Danny: BAL 27 SF 24 – The Ray Lewis story should be a good story. The man is the greatest combination of leadership and ability we have ever seen in team sports and he has battled heroically through a season-ending injury to lead the playoffs in tackles and a team he spent his entire team playing for to a Super Bowl. Art Modell’s death, Lewis’ impending retirement and Joe Flacco suddenly playing elite has me thinking this is one of those teams of destiny we seem to see once a year. Only problem with this Hollywood ending is that whole entire city cheering an old man’s death and then doing it again when he was not voted to the Hall of Fame, the white suit & PEDs and Joe Flacco’s lack of a personality.
Wes: SF 31 BAL 27- This year’s Super Bowl has dozens of interesting stories, not the least of which are a coaching matchup between two brothers, Ray Lewis’ final game, and the fact that each team made a bold personnel move that has subsequently gotten them to this point. These are all intriguing subplots, but just from looking at the matchup, I think this is going to be a close game between seemingly equally matched teams. I have spent all week wavering over which team to pick and have read and considered the opinions of several professionals in the media industry. I still can’t say with conviction which team will win, but I have selected the 49ers because that’s who I’ll be throwing my support behind on Super Sunday. The Niners have never lost a Super Bowl in five trips there, and the team representing the NFC has won four of the last five Super Bowls. I like the trend. Give me San Fran.
Garr: SF 34 BAL 31 – Look, I know both of these team’s defenses are good, but the way their offenses have played in this postseason, it’s hard not to predict a high scoring game. Flacco is going to play well, Kaepernick will play well, Lewis will dance, Beyonce will sing. Even if your team isn’t in the Super Bowl, it’s still a good time. It’s the Super Bowl! If I have to pick, which is why you’re reading this in the first place, I’ll take the 49ers. I think they have just a little more of a complete team.
SF 16 BAL 14: Everyone should be ready for it: This game has a really good chance to turn boring, and not just because of Joe Flacco’s personality. I smell a defensive game in which both teams are afraid to make a mistake, which means fewer possessions and an amplification of every play. I think the 49ers win this game because of a few turnovers. I hope I’m wrong, though, because Ray Lewis has an excellent back story. It’s nice to some succeed in the face of a dark, powerful, life-long addiction to attention. — Nick Piotrowicz, former editor-in-chief, current sports writer at Rock Mount Telegram (N.C)
BAL 28 SF 10: Ah, my triumphant return to the weekly column where I spent three years nobly fighting to stay out of last place. When breaking down this matchup, I keep having flashbacks to Week 16, when Seattle’s swarming defense took the Niners completely out of their game. Kaepernick and company haven’t had to deal with a defense like that since. Ray Rice and Torrey Smith are two of the most under-appreciated offensive weapons in the sport, and should give the Ravens’ defense some points to work with. Ray Lewis gets to put the perfect ending touches on the worst-selling, most traumatizing storybook ever. — Matt Pentz, former managing and sports editor, current sports writer at Longview Daily News (Wash.)
SF 26 BAL 17 – I don’t think either QB will play particularly well, a scenario which ostensibly favors the Niners’ overall chances. San Francisco has more weapons at the skill positions, a younger defense, and doesn’t have to worry about ignoring Ray Rice (because the Ravens will take care of that on their own). Plus, I can’t seem to find the Bible verse where God declares his favor for Ray Lewis. — Justin Williams, former sports editor, current associate editor of Cincinnati Magazine
BAL 24 SF 21: Just imagine this: tied 21-21 with 3 minutes on the clock, no timeouts. As the 49ers take to the field, starting at their own 10, there’s an eruption as Alex Smith runs on to the field. Kapernick was sacked by Ray Lewis earlier and will not return to the game. Smith drives San Fran all the way down to the 5 yard line and then… PICK! Ray Lewis runs it back to the 10 yard line before being tackled. Ravens win on a field goal. I really do miss Speakeasy. — Tyler Rosten, former soccer and basketball writer, current reporter for Bobcat Showcase and announcer for Ohio women’s basketball
Alex Hider: SF 28 BAL 24 – 49ers in a game that isn’t as close as the score indicates. I don’t think my heart could take another Super Bowl victory by the original Browns. #KeepArtOut
Mark Clavin: CLE 30 BAL 21 – The Cleveland Browns will win the Super Bowl. I hope Ray Lewis gets cracked, Cleveland Browns Super Bowl Champs.
