The 2013 NFL Super Bowl will be dubbed as the “Harbaugh Bowl” or even the “Harbowl” (is that how it’s spelled?), and there are numerous storylines heading into the game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens that have already capture the media spotlight and are picking up steam. The name most often put in the headlines? Ray Lewis, no doubt about it.
Lewis has shown incredible toughness in what will be his final season and run in this league, and he is hungry for a second Super Bowl title. The emotion he displayed after the win over the New England Patriots yesterday would seem like overkill for anyone other than Lewis, but it is all fitting for a legend like Lewis. He’s the linebacker equivalent of Tom Brady at the quarterback position, even though I would naturally take Brady any day as a Patriots blogger.
The San Francisco 49ers come into the game with a first-year starter at quarterback in Colin Kaepernick who has rightfully taken the league by a storm. After shredding the Green Bay Packers porous defense, he launched a big comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome, showing the kind of pose that is uncanny for a first-year QB in a hostile environment in Atlanta. Alex Smith is a very good quarterback in his own right, but Kaep brings something else to the table in the pistol offense with his running ability and better deep ball.
Veterans of the 49ers organization like Frank Gore have been through it all from the worst of times, to the heartbreaking defeat of lat season, and now to the glory of an NFC Championship in 2013. The 49ers carry the brand of being the favorites in this game and for good reason. With elite talents like Frank Gore, Kaepernick, Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, and a top secondary, this team has a roster that is the most talented in the NFL. But the Ravens are riding high on emotion and in the win column, as they are piping hot at just the right time. Patriots fans know how much of a challenge it is for even the most talented of teams to face a team on a hot streak (the two New York Giants Super Bowls that I would like to forget come quickly to mind).
Ray Lewis may be front and center, but there is much more to this game than just Lewis. In fact, in terms of actual football X’s and O’s, he’s not one of the first guys on the radar. However, Lewis will be incredibly important against the 49ers ridiculously talented rushing attack, and it will be interesting to see how he handles all the advanced nuances of the 49ers pistol offense.
The battle in the trenches for both teams could be one for the ages, because the 49ers have the best run blockers in the league (even better than the Patriots) and they will need to be at their best against Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata. The Ravens and 49ers are coming into this game high on emotion, but emotion isn’t even a tenth of the equation in this game.
My early pick is the 49ers because talent usually wins out. But the keywords are “usually” and “talent”, because some will argue that the Ravens are more talented and have other factors on their side that could transcend talent and matchups.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.