So here we are. The best (and worst) day of the year. Best because, it's superbowl day, of course! Worst, because there is no more football for many months after its all said and done.
For the first time in my NFL watching career too, it is my team who are going to the big dance. As a result, I don't know how to feel about today; I am a weird mix of sick, nervous and excited. It's been an incredible season; possibly not as strong in quality but certainly in competitiveness and excitement. This was the superbowl that everyone expected and wanted last year, so there's an added amount of tension in these two teams meeting after both their disappointments in the Championship games last year. But this time, things did work out. Both these teams do deserve to be here even if not as many thought they would (particularly Baltimore). One thing is for sure, it promises to be an absolute classic with two "less than elite" quarterbacks trying to prove themselves, two hard hitting defences, and of course two brothers at head coach.
Whatever happens tonight, I am glad that this is the final because if Baltimore were to lose, I would be obviously gutted, but this is a fantastic San Francisco team who will deserve their victory should they get it. That and, one of my best pals is a Niners fan and also whatever happens tonight, The Pittsburgh Steelers lose somehow which is always a positive.
No one expected this Baltimore team to be here only a month or so ago. After a strong start to the season we were seen as flagging in comparison to Brady and Manning, even Andrew Luck. But then, something magic happened. I don't exactly believe in fate, but there's kinda no other way to describe what has happened to this Baltimore team since Ray Lewis announced his impending retirement at the end of the season. No one believes (or likes) Joe Flacco, but he always shows up in January; no previous playoff loss has been his fault - Flacco is on pace to beat Joe Montana's playoff record of 11TD's and 0 Interceptions. But Baltimore's D really stood up these past few games. Andrew Luck looked like a lost child, Peyton Manning had his time but couldn't finish the job, and for the 3rd time in two years, they made Tom Brady look silly. Despite all this, we are still considered underdogs going into this game. I'm not disputing this exactly, San Francisco on paper perhaps have a more well-rounded team, but even in the superbowl The Ravens are dismissed, even after dispatching three excellent Quaterbacks in Luck, Manning and Brady.
San Francisco have been a joy to watch however and certainly deserve their status as favourites going into the game this evening (not that, that really means much at this stage). Their front Seven on both sides of the ball is an incredible force, ready to protect or stop anything that comes in its path. This will where the game is won; in the trenches. Colin Kaepernick has been excellent since joining us halfway through the season, but is still untested. Despite a couple of wobbles, he's come through everything that's been thrown at him so far, but nothing compares to a superbowl in your first (half) season. Expect his running from the Green Bay game to be dramatically shortened here (like against Atlanta) as Baltimore's D won't stand for it. Much like RG3's Skins, Baltimore is very aware of how to stop a running QB (and then let the backup come in and win anyway, here's looking at you Alex Smith). SF have plenty of options to address this however, so expect Frank Gore and LaMichael James to get plenty of rushes, and some balls thrown out to Crabtree and Davis (and who knows, maybe even Randy Moss) too.
What we do know from the last time these two met, at last year's Thanksgiving Classic, is that this will be a cagey affair. Yes, the quarterback has switched since then to a far more dynamic player (sorry Alex) but as discussed, don't expect him to go rushing straight into the game out of the blocks tonight. Given the two teams' D's this will probably start off a fairly tense, low scoring game, one waiting for either team to slip up and give the other an opening. These can often lead to some of the best superbowls in recent memory which means tonight has the potential to be a real classic.
As far as predictions go, it is a tough one. Of course San Francisco probably should win, they just have bigger guys who perform more consistently. But they said that about the Colts, Broncos and Patriots too, and Baltimore overcame all of them. This run of form (and games like at Heinz Field or Qualcomm, or against the Giants) has proved this team, when they set their minds to it, can beat anyone. Now as a result they are only one game away from their 2nd title in franchise history, sending the great future hall of famer Ray Lewis off with a very deserved 2nd title, and giving Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Ed Reed and Terell Suggs the recognition they deserve.
Therefore, I am going Baltimore by 3.
Whatever happens tonight though, have a great time everyone. It's been a joy writing all this again this year and I hope everyone gets drunk and is merry regardless of the result. And whatever happens, we can all agree that Beyonce's halftime show (featuring Destiny's Child and probably Jay-Z) is going to be amazing. See you all next year.
So it's Superbowl Sunday, you pumped Bro?