As the Pro Bowl is now in the past (thankfully), the Super Bowl is almost here! The most exciting and riveting football week of the year is here, and it’s one of the most intriguing matchups these playoffs could have produced. The Harbaugh Bowl. John vs. Jim. Ravens vs. Niners. It’s going to be thrilling, it’s going to be memorable, and most of all it’s going to be historic.
This will be the last time Ray Lewis puts on an NFL uniform (assuming no Brett Favre maneuvers by Lewis) and his historical career will come to an end. A career in which he has accumulated 41.5 sacks and 31 interceptions, will end this Sunday in New Orleans. Lewis’ first career sack: Jim Harbaugh. This weekend he will look to sack Jim and the Niners one last time.
In addition to being Lewis’ last game, it will be the first time that opposing coaches in the Super Bowl are brothers. Jim’s bold quarterback decision has led the Niners to unprecedented ground while John has his Ravens team making an improbable run through the AFC, beating both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. I’ll admit I initially questioned Jim’s decision to play Kaepernick over Alex Smith, but the main reason I doubted it was because I didn’t see anything that Smith had done to lose the job. I wasn’t completely sold on Kaepernick either but he’s continued to impress me in all nine of his starts. Just nine starts, and this Sunday in New Orleans, Joe Flacco will be looking for his ninth postseason win. Additionally, Flacco will be looking to stay perfect this postseason, having thrown zero interceptions this postseason to eight touchdowns. However, you’ll hear more later on my thoughts of the all the stats we hear in the Super Bowl week.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens, led by this postseason’s leading tackler Ray Lewis, will be looking be to slow down an 49ers’ offense that has accumulated 952 yards combined in their two playoff games this year. The Niners on the other hand will try to force the turnovers that Ray Rice and Flacco can be accustomed to at times. The Niners have never lost a Super Bowl and neither have the Ravens. This game will mark the beginnings and ends of a lot of different things.
It will be the beginning of the Harbaugh era. I expect both of these coaches to be back on this stage multiple more times. It will be the end of the Ray Lewis era. Sunday will be the last time Ray Lewis puts on the pads and helmet and steps onto the gridiron. By announcing his retirement early, Ray Lewis has set a standard that unfortunately for us, many athletes will try to follow. Athletes will see what he has done for the Baltimore Ravens this postseason and look to inspire their teams in similar ways. The early retirement announcement could become too popular. If so, it will be even more frustrating than Brett Favre’s retirements (if that’s possible).
This Super Bowl will also be the beginning of a new era of football. An era of a more level playing field. This is the first time since 2002 that the AFC is not represented in the Super Bowl by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Ben Roethlisberger. The NFL has become more exciting with so many more teams holding legitimate chances to make that prized Super Bowl run. This Super Bowl consists of two teams with entirely different offenses, but both with big-play capabilities. Both teams have defenses that are feared throughout the league, yet still have been surprisingly victimized by opposing teams’ offenses.
The Super Bowl is typically one of the most difficult games to predict, and this year proves no different. You can look at stats… ehhh throw out the stats. All week long you hear stats about every single player on each roster. Stats don’t mean anything in this game. You can look at who is favored to win or the team with more experience… but that doesn’t really matter either. The Super Bowl is a game of surprises. Who could have predicted the Tyree catch in 2008? Or Peyton Manning throwing a pick-6 to Tracy Porter in the closing moments of Super Bowl XLIV? Or Santonio Holmes’ toe drag in the back corner of the end zone to knock off the Cardinals in 2009?
The Super Bowl never disappoints. This year won’t either. Ray Lewis is looking to grab one last bit of glory before his retirement. The Harbaugh brothers are racing each other to see who can grab their first ring. Kaepernick has yet to show signs of cracking under pressure. It’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be exciting, and it’s going to be memorable. I’m going with the Niners in a tight one.
San Francisco 49ers 31, Baltimore Ravens 30.
Thanks for reading, enjoy the game, and stay tuned for my tribute to Ray Lewis, which may surprise you, and my thoughts on what could be the end of an era in Foxboro!
This article was written by Kenny Decker. You can follow him on Twitter @Inside__Sports