By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens are going to the Super Bowl. They defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and will move on to New Orleans to face the San Francisco 49ers. There was no blockbuster finish in the AFC Championship game. No defining moment to catapult the Ravens to the top; just flat out domination by both the offense and defense. The Ravens wouldn’t let one play define a season like they did last year. Now, the Ravens will turn their attention to the San Francisco 49ers. The main storyline will involve Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh, but the subplot rests between two very similar football teams.
The San Francisco 49ers have a great defense. They have a great running back in Frank Gore, and they have a dynamic quarterback in Colin Kaepernick. The Baltimore Ravens in turn have a strong defense. They have an amazing running back in Ray Rice, and they have a superstar playing the QB position in Joe Flacco. They both play physical. They both are disciplined. They both want to win.
So who does win? These two teams will be analyzed down to the ball boy as the Super Bowl draws closer. They’ll be plenty of time for predictions later. The oddsmakers currently have the 49ers as -4.5 point favorites over the Baltimore. and it’s hard to argue with them. Kaepernick is making Jim Harbaugh look like a genius for his move at QB earlier this season and San Francisco’s defense has a knack for smothering opposing offenses.
But if you’ve watched the NFL season closely, it just feels like Baltimore’s year. Look at what the Ravens have accomplished this year. They beat Tom Brady twice this season; they upset the No. 1 seed Denver Broncos; they overcame the loss of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Lardarius Webb for the majority of the season. And they did it when everyone said they couldn’t. Sound familiar? It should!
In 2000, Baltimore rode into the playoffs for the first time. No one gave them a shot,. and all they did was embarrass the analysts and make fools of the oddsmakers. They did it with an average quarterback and a superb defense. Now, Baltimore has a superb quarterback and an average defense. At least, that’s what we thought. When Baltimore held Peyton Manning to three touchdowns and ran an interception back for a touchdown of their own, you knew they were coming into form. When Baltimore embarrassed Tom Brady on national television to clinch a conference championship, you knew they were back.
The Ravens’ defense struggled this season. Even before the injuries mounted, Baltimore couldn’t get itself together. Perhaps it was the new coordinator that replaced current Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano. Perhaps it was the fact that they were getting old. Whatever the case, Baltimore couldn’t get it together. The postseason changed all of that. The Ravens are hitting with conviction now. They’re getting after the quarterback. And they’re forcing turnovers. That’s a championship caliber defense.
But defense can no longer win championships. The league has changed. You need a quarterback to win a Super Bowl and the Ravens have one. Joe Flacco has outplayed every one he’s faced in the postseason. In fact, he’s arguable the MVP of the postseason if such an award existed. For now, he’ll have to settle for a Super Bowl championship. And if he plays like he has all season, he’ll get one.
The Ravens haven’t been here in almost 13 years. The fans are excited. The team is excited. The media is buzzing. Baltimore has a chance to make history. To prove the pundits wrong once and for all. It won’t be easy against a team as talented as the 49ers. But if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the Baltimore Ravens.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.