JOE BIDDLE: Crystal ball says it’s San Francisco

For clarification purposes I admit I have been as productive in picking Super Bowl winners as I have been in the stock market.

In other words, do not under any circumstance take this to the bank. Nor should you spout off anything you glean here at the Super Bowl party of your choice lest you be hooted out of the place and end up getting your hot wings through a drive-in window.

This game is especially difficult to predict with any trace of certainty.

Super Bowl XLVII not only pits two brothers against each other on the sidelines for the first time in history, but San Francisco and Baltimore are in many ways mirror images of each other.

They arrived in New Orleans from opposite coasts, but the tie that binds is commitment and a hunger to do what it takes to take the Super Bowl stage.

The 49ers haven't appeared in a Super Bowl in 18 years. Joe Montana's kids are in college. It's been 13 years for the Ravens. All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis has socks older than his Ravens teammates. So you don't know how the lengthy layoff will affect both teams and coaches.

With two weeks between games, there are no secrets out there. Jim and John Harbaugh are smart, solid game planners, but no one is going to re-invent the wheel when it comes to the final game of the season.

It leaves the outcome to turnovers, penalties, missed tackles and injuries. I look for a close, rather low-scoring game with athletes on both sides making big plays on offense and defense.

That being said, you have to look at the quarterbacks, which often become the difference in winning and losing.

San Francisco is throwing Colin Kaepernick in the fire even though he has only started 10 NFL games. If it's experience you trust, then you will go with Baltimore's Joe Flacco, the unflappable one with five years under his belt.

You can't go wrong with either one, but because of his relative inexperience, Kaepernick is the wild card in the equation.

He operates out of a pistol offense that could be the NFL flavor of the future. It's a read-option offense that relies on Kaepernick making quick and correct decisions. The Ravens need to keep heat on him and try to rattle him.

Everyone has seen how the long striding quarterback can kill teams with his legs. For a reference, contact defensive minded Atlanta head coach Mike Smith, whose Falcons withered in a second half comeback in the NFC Championship Game in large part to Kaepernick's arm and legs.

If the Ravens allow him to get comfortable, he may have the strongest arm in the game. But he must be precise because veteran Ravens safety Ed Reed can read a quarterback's eyes better than a Las Vegas poker dealer. Those who watch film say Kaepernick has not mastered going through his progressions, instead working on half a field and hitting primary targets.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco doesn't like to leave the pocket and he has the Brinks of offensive lines protecting him. The 49ers better find a way to fluster Flacco or Ray Lewis will be holding an all-night prayer meeting.

The running games are similar. Give Baltimore's Ray Rice the edge because of being more productive taking passes out of the backfield. This season Rice caught 61 passes for 478 yards, converting 22 first downs. San Francisco's Frank Gore caught 28 passes for 234 yards and 10 first downs.
Gore out gained Rice on the ground, 1,214 yards to 1,143 for Rice. They ranked No. 10 and 11 in rushing.

Then you have the intangibles. Ray Lewis is the Ravens spiritual leader. He stokes the fire and this being his final game, Lewis will have them sky high.

Although he doesn't get the publicity Lewis gets, I really like what 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis brings to the table in this game. The West Tennessean from Bruceton and former Ole Miss star may well be the one that makes a difference. With Jim Harbaugh pushing the buttons, they know they can't afford to get down 17-0 like they did against Atlanta and overcome that margin.

After consulting with an unemployed one-eyed fortune-teller whose crystal ball was held together with duct tape, I have what you are looking for.

San Francisco, 28-24.  

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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