The San Francisco 49ers will beat the Baltimore Ravens 27-24 in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday.
Sometimes little brothers win.
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh gets lifetime bragging rights over older sibling and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh. The 49ers are simply a better team.
Not that the Ravens can't win. There's something about this team's chemistry after getting everyone back from injuries that makes Baltimore a dangerous 4 1/2-point underdog.
It's not just the emotional leadership of linebacker Ray Lewis wanting to retire as a champion. That makes for nice storytelling, but adrenaline levels are already soaring come kickoff. And Lewis is not the playmaker of the past that can carry the team himself.
The Ravens' chances are more about quarterback Joe Flacco. He has eight touchdowns, no interceptions and only four sacks in three playoff games. If he can beat San Francisco's secondary for two or three scores and no turnovers, Baltimore probably wins.
But San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a better chance of besting Baltimore's defense than Flacco does of dominating the 49ers. The most telling part of Kaepernick's development came during two playoff wins. He beat Green Bay by running 16 times for 181 yards. Atlanta denied Kaepernick chances to run in the NFC Championship, so he scampered just twice for 21 yards while completing 16 of 21 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive coordinators will spend the offseason trying to counter Kaepernick and other mobile quarterbacks, but for now his dual run-pass ability seems to be the edge.
Flacco has receivers Anquan Boldin and Torry Smith against the 49ers corners Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. As much as Washington fans raged over Rogers' poor hands as a former first-round pick, the Redskins sure wish they'd kept the free agent.
He's blossoming into a shutdown corner. Oh, Flacco will probably beat Rogers once by throwing to Smith deep, but he won't consistently outwit San Francisco's secondary.
Conversely, the 49ers line up receivers Randy Moss (the best receiver ever?) and Michael Crabtree plus tight end Vernon Davis against Baltimore's secondary of safety Ed Reed and three other guys. Baltimore's front seven is their strength, but Kaepernick can avoid the pass rush enough to find his targets. Figure Kaepernick accounts for three touchdown passes/runs.
Notice it's not about the running backs. San Francisco's Frank Gore and Baltimore's Ray Rice probably offset each other and aren't the keys.
Coaching probably won't be a factor, either. Obviously they're both excellent and know each other's tendencies, so figure that will cancel out, though Jim Harbaugh might take an early risk that pays off.
The Ravens (+4.5) and over 47 1/2 points are the wagers, but San Francisco hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
And next year -- it's Seattle (-3) over Denver 27-21.
And in 2015 -- take Washington (+3) over Indianapolis 30-28.