Who will prevail in the 49ers and Ravens matchup in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday in the Big Easy? National Review Online asked for some predictions.
DORINDA BORDLEE Given that the NFL inflicted the death penalty on the Saints this year by taking our coach away along with key defensive players, I simply couldn’t bear to watch this season. I therefore have no feel for the teams in the Super Bowl (even though it’s in my home town of New Orleans). The only thing that has me excited is the facelift that the Super Bowl money has made possible for our historic and recovering City — especially to the airport. So my prediction is this: Winner: City of New Orleans. Loser: City of New Orleans.
EdWArd John Craig The outcome of Sunday’s game shouldn’t really be in doubt.
The Ravens defense — led by ball-hawking safety Ed Reed, first-ballot Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis (did you hear about this being his last game?), and mountainous Haloti Ngata down in the trenches — are perennial standouts and now get to face a rookie quarterback . . . in the Super Bowl. They have one of the league’s most dynamic and versatile running backs in Ray Rice. They have the speed on the outside in Torrey Smith to stretch the field on San Francisco’s lanky cornerbacks. And a sizzling-hot quarterback in Joe Flacco who has arm enough to get the ball to Smith once he pulls away. I expect the Ravens to make 49er QB Colin Kaepernick beat them from the pocket (like the Atlanta Falcons did, only better) while taking away TE Vernon Davis.
All of which spells 28–17, Ravens. And yet . . .
It only takes one play to change a game. A forced fumble by Patrick Willis. A big return by Ted Ginn Jr. A gadget play to speedy LaMichael James. A pass-interference penalty drawn in the endzone by Randy Moss.
Hey, what about that Randy Moss? Like Ray Lewis, he’s a shoo-in for Canton, despite the fact that, unlike Lewis, he’s not yet won a Super Bowl. And while he has a reputation (deserved or not) for being a selfish player — a locker-room cancer, even — at least he’s never been charged with murder.
Forget what I spelled out above. If Colin Kaepernick can pick up three first downs with his legs, the Niners win.
— Edward John Craig is managing editor of NRO.
DAVID FRENCH The 49ers must and will win.
To be honest, I don’t care much for the Niners or the Ravens, but now’s not the time to lament the fate of my abysmal Tennessee Titans. This Super Bowl is about the future of football, specifically the run-and-gun, mobile quarterback. Don’t believe me? Heed the words of an NFL executive. Two years ago, a leading executive in personnel for an NFC team paused to consider a quarterback class that included great athletes such as Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick, and Tyrod Taylor.
“You can have all those guys,” the exasperated scout finally exclaimed. “When one of them wins the Super Bowl, then I’ll go to one of those spread-offense guys. Until they do, I’m sticking with the Sam Bradfords.”
Imagine the Niners’ Kaepernick as the Magic Johnson of the NFL, leading his west-coast version of the Lakers against the east-coast Joe Flacco (Larry Bird) and the smash-mouth Ravens (Celtics). Think there’s little difference between Kaepernick and Flacco? In one partial season, Kaepernick rushed for almost as many yards as Flacco has in his entire four-year career.
It’s high time for a championship quarterback to put the fun back in the NFL. We need “Showtime” on the gridiron.
— David French is a senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice and co-author ofHome and Away.
On paper, the 49ers have the advantage. They’re young, fast, and ascendant. But the Ravens have what pickup-basketball players call “old-man game,” especially on defense. Jim Harbaugh will be relying on athleticism, deception, and the occasional shot down the field to score. But what grizzled old Ray Lewis is lacking in speed he makes up for with 17 years of refined instincts and what is probably the best first step in the league. Coupled with their talent and smarts along the line of scrimmage, I don’t think Baltimore is going to let Colin Kaepernick gouge them too badly on the ground. And when the San Francisco quarterback is forced on the run and starts taking big shots down the field, expect the Ravens wily old safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard to, by turns, pick a couple off and deliver a few hits.
On the other hand, the Ravens offense and Joe Flacco are going to need to take shots down the field early and often. Flacco has elite arm strength, great deep threats in Boldin and Smith, and a 49ers secondary that has shown itself in the playoffs to be the defense’s only fallible unit. Connecting early on a few big plays will force the Niners’ dominant front seven to back off and give Flacco breathing room to look to the sure-handed Pitta and jack-of-all-trades Ray Rice. I’m an AFC fan (the Jets, but don’t tell anybody), a Rutgers fan (Ray Rice’s alma mater), and saw Joe Flacco play at Delaware when my girlfriend was going to school there, so a Ravens upset is also in my rooting interest. I’ll call it 24–20.
— Daniel Foster is news editor of NRO.
JIM GERAGHTY The last five Super Bowls have featured seven teams, and the 2012 Super Bowl matchup of the New York Giants and New England Patriots was a rerun of 2008. So it’s refreshing to see some new faces in the title game; this year marks Baltimore’s first appearance since the 2000–2001 season and San Francisco’s first appearance since 1994–1995.
The media has their most convenient pre-packaged storyline ever (brother against brother), and both teams look evenly matched, so we’re unlikely to see a blowout. Neither team is a how-did-they-end-up-here fluke like the 2007 Cardinals, 1995 Chargers, or 1986 Patriots.
My rooting interest will be with the 49ers. If Baltimore wins, the salutes to Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will be gushing and effusive, and all of us will be asked to avert our eyes from Lewis’s January 2000 Super Bowl activities, where somebody wound up murdered. (In a plea agreement he pled guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for testimony against two other defendants, who were acquitted.)
Madison Avenue has been in a rebuilding stage for Super Bowl commercials for several years now, so hopefully we’ll see that losing streak end.