Found January 15, 2013 on Fox Sports:
Peyton Manning was back in the saddle, looking good in the preseason and donning some sharp new orange threads. Eli Manning was fresh off his second Super Bowl victory in five years, a successful "Saturday Night Live" hosting gig, and throwing the ball better than ever in training camp up in Albany. It was August, the Super Bowl was going to be played in their hometown of New Orleans in February, and it was hard not to at least imagine the madness of a "Manning Bowl" in the Crescent City. Six months later, we're down to the NFL's Final Four, and Peyton and Eli have long been eliminated from the postseason. But I'm still going with a Brother vs. Brother Super Bowl. Yes, I love the road teams on Sunday. Throw the point spreads, the recent history, and the home crowds away. In Harbaugh(s), I trust. As kids, John, Jim and sister Joani Harbaugh lived under their parents' roof in a two-bedroom home in Iowa City, Iowa. Jack Harbaugh, their father and a longtime football coach himself, used to keep spirits high in the house despite some cramped living quarters. More than just occasionally, he'd gather his three kids around him and ask them a question. "Who's got it better than us?" Jack would scream with enthusiasm from the driver's seat of his car or the top of the hill in the family's backyard. Jim, John, and Joani would then respond, in unison, with a collective shout of, "No ... body!" It was the family cheer, the Harbaugh clan motto, and it's since become a rallying cry for Jim's San Francisco 49ers. After wins in the locker room, Harbaugh will gather his players together like his father did with his brother and sister so many years before and ask, "Who's got it better than us?!" And the 49ers -- from grizzled veterans like Justin Smith to enigmatic talents like Randy Moss to young rookies like LaMichael James -- respond in unison, "No ... body!" A win away from the Super Bowl, there is actually one coach and one team that may have it better than Harbaugh's 49ers. That's his younger brother John and his Baltimore Ravens. Both teams, bridesmaids but not the brides in their respective conference championship games a year ago, return to the big one before the bigger one a year older, a year wiser and far more dangerous on offense than they were in January of 2012. It's those offenses, long-considered the weaker of the two units for both teams, that have carried the Ravens and 49ers to where they are this weekend. Make no mistake -- the D's are still legit. But Baltimore and San Francisco did not simply ride Ed Reed and Ray Lewis or Justin Smith and Patrick Willis to conference championship game berths this season. Quite the contrary, in fact. The offenses are leading the way. It's the team's two coaches -- bold, unapologetic, and quite different from one another -- who are most responsible for the sudden uptick in offensive productivity. The ballots are in and the NFL's Coach of the Year award is likely going to be handed to either Bruce Arians or Pete Carroll in a few weeks. But you can make the argument that no two head coaches made tougher midseason decisions than the brothers Harbaugh. Jim's 49ers were rolling, 6-2 on the year, when starting quarterback and former first overall draft pick Alex Smith was knocked out of a game versus the Rams with a concussion. Second-year man Colin Kaepernick filled in admirably, notching a tie. He, then, led San Francisco to a dominant 32-7 victory over the Bears. Smith was medically cleared to play a few days later. He was good to go. He took the team to the NFC Championship Game a season ago. He played flawlessly in nationally televised wins over the Packers and Lions. But Jim Harbaugh made the move that'd change the team's 2012 trajectory anyway. The same guy who's gotten into it with Mike Ditka, Jim Kelly, Pete Carroll, Jim Schwartz and anyone else who's ever gotten in his way over his three decades involved in the NFL decided to ride "the hot hand" in Kaepernick. The 2012 49ers' narrative was forever altered, right then and there, and following Kaepernick's record-breaking performance Saturday night against the Packers in the Divisional Round, it's difficult to remember that the decision was widely panned by fans and pundits alike. Hell, go back and check your Twitter timeline a few minutes after Kaepernick threw a first quarter pick-6 last week. The second-guessers, the armchair quarterbacks and the backseat coaches all came out of their social media caves to reconfirm their earlier proclamations. Kaepernick wasn't ready. He was the wrong choice. Sure enough, by the end of the first half, those same doubters were hurrying back to their Twitter feeds to delete and erase all the evidence. A lesser coach doesn't have the courage to make that move in Week 12. A lesser man doesn't even consider it. But the Kaepernick-over-Smith decision wasn't even the boldest or toughest one made by a Harbaugh brother this season. Prior to Week 15, already well into the month of December and just two weeks before the holidays, John Harbaugh fired his longtime friend and his offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Cold? Sure. But it was necessary, and for Ravens fans, Harbaugh's holiday-time decision has led to wonderful fruits in the new year. With Jim Caldwell now calling the plays, Joe Flacco's won three of his last four games (he barely played against the Bengals in Week 17) and the offense looks like a well-oiled machine. Under Cameron, fair or unfair, it was a sputtering mess. So, here we are, a year later, and the Harbaughs -- crushed by heartbreaking losses in their respective championship games 12 months ago -- are each a win away from facing one another in the Super Bowl. But these aren't the same teams we saw in the AFC and NFC Conference Championship Games in 2012. They're better. They're hungrier. They're more potent offensively. They're also being run by better -- bolder -- head coaches. If you were craving for a Brother