Well, this is it kids. The final NFL column of the season here at Digital Dads. While there is plenty that happens during the offseason (like where Tebow will end up) it’s not worth writing about until next season, as I don’t paid like all those know-it-alls at ESPN and CBS Sports. That being said, I do have a couple post-season predictions that I’d like to get out of the way.
First is that Alex Smith will end up in Arizona. The Niners have already said they aren’t bringing him back next season, so he’ll be taking his talents elsewhere. I’m thinking he’ll stay in the division. I think Vick will be playing for Jets, Sanchez will be backing up somewhere, maybe starting in Oakland, and Tebow will land in Jacksonville. Aside from that, I expect that there won’t be any surprises in the draft, besides who takes Manti Te’o and his imaginary girlfriend. The kid can play, I hope this doesn’t prevent him from going in the first round.
Then, days before the Superbowl it comes out that Ray Lewis was using performance enhancing drugs. There’s a fucking surprise. I wonder if it was cause God told him to? The guy drags God into every other conversation, so clearly God must have sanctioned this as well. Either way, a sore point going into the Harbaugh bowl.
Baltimore at San Francisco – February 3, 2013, 6:30 PM ET – 47.0 O/U -3.5
At first, this was easy for me in my head. I picked the Niners and I’ve been picking them solid all week. I even predicted a Harbaugh bowl a year ago. But then I started looking at the teams and specifically their last couple of wins. The Niners beat a struggling Packers team, then beat the Falcons – probably their strongest opponent in the last month of the season, but certainly with their own issues. It was a defensive stand that gave them the win there, and was impressive. Yet, the Ravens solidly beat a very good Denver team and Peyton Manning on the road, then beat Tom Brady on the road as well. Flacco was outstanding in both games, hitting his stride late and making those deep passes.
The threat of Kaepernik running the read option is there, but the Falcons showed that you can bottle that up. Gore took over the running load, but that wasn’t enough to beat the Falcons. Came down to defense. I think the Ravens defensive game plan will take the read option into consideration. I also think that the Niners receivers will be shut down by the Ravens corners, who have stepped up in the last couple weeks (if you can stop Welker from catching a ball, you can stop anyone.) They hit hard, and that rattles receivers with fear.
As for the Niners defense, they don’t have a read option to worry about, just being able to stop Ray Rice from winding a path through the gauntlet. The Niners defense needs to quickly pressure Flacco. Giving him time to throw the ball down field will not end well for them. I think they apply pressure, but Rice is right there to get the outlet pass and run away. The running game should be interesting. And I’m tired of the argument against defense winning championships. Both these teams are top defensive teams and the Niners got here because of a defensive play. Defense wins championships.
I expect a mid range scoring game, 24-23 final score with the Ravens on top. Look, I think the Niners are a great, young team and will be right back in the big game soon. I just don’t think it’s going to be this year. Also, Randy Moss, shut the hell up. You are no Jerry Rice. See you next season.