This is the fifth year in which I offer my Super Bowl picks. To recap...
2009 - Went 2-1, winning Pittsburgh straight up and the over, losing Pitt minus the points.
2010 - Went 2-0, nailing New Orleans with the points and the under.
2011 - Went 1-1, hitting the over, but losing Pitt catching the points (First lesson, avoid picking Pitt)
2012 - Went 1-2 (boo), hitting the under, but losing New England straight up and laying points (Second lesson, stop picking spreads)
Another lesson learned is that I have correctly gotten the Over/Under in each of the last four Super Bowls. Therefore run - DON'T WALK - to your Man with the following...
In analyzing these two teams, what stands out most is their defense. Baltimore's defense was spotty, at best, for most of the season, while some of their big names were out nursing injuries. But time (and a little dear antler extract) heals, and with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and the rest of the crew back on the field, the defense has shown improvement. Baltimore's defense is older and slowing down, but you cannot overlook the years of experience. If the Ravens defense can maintain their lane discipline and keep Colin Kaepernick from running wild, they can keep the 49ers point total low and possibly force some turnovers. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco doesn't instill fear into the opponent during the regular season, but once the playoff start, he elevates his game. Add a deep threat (Torry Smith), possession receiver (Anquan Boldin), pass-catching tight end (Dennis Pitta), shifty running back (Ray Rice) and bruising running back (Bernard Pierce) and I can't imagine Baltimore not outscoring San Francisco. Take Baltimore straight-up (currently the money line is +145, which means a $10 bet will win your money back plus $14.50).
Part of the issue is that despite what they did to the Packers, and all the love that Kaepernick is receiving, the 49ers offense just doesn't scare me. Frank Gore's stats went down late in the season to overuse, and they lost to and tied the Rams of all teams. Meanwhile, although Justin Smith's injury hasn't fully healed (and while he has been injured, Aldon Smith's sacks have vanished) the 49ers defense is the team's strength. I just fawned over the Baltimore defense in the previous paragraph, and now I'm saying that San Francisco's defense is strong too. That tells me that we should take the UNDER of 47-1/2. I know Baltimore scored a lot of points against a good Denver defense in the playoffs, and that San Francisco has put up some silly point totals, but I think there will be some conservative play calling, and that good defenses may sniff out any goofiness.
My 6-4 overall record did look better before this year (when my three-year record was 5-2), but once I get credit for these two wins, I will be 8-4 in five games.
I like those odds.