After 2 long weeks, we finally have the last game of the NFL season. It’s the Harbaugh bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. Jim Harbaugh is the coach of San Francisco, and his brother John is the coach of the Ravens. It’s the first time in history that two brothers are coaching against each other in the big game.
The Ravens look like the prototypical team that has recently won the title. They started out 9-2, then lost 4 of their final 5 games which included a 3-game losing streak to Pittsburgh, the Redskins, and the Broncos. After winning in week 16 against the Giants, the Ravens lost their season finale to Cincinnati 23-17. Baltimore had essentially “limped into the playoffs”. Then, all of a sudden, they beat Andrew Luck and the Colts, then miraculously beat the Broncos in double overtime, and finally got their revenge on the Patriots beating them in the AFC title game 28-13. This formula is something that the New York Giants made famous: Dominate in September and October, tank in November and December, then run the table and win the Super Bowl.
A lot of the Ravens playoff success has to do with the way Joe Flacco is playing. His 114.7 rating is the highest in the playoffs, he’s thrown the most touchdowns with 8, has the most yards with 853, and he HASN’T turned the ball over. If that holds up, Baltimore will be in the drivers seat to the Lombardi trophy.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers have a unique story of their own. They went into this season seemingly all in on former number 1 overall pick Alex Smith as their quarterback. Then, in week 10 against the Rams, Smith suffered a concussion. He wouldn’t see the field again. Forty-Niners coach Jim Harbaugh put in 2nd year back-up Colin Kaepernick as his quarterback and never looked back. After initially struggling in that same Week 10 game against the Rams which resulted in a tie (that rule has to be changed), Kaepernick followed that performance with major ups, but also had some downs. In week 16 against the Seahawks, the 49ers got blown out 42-13 in a laugher, one week after the highlight of Kaepernick’s season in Foxborough. San Francisco built a stunning 31-3 lead over the Patriots, then they suddenly woke up and quickly scored 28 unanswered points to tie the game at 31. Right after the game got tied, Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for a 38-yard touchdown which proved to be the game-winner. Anytime a team loses a massive lead like that, it’s almost inevitable they can’t suddenly get that momentum back. But Kaepernick and the 49ers never gave up, and were able to win 41-34. It was the game of the year during the regular season.
San Francisco went into the post-season as the number 2 seed in the NFC and NFC West champions. They faced the Packers in the Divisional round where Colin Kaepernick had a performance for the ages, but it looked like was going to be a disaster at first. On their first possession, Kaepernick threw a pick 6. The doubters came flying in, and Kaepernick shined right through them. He set a record by rushing for 181 yards, while throwing for 263. It was one of the most unstoppable performances in the history of the sport. San Francisco won that game 45-31. In the NFC title game, Kaepernick ran the ball only 2 times, winning the game solely on his arm 28-24, setting the stage for the Harbaugh bowl.
Now for my prediction: I think that it’s destiny the Ravens win this game. Plays like the Jacoby Jones 70-yard touchdown don’t happen by accident, there’s something going on there. Also, it’s going to be the final game for Ray Lewis, arguably the greatest defensive player to ever play the game. He will inspire his team like never before, and cry like no player has ever cried before. The last reason is the way Joe Flacco has been playing. If he simply takes care of the football like he has been, Baltimore should be in great shape.
Final Score: Ravens 31 49ers 29
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