vs. Brother Super Bowl in New Orleans back in August, I think you're going to get your wish. The last name just isn't what you expected. Who's got it better than the Harbaugh brothers? Well, Ravens and 49ers fans do. Their teams are in awfully good hands. Divisional Round record: 2-2 (Baltimore and New England picks were right; Green Bay and Seattle picks were wrong) 2012 playoffs record: 5-3 Cheat Sheet trivia question of the week: Last week, Colin Kaepernick joined two other quarterbacks as the only NFL QBs to pass for two and run for two touchdowns in one playoff game. Who were those other quarterbacks? NFC Championship Game, Sunday San Francisco at Atlanta: I was happy for Tony Gonzalez, one of the truly great guys in the sport, for winning the first playoff game of his 16-year NFL career last week. But I was even happier for all of the diehard Falcons fans I know who treated the victory like some sort of collective spit in my face. My email inbox was stuffed with numerous "I told you so" dispatches, along with things I can't put in this column. I've been ragging on the Falcons and their mediocre quarterback, their boring head coach and their non-existent national fan base for the past three years. Part of that ribbing has been tongue in cheek (I actually think Matt Ryan is fantastic), part of it has been real (I didn't think I'd ever see the day when Mike Smith would out-coach Pete Carroll in a big game) and part of it has been pretty accurate (I'm fairly sure the Falcons fan base cares about NASCAR, the Georgia Bulldogs, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks, Varsity hot dogs and Buffalo wings at the Taco Mac in the Highlands more than it cares about its Falcons). Anyway, no surprise here -- I think the dream ends on Sunday. Colin Kaepernick has been compared to Randall Cunningham this week, but Randall Cunningham never had a playoff performance like the one the 49ers quarterback put on last weekend. Atlanta's got the home field, all the momentum, and the all-important "nobody respects us" thing going -- all things I usually like in a big game -- but San Francisco has the kid, the coach and the D. It's a huge game and I'm picking against the Falcons. Some things never change. The Pick: 49ers 38, Falcons 23 AFC Championship game, Sunday Baltimore and New England: The guy I was most impressed with in last week's Patriots dismantling of the Texans wasn't Tom Brady or Shane Vereen or even Wes Welker. It was Josh McDaniels. As both Brady and Vereen revealed after the win, the original offensive game plan was built heavily around contributions from Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski. When both players went down with first-quarter injuries, McDaniels didn't panic or run for the hills. He reacted and adjusted. He went to Vereen and Stevan Ridley even more than was originally expected and he identified mismatches where the Patriots could exploit Houston's overmatched linebackers. A guy to watch this week? The dude they call "The Hoo-man." Michael Hoomanawanui, a third-year tight end who only caught five balls this season, will play a prominent role in Sunday's AFC Championship game. Hoomanawanui was on the field for 50 of the Patriots' 66 offensive plays against the Texans and is expected to see even more work against the Ravens. New England's firing on all cylinders right now and the shaky first-half efforts against the 49ers and Jaguars in consecutive weeks seem like they occurred forever ago. But I like the Ravens on Sunday. I've been riding the Ray Lewis Express since it announced it was leaving the station and I'm not getting off of it now. Ray Lewis factor aside (and yes, if you've been in that locker room, you know that's a real thing and not the media creation some have suggested), I also think the Ravens match up better with the Patriots than the Broncos, the Texans or even the 49ers did. Torrey Smith presents the type of deep pass-catching receiver that gives New England's defensive backfield fits. In the locker room Sunday night, I asked Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib if he watched the Ravens-Broncos game on Saturday and he said he did. He took note of Smith's handiwork, "I grew up watching and modeling my game after Champ Bailey," Talib said. "And [he] gave Champ Bailey a very tough time. If you're giving Champ a hard time, you're doing something right." In addition to Smith, Jacoby Jones and Anquan Boldin could present problems for the New England secondary. Toss in a pass rush that got to Peyton Manning surprisingly often last week and I like this matchup for Baltimore. We know, for certain, that the Ravens won't be scared or intimidated by the bright lights and the Foxboro mystique. Unlike the Texans -- with all their swagger and false bravado -- the Ravens have actually won big games like this. They've been through the battles. They've lost some; they've won some. Either way, they've played in them. They've been there. The cannons in Foxboro aren't going to psyche them out. They're as loose as can be. Double-digit underdogs for the second straight week, they've got nothing to lose. All they've got to do is play their brand of football. Poke holes in my reasoning all you want. I took the Ravens last week against the Broncos and you all called me a fool. I've also taken the Giants in not one, but two Super Bowls over the Patriots in the past five years and you've all called me a fool those times, too. I don't pick against New England often, but when I do, I tend to have a pretty fair success rate. And I'm cool with being called a fool. I'm also cool with picking the Ravens to win the AFC. The Pick: Ravens 34, Patriots 30 Cheat Sheet trivia answer of the week: In addition to Kaepernick, Otto Graham and Jay Cutler are the only other quarterbacks in NFL history to run for two and throw two touchdowns in a playoff game.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Are the Denver Broncos really better off with Peyton Manning?

