The Ravens and 49ers are almost mirror images of each other, and with a Super Bowl title hanging in the balance, the game will not be a war. If any team has the upper hand it is the better team, which just so happens to be the 49ers. San Francisco went on the road and beat the top seeded Atlanta Falcons after the 49ers demolished the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. For the entire season, San Francisco has hovered around the top of the NFL Power Rankings, been the most consistent team, and it’s no surprise that they are the last NFC team standing. The Ravens have ridden an emotional tidal wave, sparked by the last ride of Ray Lewis, and pulled off two improbable wins and one unimpressive one. Talent-wise, the Ravens are not even the best team in the AFC, and it’s a surprise to everyone outside of Baltimore that it’s the Ravens and not some other AFC team representing the conference in the Super Bowl. This has to make the 49ers feel good about their chances of winning it all.
Ravens Have Taken Advantage of Match-ups and Miscues
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and Baltimore has certainly played well, but they have been more opportunistic on their way to the AFC Crown. The names of the quarterbacks they have beaten, (Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady) are impressive, but a closer shows that Baltimore will meet San Francisco because they got lucky.
Ravens 24 – Colts 9
Andrew Luck is already a star in the NFL, but he is still a rookie, and he plays on a team that is a few years from really competing for a Super Bowl. The Colts should be recognized for making an impressive turn around from the disaster that was their previous season, but the reality is that the Colts play in a weak division, had a very weak schedule and barely made it to the playoffs. Taking out any team in the post season is not easy, but beating the Colts is far from impressive for the Baltimore.
Ravens 38 – Broncos 35 (overtime)
The Broncos were a lot of people’s AFC Super Bowl pick, as they had the greatest regular season quarterback ever in Peyton Manning under center. As he has done more times than not though, Manning did not play well when it mattered the most. His team scored 35 points, but 14 of that was from the special teams, and Peyton threw two interceptions. His turnovers proved costly as one was returned for a score and the other set up the Ravens’ game winning field goal. Denver struggled defensively, Peyton had an off game, and it still took a 70 yard pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones in the waning seconds of regulation to force overtime where Baltimore won. The touchdown pass was an inexcusable mistake by the secondary. Not only did they allow the one play they were defending against, nobody even laid a hand on Jones.
Ravens 28 – Patriots 13
The end of the road appeared in sight with the Ravens going to New England to beat the great Tom Brady last week. New England uncharacteristically played a very sloppy game, mismanaging the clock and even Brady’s safety blanket, Wes Welker dropped a pass (that happened to be on 3rd down) summing up a day in which everything that could go wrong did for New England. The Patriots are not known for their physical style of play, and folded after one half of the punishment Baltimore inflicted on them. New England entered the game without their best offensive player Rob Gronkowski, lost their most important defensive player in Aqib Talib during the game, and was unable to muster any effort in the second half. The Patriots did not play a game worthy of making it to the Super Bowl, but they are the better team, and if the two teams lined up again, New England would most likely emerge victorious.
Best Team Left Is San Francisco
With one game to decide the season, the 49ers are the best team remaining. The Ravens have relied on their physical style of play, and their opposition’s mistakes to reach the Super Bowl. This is a blueprint for success against most teams, but may not work against the 49ers, who have protected the ball on their way to the Super Bowl, and certainly will not be intimidated. When the two teams meet on Feb. 3rd, the 49ers will be the better team, which far from guarantees a victory, but it’s better than being on the other side.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.