By PHIL BARBER
When I landed in New Orleans early this week, I experienced a strange sensation. I felt the Baltimore Ravens would win the Super Bowl.
It was just a feeling, but the Ravens reminded me of the New York Giants teams that beat the Patriots in two of the past five Super Bowls. They are disciplined, well coached and on a roll when it counts most. You heard the thing about John Harbaugh never losing an NFL game when he had more than a week to prepare, right?
It was all adding up to an upset prediction.
Then the week progressed and I became more immersed in personnel, match-ups and scheme. Not that I was sitting in a darkened room watching film or anything. I just had a lot of conversations with neutral football people, many of them network analysts who used to play or coach.
Day by day, my opinion shifted toward the 49ers. Their linebackers are fearsome. Their secondary is solid and physical. Their offensive line might be the best in football; it’s certainly better than the Ravens’. Joe Flacco is a good quarterback, but I think the Niners can pressure him effectively and disrupt his timing.
Most of all, I picture Colin Kaepernick having a great game. I trust the Ravens defense and defensive coaches to come up with a better plan against Kaepernick than either the Packers or Falcons did. But you don’t win these games with brains alone. Baltimore will need speed, and its defense is old. Ray Lewis is 37. Ed Reed and nose tackle Ma’ake Komoeatu are 34. Terrell Suggs is 30. They should not have to chase around a whippet like Kaepernick at their age.
In other words, my gut said Ravens, but my head says 49ers, and I’m going that way.
San Francisco 28, Baltimore 16