horses from Baltimore, who have been living on borrowed time since winning their first playoff game against Indy.
Jim Kozimor, CSNBayArea.com host of Chronicle Live: 49ers 31, Ravens 17
Colin Kaepernick will get hurt at the end of the first quarter. Alex Smith will triumphantly lead them to victory and at the podium, when he accepts the MVP, he will tell the 49ers to release him.
J. Michael, CSNBaltimore.com Ravens Insider: Ravens 24, 49ers 21
They contained Robert Griffin III and the read-option, limiting him to 34 yards rushing without Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe or Terrell Suggs. And they've got two weeks to prepare for Colin Kaepernick after winning at Denver and at New England.
PFT: The Ravens' title after their sloppy finish to the regular season might kill the idea of having to enter the playoffs hot. If anything, the reverse is true.
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