Friday, February 1, 2013
Friday forecast: My Super Bowl prediction
By Jamison Hensley
NEW ORLEANS -- Joe Flacco will lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory on Sunday.
This statement would've drawn laughter a month ago. Now, this is how I see Sunday unfolding for the Ravens. My prediction: Ravens 34, 49ers 27.
While there have been other storylines grabbing the headlines this week -- Ray Lewis' last ride and the battling Harbaugh brothers -- the Super Bowl will be won or lost by Flacco. When he's on his game, the Ravens are difficult to beat. Since he was drafted in 2008, Baltimore is 12-1 in games when he throws over 300 yards. The Ravens are also 33-4 when Flacco produces a passer rating of at least 95.
Based on his reputation-changing playoff run this year, you would be surprised if Flacco delivered anything less. His passer ratings for the three postseason games: 125.6, 116.2 and 106.2.
The two key factors for Flacco is the improved play of the new-look offensive line and the speed of Torrey Smith. The Ravens have to continue to block like they've done all postseason to give Flacco the time to throw the ball downfield. If that happens, Smith has proven he can beat defenses deep. The last time the Ravens played in a dome was last year in St. Louis, where Flacco hit Smith for three touchdowns in the first quarter.
Of course, when Flacco struggles, he really struggles. That's why this is called a prediction and not a guarantee.
Here is what the other division bloggers are predicting:
James Walker, AFC East: Ravens, 23-20. After beating Denver and New England on the road, the Ravens are battle-tested and riding the emotional wave. Kaepernick's youth finally shows with a costly turnover or two.
Paul Kuharsky, AFC South: Ravens, 24-20. Can't recall ever having such a hard time finding a gut feeling on a Super Bowl pick. One of the QBs will come back to Earth, maybe both.
Bill Williamson, AFC West: 49ers, 27-23. In a game that should keep our attention for 60 minutes, Lewis' dream retirement instead turns into the capper of Kaepernick's incredible journey. In the end, the 49ers go a perfect 6-for-6 in Super Bowls, joining baseball's Giants atop the sports world.
Dan Graziano, NFC East: 49ers, 24-16. Baltimore has emotion, but San Francisco has better players. The defense should be able to pressure Joe Flacco and contain Ray Rice. Even if Kaepernick has a poor game, the 49ers can run Frank Gore down the throat of a defense that ranked 20th in the league against the run.
Kevin Seifert, NFC North: 49ers, 28-27. The Ravens are the sentimental pick and have played great in the playoffs. The 49ers, however, have been arguably the most balanced, physical and innovative team in the NFL this season. They'll find a way to get it done.
Pat Yasinskas, NFC South: 49ers, 31-24. The phenomenon that is Colin Kaepernick will only continue to grow. The 49ers are dominant on both sides of the ball, and they'll wear the Ravens down.
Mike Sando, NFC West: 49ers, 27-23. The 49ers have the advantage in weaponry without much question. And while Flacco has never been hotter, Kaepernick has been the tougher quarterback to defend. There's a good chance that will be the case again Sunday.
For other predictions from ESPN's writers and editors, you can click here.