|WHAT RULES THE SHOUTING?. (Eye on Football Illustration)|
Sorting the Sunday Pile breaks down the biggest stories of the week that was in the NFL. With just one game remaining, let's look at some Super Bowl XLVII odds and 10 storylines from the upcoming "big game." Leave questions, complaints or comments on Twitter @WillBrinson.
First things first: Super Bowl odds. Because America loves Las Vegas and gambling, we've known for a while what the initial Super Bowl line would be and San Francisco is -4.5 over the Ravens, according to Sportsbook.com.
Sportsbook also set the over/under at 49.
That the Niners are favored isn't surprising at all. Early hypothetical lines have had the Niners out in front of the Ravens by a lot. What's interesting is how much the line has dropped: initially it was believed the 49ers would be favored by six points over the Ravens. As the game against the Patriots progressed, it became clear Baltimore's capable of winning anywhere, however, and I'd be willing to bet there's a strong public sentiment surging toward the Ravens on this line.
People don't like betting against the team of destiny and it wouldn't be stunning to see this line dip a little bit closer to a pick, with it eventually settling at 49ers -3.
Are you prepared to see a dead horse beaten until it dies a thousand deaths? Excellent! Because, boy, do I have a storyline for you! Jim Harbaugh, coach of the 49ers, and John Harbaugh, coach of the Ravens, are brothers.
And the fact that they're playing against one another is going to be talked about once or twice during the next two weeks as brothers square off in the Super Bowl for the first time.
It will be talked about, it will be talked about a lot and I will spare you the details of it all right now. Just be prepared for an excessive amount of coverage on the topic.
All that being said, it's a cool story, so feel free to embrace it. If you do, please use the appropriate hashtag (#HarBowl) and not anything else, thanks.
Lewis told his team he's walking away from football after this season and somehow, some way, the Ravens got back into the Super Bowl despite impossible odds. They weren't a better team than the Broncos or the Patriots and they struggled mightily with injuries for a long portion of 2012.
But they got there and Lewis' motivational tactics will be championed as a large reason why. Lewis will also receive a lot of credit for playing "great, tough football" at his age. Don't believe the latter and be questionable of the former.
It doesn't matter, though, because Lewis has a chance to slam the mic and walk away from the NFL as a Super Bowl winner with a victory over the 49ers. Not many get to do that. Lewis relishes the spotlight and he will be very much in it during the next two weeks.
He's currently 60 minutes away from putting out both palms and demanding whatever he wants from the Baltimore front office in terms of money and years. Unfortunately, we're two weeks away from people putting aside the "is Flacco elite or not" and just watching football.
Kaepernick took over after Smith suffered a concussion and the Niners have become a much more dynamic offense with Kaep under center than they were with Smith. It's not a knock on Smith, per se. The guy did get them within a dropped punt of making the Super Bowl in 2011.
But this is life in the NFL and, as Bill Parcells liked to say, when you leave that huddle, you never know who's coming into that huddle. Smith lost his job because he was smart about his health and Kaep isn't giving it back.
He'll have lots of "I'm just happy we're here" comments and "I just want my team to win" but the reality is the next two weeks are going to be tough for him.
Michael Crabtree had a quiet game against the Falcons but he didn't have a quiet week before, getting investigated for alleged sexual assault last week. The 49ers are reportedly highly doubtful that he gets charged and that's all well and good, but he'll be asked more than once about his alleged indiscretion over the next two weeks.
It's a shame too, because the real story with Crabtree is him breaking out with Kaepernick under center: if you prorate his stats with Kaep taking snaps over a 16-game season, he'd have 92 catches, 1,330 yards and 12 touchdowns, which is quiet beasty.
Incredibly, Moss isn't a big storyline in all of this! HOW? We're talking about one of the all-time great wide receivers and a guy who doesn't have a Super Bowl ring. He came back this year and joined the 49ers and took a smaller role for the sole purpose of trying to lock down a Super Bowl ring. He's now 60 minutes from getting one. Of all the things I'm excited about seeing in New Orleans, Randy Moss press conferences might be No. 1.
Having a "non-traditional" quarterback (i.e. a quarterback who can run) and using "non-traditional" offensive styles like the read-option offense have been a hot topic this season. Colin Kaepernick is one of those "non-traditional" guys.
Joe Flacco? Not so much. And we'll see a lot of the different schools taking different sides on the quarterback argument over the next few weeks.
Can the 49ers win with a running quarterback? Yes, of course they can. But people will wonder whether or not this is a matchup of new versus old even if it's not.
Other Swan Songs
Ray Lewis gets all the attention for walking away from the game after this season as he announced he'd be departing before the playoffs began. He's a lock Hall of Famer and no one's going to steal his thunder.
But what about Ravens stalwarts like Ed Reed, Matt Birk and Anquan Boldin? None of them have announced that they'll leave the game but they're of age -- Reed is 34, Birk is 36 and Boldin is 32 -- where walking out on top is at least a consideration. Boldin's obviously the least likely to leave, but maybe winning a Super Bowl propels him into retirement.
I'd be willing to wager a reasonable amount of money that Reed and Birk leave the game if they win a title. Yet they're not getting the same love Lewis is with respect to extremely talented NFL players leaving the game.
Shank You Very Much
Billy Cundiff whiffed a kick in the 2011 AFC Championship Game to force overtime. The Ravens dumped him and added the sure-footed Justin Tucker, who's been a revelation as a rookie this season.
David Akers was a beast in 2011 but struggled mightily in 2012; he doinked a kick in the NFC Championship Game and you have to wonder just how confident Jim Harbaugh is when it comes to the 49ers kicking game.
Akers has the leg and usually has the accuracy, but his struggles have to be a major concern heading into the Super Bowl. He'll be asked about it a lot in the coming two weeks.
Roger Goodell and BountyGate
You forgot all about this didn't you??? Goodell is lucky the 49ers and not the Falcons won: Saints fans might set the city on fire if they had to watch their hated rival play for a Super Bowl title in their own city while Goodell, who they blame for a ruined season, appears on televisions everywhere.
Regardless, Goodell's going to catch a TON of heat throughout the week. He gets booed at the draft all the time, but that's going to be a walk in the park compared to what he'll hear in New Orleans.
The Commish is certainly tough enough to handle everything that Saints fans and the city of New Orleans might throw his way, but that doesn't mean the next fortnight is going to be enjoyable for him in the slightest.