After a 13-3 regular season the Denver Broncos entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The $95 million that John Elway and the Broncos spent on future hall of famer Peyton Manning had paid immediate dividends as Denver appeared primed for a Super Bowl run.  Unfortunately, the Baltimore Ravens wanted the game just a little bit more and sent the Broncos packing in what...

Eli Manning added to NFC Pro Bowl roster

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will replace Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers on the NFC roster for the Pro Bowl. Rodgers dropped out because of knee and ankle issues, so Manning joins Atlanta's Matt Ryan - unless the Falcons make the Super Bowl - and New Orleans' Drew Brees as NFC quarterbacks. This will be Manning's second Pro Bowl; he played in the game in Honolulu...

Where Should The Broncos Go From Here?

Elway and Manning in defeat. Well, the dust has settled, and reality is starting to creep its ugly head into our minds. I’m still not sure I believe what my eyes showed me Saturday night, but I’m willing to start believing that I’m not stuck in a 2 day long nightmare, and what transpired on the field really did happen. In a game full of head scratching penalties, non-penalties...

Manning and Manning In Pro Bowl

Hot News for QB Eli Manning

Manning, Peterson make 101 list

Hot News for QB Peyton Manning

Caption this – Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis

I don’t know what to say. It’s really hard to defend Peyton Manning, like I have done for years, when he seemingly shrunk late in the fourth quarter and OT in the Denver Broncos’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens. So I won’t. Instead, we can talk about this picture with Peyton and Ray Lewis at the end of the game.

Broncos still making sense of loss

The intended target for Peyton Manning's last pass of the season didn't sleep much after the game that brought Denver's season to an unexpected halt. ''I kept playing it back in my head,'' Brandon Stokley said Sunday, as he discussed the loss in a rapidly clearing locker room. ''It's like a bad dream that keeps playing over and over.'...

After ravaging the pooch and getting intercepted by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Corey Graham, it is inarguable that Tim Tebow did as much for the Denver Broncos in 2011 as Peyton Manning did for the franchise this past autumn

With Peyton Manning ravaging the pooch and getting intercepted by Baltimore cornerback Corey Graham on the second possession of overtime, the top seeded Broncos lost to the underdog Ravens 38-35 in 13-degree weather on Saturday night at the Sports Authority … Continue reading →

John Fox stands by coaching decisions

John Fox is a NFL football coach. One of his primary responsibilities is to deal with the world at large when things go wrong. On Monday he sat before the media with his boss Denver Broncos Executive V.P. of Football Operations John Elway and faced the music after his group failed to advance to the AFC Championship Game. Please Click Here To Read This Story The post John Fox...

Five Takeaways From This NFL Weekend – Including One From a Peyton Manning Fan That Might Surprise You

This past weekend in the NFL featured some exciting, if not well-played games that won’t easily be forgotten. Here are my five takes from the weekend that was in the NFL, including one about Peyton Manning and Tom Brady that you probably would not expect an avowed Manning fan and supporter to make. The biggest difference between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady crystallized in Jon’s...

NFL Coaching Rumors: Broncos OC Mike McCoy to interview with Chargers, Cardinals make strong push

Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is going to be busy in coming weeks. McCoy has helped guide the Denver Broncos to back-to-back playoff appearances. Last year with Tim Tebow under center, this season with Peyton Manning as the signal caller. The Broncos were eliminated from post-season play on Saturday night, so McCoy is now free to interview with other teams. The...

The Slant: Episode 86

On this episode of The Slant, host Brad Stein talks about what it will take for the Seattle Seahawks to make the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning's legacy, and more! Download & Listen Here

Denver can still host Super Bowl despite chilly weather

On a day where Broncos fans are depressed over their teams heartbreaking playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens, there is some good news for fans hoping to see Denver host a Super Bowl. On Saturday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in Denver to personally feel the Rocky Mountain chill, and he actually liked what he felt. "My personal view is, the game of football 

A Healthy Nicks Common Cure to Put Eli, Giants Back on Top

Photo courtesy of NY Daily News Henry Rice BGB Contributor Players, coaches, pundits, experts, fans and others are all trying to figure out why their teams didn’t make the players.  The answer of course is obvious… they didn’t have enough victories.  For some teams, they didn’t have the right coach or their talent just isn’t good enough to compete.  This was...

Broncos coach Fox stands by decision

John Fox would tell Peyton Manning to take the knee again.
NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.