The Baltimore Ravens very well may win Super Bowl XLVII. Quarterback Joe Flacco is playing better than ever before, and the defense, mediocre for most of the year (NFL regular season rank: 16), saved its grittiest performances for trips to Denver and New England in the playoffs.
Still, those aren't compelling enough reasons to pick them to win, as almost everyone on the CBSSports.com staff did.
San Francisco was the better team in the regular season. The 49ers have more talent than the Ravens on defense and became more explosive offensively after switching to Colin Kaepernick from Alex Smith at quarterback. They scored more than 40 points in two of Kaepernick's nine starts after doing it twice in Smith's last 27 starts.
If both teams play to their capability, San Francisco should win.
Of the 49ers' concerns, only one is legitimate. If the game comes down to a last-second field goal, they are in trouble. David Akers missed more than a third of his attempts (dreadful by NFL standards) after starting 7 of 8. His botched 38-yarder against Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game won't help his confidence.
Baltimore rookie Justin Tucker, in contrast, has hit 32 of 35 field goals, counting the playoffs.
|The home of the Super Bowl|
Huge advantage, Ravens.
But the 49ers are good enough not to be trailing in the final minutes.
The idea that Kaepernick will flinch under the Super Bowl spotlight carries little weight. He's already faced tremendous adversity in the postseason.
He threw a terrible pick-6 against Green Bay on his first pass of the playoffs. He responded by setting an NFL playoff record for rushing yards by a quarterback as the 49ers rolled to a 45-31 victory against a team that had won 10 of its last 12.
He presided over two consecutive three-and-outs while Atlanta jumped all over San Francisco in the first quarter of the NFC Championship Game. He responded to that 17-0 deficit by completing 16 of 21 passes for 233 yards as the 49ers rallied to win 28-24 against a team that had won 12 of its last 13 games in the Georgia Dome.
The 49ers defense, dominant for most of the year, has slipped down the stretch, but it made enough plays to beat Green Bay and Atlanta. Flacco and the Ravens' offense don't present any more problems than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers or Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
There's no reason to overthink this pick. The 49ers have been a little better than the Ravens all year.
San Francisco 28, Baltimore 23.