It should come as no surprise that there is no consensus among experts when it comes to predicting the Super Bowl winner. In fact, Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King’s column on the game is titled, “Why This Super Bowl is Impossible to Predict.”
Still, it is the Super Bowl, so of course people are making their predictions. Can the 49ers remain undefeated in Super Bowl games? Does Ray Lewis ride off into the sunset holding the Lombardi Trophy, a seemingly impossible scenario when he was put on injured reserve three months ago? We will know soon enough.
Here is how some of the national media see the game (and the Ravens get no love from their former Super Bowl-winning quarterback):
Don Banks, Sports Ilustrated: 49ers 31, Ravens 20
"The game will be competitive for the first three quarters, but the Ravens will get Kaepernick-ed in the final 15 minutes, because San Francisco simply has too many different ways it can beat you these days. On the Superdome's fast track, the 49ers offense will thrive.”
Trent Dilfer, ESPN: 49ers 31, Ravens 23
“As conflicted as I am having to pick between two of my former teams ... both move the ball. The pistol allows the Niners to punch it in, while the Ravens are stuck kicking field goals.”
Jamison Hensley, ESPN: Ravens 34, 49ers 27
“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. 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. Of course, when Flacco struggles, he really struggles. That's why this is called a prediction and not a guarantee.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Ravens 24, 49ers 23
"Nine of the past 15 Super Bowls have ended as one-possession games. The “Har-Bowl” sets up to be tighter than them all. When you stack up the Ravens’ and 49ers’ strengths and weaknesses across the board, there’s not much that separates two similar, physical teams under John and Jim Harbaugh.… Both Harbaughs preach hard-nosed play, and their players have the mental toughness to match.
One area of separation is in the return and kicking games, where Baltimore has the advantage with return man Jacoby Jones and kicker Justin Tucker. The Ravens also have the emotional edge. They’ve been revved-up ever since Lewis said this would be his “last ride.” For other older players such as Reed and Terrell Suggs, there’s a sense of urgency with their proverbial windows closing. Also, Lewis’ impending exit has led Flacco to take possession of the leadership torch.
Baltimore has been building to this moment for a while under John Harbaugh, and its experience will help it to steal the game late.”
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Ravens 30, 49ers 27
I’ve gone back and forth all week on this game. When I convince myself that the 49ers will win, I think of the reasons why the Ravens will prevail. And then I think of the reasons the 49ers will prevail. And then I think of the reasons the Ravens will prevail. …
The 49ers are the better team on paper. But the Broncos and the Patriots were the better teams on paper, too. And the Ravens just keep winning. … The Ravens defense will need to contain Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore. The concern is that, if the Ravens figure out a way to solve the read-option in a way that keeps both from burning them, Kaepernick will pull the ball back out and fire a pass to Randy Moss, who will lollygag off the line of scrimmage before sprinting down the field.
Still, there’s something about the Ravens this year, between the impact of Ray Lewis and the emergence of Joe Flacco and the reality that, after this season, Baltimore could have some rebuilding to do. … In the end, there’s a good chance that each Harbaugh brother will get a ring. For now, the first-born son becomes the first one to hoist the trophy.
Elliott Harrison, NFL.com: 49ers 34, Ravens 26
“Even though it's a "push" at defensive line, the upside clearly sits with them. The extra rest afforded to Justin Smith's triceps should be beneficial. And Aldon Smith did have nearly 20 sacks in the regular season. If either of those pieces improve their play, the entire defensive advantage will sit with the Niners. Combine that with quality coaching and a quarterback who doesn't make a lot of mistakes, and the San Francisco 49ers improve to 6-for-6 on Super Bowl Sundays.”
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Ravens 27, 49ers 23
“I don't know what kind of game this is going to be, but this Super Bowl really has it all.
John versus Jim; Harbaughs dueling at 53 yards. Ray Lewis versus Colin Kaepernick: A retiring all-time linebacker in his last game against the well-tattooed 25-year-old passer who might be the future of the position. Dean Pees versus Greg Roman: A Belichick-trained veteran defensive coach against a kid with lots of new ideas. Two terrific deep-throwers. Two running games that, at times, have dominated in a season full of passing records. Two defenses that, at times, have dominated too. …
I think it'll be a terrific game, and when I pressed the button on Baltimore 27, San Francisco 23 on the night of the conference title games, I thought to myself, I could have picked San Francisco just as easily and been just as confident. But I'm not going back. In Flacco I trust."
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: 49ers 28, Ravens 17
“There wasn’t a single point in the regular season when I would have said the Ravens were a better team than the 49ers. Baltimore had a better record than San Francisco during much of the first part of the regular the season, but the 49ers looked like a more impressive, more complete football team ….
And down the stretch in the regular season, the 49ers got even better after replacing Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick, while the Ravens lost four of their last five to close out 2012. So the only way I could pick the Ravens now is if I think their three-game playoff run has shown that they’ve become a significantly better team. And while I do think the Ravens are playing their best football at the right time, I simply don’t see them as better than the 49ers on either side of the ball.
… I do expect Baltimore to have a decided special-teams advantage in this game, but I don’t think that’s going to produce enough game-changing plays to make the difference. The 49ers are the better team, and they’ll hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.”