Super Bowl XLVII Matchup Prediction
The Ravens have proven something to me during this playoff run: they are a big-game team. They may look sloppy and flat-out terrible at times throughout the regular season, but when it comes down to a "win or go home" situation, these guys come to play.
The player who has proven this the most has been quarterback Joe Flacco. I still wouldn't consider Flacco an elite quarterback, even if he wins the Super Bowl. He's not the type of guy who will put up 45 points in a shootout to counter an opponent who lights up the scoreboard, the way a Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers does. However, I do consider Flacco an elite big-game quarterback.
It's tough to argue Flacco's 8-4 playoff record, which includes the most playoff road wins by any quarterback in NFL history. Did he get lucky in Denver? Sure he did, but he followed up by out-dueling Tom Brady in Foxboro the next week. He simply finds ways to win, and while I don't think he deserves the $100 million contract he's asking for, I have to give credit where credit is due.
Another factor working in the Ravens' favor is that this season just seems "meant to be" for them. Keep in mind, if Ray Rice doesn't take a dump off on 4th and 29 for a first down in Week 12, the Ravens probably end up in a Wild Card spot facing the Texans - who they lost to by 30 this year - in the first round of the playoffs. If Rahim Moore doesn't misjudge Flacco's game-tying bomb as badly as I've ever seen a safety play a deep ball, the Ravens don't even make it to the AFC Championship. This Ravens team just seems to be feeding off the return of Ray Lewis, fighting with everything they've got, and finding ways to come out on top when the clock hits 0:00.
The team they'll face this week, however, may not be the type of team they can beat strictly on inspired effort. These Harbaugh boys know how to get their team to fight, and while John has his Ravens leaving it all on the field every Sunday, Jim has his 49ers doing just the same.
The 49ers boast the best defense the Ravens will have seen all season, allowing the second least points in the league by both bottling up the run and shutting down the pass. Defenses that the Ravens have struggled to score on this season include the Chiefs (9 points), Texans (13), Steelers (13), and Chargers (16, three of which came in overtime). Those numbers don't bode well for the Ravens, who are facing a 49ers team that now features a high powered offense in addition to their dominant defense. But as I said, the Ravens are a big-game team. They're simply different in the playoffs. They only managed 17 points against the Broncos on December 16th. Less than a month later, they put 38 on the scoreboard in Denver.