Hunt: Who wins the Super Bowl and why

Isaac Hunt

Super Bowl XLVII will pit the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers for the chance to win the most coveted trophy in sports: The Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Let’s just get it out in the open here so you don’t have to look at the bottom of the column to see my selection. Baltimore will win 34-27 and here is why:

Throw out emotion for a second. Throw out that Ed Reed grew up just 17 miles away from the Superdome, where the game will be played. Forget that Ray Lewis announced his retirement and led the only team to lose four of its final five games in history and go on to the Super Bowl.

Just look at some of the statistics on defense.

In the playoffs this season, Baltimore has the top five leading tacklers. Granted that they played one more game than San Francisco, but Ray Lewis’ playoff-leading 44 tackles is 25 more than Patrick Willis’ output. Not to mention the next highest is the 49ers’ Dashon Goldson, who is ranked 19th in tackles. 

The Ravens also have more interceptions — five to be exact — which is three more than their opposition.

What about the quarterbacks? To be honest, do we really know what Collin Kaepernick is all about just yet? Alex Smith led this team with a 6-2-1 record, while Kaepernick is at a 7-2 position (including playoffs).

Is this season a fluke or has the future of the 49ers come to fruition? Only time will tell. But while time is busy telling, Joe Flacco has led his team to the playoffs every year since his first season in 2008, tallying an 8-4 playoff record in his five-year career.

In the playoffs, Flacco currently has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions. His counterpart on the West Coast has thrown three touchdowns and one interception — add his two touchdown runs against the Packers and his total is still three short of Flacco.

Flacco (114.7) and Kaepernick (105.9) are first and second in passer rating this postseason. Flacco has kept it up longer with 93 attempts, almost double that of Kaepernick’s 52.

Special Teams. The Ravens’ Jacoby Jones is averaging 13.7 yards on punt returns in the playoffs, which ranks second only to Denver return man Trindon Holliday.

But the real kicker for the 49ers is, well, their kicker.

In David Akers’ last eight games, 12 of his kicks went through the uprights on 20 attempts. That 60 percent is not too far away from his regular season percentage of 69.

Justin Tucker is a perfect 2-for-2 in field goals this postseason. If that doesn’t seem too convincing, he made 90.9 percent of his field goals in the regular season and was a perfect 4-for-4 beyond 50 yards.

The advantages in most individual categories go to the Ravens. One could argue the run game favors the 49ers and their dual-threat quarterback and running back Frank Gore, but don’t forget about Ravens’ running back Ray Rice here.

Football is a team game, though, so maybe individual statistics don’t matter all that much. In that case, why don’t we look at how each team got here.

The Colts didn’t pose too large of a problem for the Ravens. Baltimore didn’t allow any of Indianapolis’ players to hit pay dirt, even against the seventh-ranked passing offense.

The Broncos, on the other hand, almost eliminated the Ravens completely. As if Peyton Manning’s fifth-ranked passing game wasn’t enough, he brought with him the league’s second-ranked total defense.

That overtime win may have been the most impressive thing we have seen from this franchise since Ray Lewis won Super Bowl XXXV in the Ravens’ fifth year in the league.

We will get to Tom Brady and the Patriots, but first, a look at the 49ers’ competition. The Green Bay Packers were proud owners of the league’s 17th-ranked defense and 11th-ranked offense, including a surprisingly low ninth-best passing game.

Kaepernick made fools of those cheeseheads and did a little of the same to the dirty birds in Atlanta after coming back from a 17-0 deficit. The Falcons rank sixth in their passing game, but are poor in other areas — 29th in rushing and 24th in overall defense.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Atlanta’s 477 yards were the all-time most allowed in a playoff game to a losing team.

Those of you frolicking through the meadows “Kaepernicking” still need some convincing, huh?

New England. Apart from the New York Giants (played the teams too far apart to make a realistic comparison), who defeated the 49ers in week six by 23 points and lost to the Ravens in week 16 by 19 points, the Patriots are the only team that both the Ravens and 49ers have beaten.

The stats of Tom Brady against the Ravens will be posted on the left, while his stats against the 49ers will be on the right — Passing yards: 320, 443; Completion percentage: 53.7, 55.4; Longest pass: 36 yards, 53 yards; Average yardage per attempt: 5.93, 6.82; Touchdowns: 1, 2.

Although the 49ers had six more drives against the Patriots, the Ravens had six more first downs. Both teams took four trips to the red zone, the 49ers scored on one while the Ravens scored on all four.

The 49ers will have more rushing yards than the Ravens, but Baltimore’s defense, passing game and special teams will pose too large of a challenge in the “Harbowl.”

Isaac Hunt is a sophomore in pre-business and pre-journalism from Wayland, Iowa.