Katie Hendershot: SF 24 BAL 21 I’ve been taught to hate the Ravens, something my grandpa, as a Browns fan, felt strongly about. I know the Ravens have momentum coming into this Sunday, but because of my allegiance, I will have to go with the 49ers.
Zak Kolesar: SF 34 BAL 28 – These teams took two completely different routes to New Orleans, but they were similar in nature. The job that 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman has done with revolutionizing the San Francisco offense midseason because of the quarterback change has been incredible. The team has been averaging 28.6 points since enhancing the offense with pistol-like formations, and that’s one reason why this will be a high scoring game even with two of the most feared defenses in the NFL on the field. Joe Flacco has had an up-and-down season and career, but he has endured the necessary growing pains that any unproven quarterback must go through and now finds himself on the biggest stage because of it. This game will be dictated by the two opposing gunslingers, and the San Francisco offensive line — the league’s best o-line unit — will help Colin Kaepernick find daylight against an aging Baltimore defense.
Kevin Noonan: SF 24, BAL 14 – The Ray Lewis Retirement Special finally comes to an end. (so sad, right?) Kaepernick will do just enough to win, Gore and a stout San Fran defense will be the decisive factors.
Marlowe Alter: SF 24 BAL 20 – San Francisco’s offensive line has been dominate all season but they’ve turned it up a notch in the playoffs. The 49ers have compiled 472 yards on the ground in their two playoff victories, including a ridiculous 6.3 yard per carry average and seven touchdowns. And while the Ravens defense has been outstanding in their run to the Super Bowl, they haven’t faced a team as physical as the Niners. Jim Harbaugh is already one of the best coaches in the NFL and always has something up his sleeve. I’ve been torn on this pick all week but I think the versatility of the Niners offense gives them the slight edge in an absolute classic.
Joshua Yost: BAL 24, SF 21 – According to Football Outsiders, San Francisco’s defense ranks ten and seven respectively in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) against the first and second wide receiver, while giving up big numbers to slot receivers. Typically, the Ravens will line up their best receiver, Anquan Boldin, in the slot which will work against the weakness of the middle of the defense with his size. Baltimore on the other hand ranks 20 and 30 respectively, while stopping slot receivers and tight ends typically. The game will come down to the kickers ultimately, but the kicker needs to be set up by big plays in the passing game, expect a big day from Randy Moss, but ultimately head-case David Akers will kick wide left and Justin Tucker will win the day.
Bez: BAL 24 SF 21 – Whether it was the Miami Heat winning the NBA Championship, the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series or even Chelsea winning the Champions League, these teams all have one thing in common: they were destined to win. How often is it that an NFL team beats Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the same postseason? Sure, the 49ers may have the most exciting young quarterback in the NFL with Colin Kaepernick and a great defense led by Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, but Baltimore has been counted out so many times and they have proved everyone wrong up to this point. Expect Ray Rice to have a big game and Joe Flacco to prove that he deserves a lucrative contract but, on the grandest of stages, expect Ray Lewis to find a way to contain Frank Gore and the second-year quarterback out of Nevada.
Chris Manning: SF 21 BAL 14 – To put it simply, the 49ers are a better football team than the Ravens. However, I think emotions will work in favor of Baltimore. As ESPN has so graciously pointed out several times this week, this will be Ray Lewis’s last game, and it may also be Ed Reed’s last game. That emotion could give Baltimore an edge San Francisco cannot match, but when it comes to X’s and O’s, I give the 49ers an edge in all areas. And above all, I trust Colin Kaepernick more than I trust Joe Flacco.
Seth Austin: SF 31 BAL 20 – I can’t cheer for the Ravens. Where was Ray Lewis the night Joey Porter was shot? Also, John Harbaugh went to Miami. #Facts