Here we go, the final roundtable discussion for the final game of the NFL season. It’s been a long and hard fought road but we only have two teams left standing — and only one will make it out alive. Who’s going to win, who’s going to be the MVP and who’s going to give us the best Super Bowl memory?
We’ll let’s discuss:
1. We’re finally down to the last two teams. Did you think, when the season started, that we would be sitting here preparing for the Ravens and 49ers to play for the Super Bowl?
Josh Hill: I had the 49ers in the Super Bowl before the season, but I did not think the Ravens would be very relevant in February. My pre-season prediction was the 49ers and Texans in the Super Bowl and I came close, but did I see the Ravens even in the playoffs? No.
Leo Howell: Absolutely not. I could have seen either team being moderately successful, but I never could have predicted either team being in the Super Bowl. The Packers, Patriots, Giants and Texans were teams I was high on in the pre-season.
2. What’s one way the 49ers can win the Super Bowl?
JH: If San Francisco can rattle Joe Flacco early, they’re going to be sitting pretty. One thing they can’t allow to happen is for Flacco to get the deep ball flying. If it comes down to the Ravens receivers against the 49ers corners, we could have a game that sees the score get really inflated.
LH: Get pressure on Joe Flacco. He’s been on a roll lately, and if he gets started on the right foot, even the Niners’ defense could struggle to keep up. The Niners have the pass rushers to get in Flacco’s face, and they must do so from the first snap.
3. What’s one way the Ravens can win the Super Bowl?
JH: If the Ravens want to win, they need to play in the second half. In both of the 49ers games this postseason they’ve come storming back in the second half of their games and became an entirely different team. All the Falcons had to do was play defense and control the ball in the second half of the NFC title game but they couldn’t do that and as a result they failed miserably in stopping the 49ers attack. Control the ball with a lead and you win the Super Bowl.
LH: Don’t overreact to the read option, and just generally play smart defense. The Ravens have players who could fall victim to the misdirection and trickery of the read option, and must stay disciplined and maintain their assignments. The 49ers could carve up their defense if given the chance, and keep the ball for long chunks of time. The Ravens have to get Joe Flacco back on the field as much as possible.
4. Who’s going to be the Super Bowl MVP?
JH: If the 49ers win, Colin Kaepernick will be getting the MVP simply because he’s going to be the reason the Niners win, if they do. But if the Ravens win, Ray Lewis is going to get the MVP just because politics are going to pay a heavy role and that’s really the only way the NFL is going to let him retire.
LH: My darkhorse pick is Cary Williams. 10 years after the Buccaneers returned multiple pick-sixes against the Raiders, I can see the Ravens doing the same against the inexperienced Kaepernick. However, my realistic pick is Colin Kaepernick, who I feel will show no signs of nerves, and will not lack in confidence on the big stage. If the 49ers win, he’ll be the key to their success.
5. Are we in store for a defensive battle or will this game be an epic scoring match?
JH: We thought all the games the 49ers were in would end up being defensive battles and that didn’t really pan out. Both of these teams do have amazing defenses, which is going to show just how good these offenses. I’d love a defensive battle but everything is suggesting this will be a high scoring and extremely entertaining affair.
LH: I think the score will be pretty high. I see two quarterbacks who are on top of their games, and two running games that can break big plays. Both teams have strengths on defense, too, but I believe that the offenses will have the upper hand. It will turn into a shootout and both defenses will struggle as a result.
LH: I think it’s being overlooked, but it has to be the rise of Colin Kaepernick. A second year player from Nevada who runs the Pistol offense is the starting quarterback of a Super Bowl team despite taking over the reigns halfway through the season and only starting a handful of games in his NFL career. This is absolutely crazy, and he’s such an interesting character on top of his on-the-field accomplishments. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t rooting for him.
JH: The 49ers seems absolutely unstoppable at the moment and even when they get into a huge hole they manage to dig themselves out of it. They’ve just got too much momentum going right now to be stopped, and San Francisco is going to be getting another Super Bowl.
LH: I’ve got the Niners winning going away, 35-21. Kaepernick named MVP, and Alex Smith gets a ring and a contract with the Cardinals.