Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 2, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Throw destiny out the window

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — Oh, brother! How many times have you heard it? And, no, I'm actually not talking about the clash of the Harbaughs. That storyline can’t get old for me.

I’m referring to a phrase that’s been repeated countlessly as we count down to Super Bowl Sunday. Team of Destiny.  

It’s quickly become the Ravens’ label, and I'm guilty of describing them in such a manner. Guilty, too, are Boomer Esiason and several other NFL experts. The three-word moniker is basically the easiest way to explain what Baltimore’s been able to do throughout the last month.

Only a Team of Destiny can emerge victorious in spite of twice being pegged as 9 1/2-point underdogs.

Only a Team of Destiny can cordially escort soon-to-be-retired linebacker Ray Lewis to a Super Bowl ring within reach.

Only a T.O.D. can transform Pretty Good Joe Flacco into Flawless Joe Flacco. And, to top it all, the Ravens are underdogs again, this time by 4 1/2 points, as brother goes against brother on the sidelines in what should be a classic Super Bowl showdown.

Who you got? Jim or John Harbaugh? I’ll get to my pick shortly, but first let’s shed this whole destiny thing.

Who’s to say the 49ers aren’t a team of destiny? Case in point: What kind of team is able to withstand fumbling at the 1-yard line, drilling the upright on a key field goal attempt and doing so on the road, no less? A team of destiny?  The 49ers did just that in Atlanta, so let’s suffice it to say, both are teams of destiny. Now, instead of asking which is the team of destiny, let’s explore which is the better team ... Hey, here’s a thought … what if Colin Kaepernick underachieves, or let’s hope this doesn’t happen, gets hurt? Could Alex Smith, earlier this season benched in favor of the second-year QB, grab hold of the reins and guide San Francisco to its sixth Super Bowl win? You never know, that’s what makes this game great.

Assuming everyone stays relatively healthy, this game is extremely evenly matched. Here are a few key advantages for the Ravens (and why I’m picking them):

‰Joe Flacco > Colin Kaepernick. Some may disagree here, considering Kaepernick’s crazy emergence. But he is making just his ninth start. Flacco has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Not comparing him to Joe Montana, but this Joe is on a Montana-like roll.

‰Ravens front seven > 49ers front seven. Goodness, this is a close call, especially with the season Justin Smith and Aldon Smith collectively put together for the 49ers. But Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis are big-game players, and they’ll do just enough to hamper Frank Gore and the 49ers' running game.

‰Justin Tucker > David Akers. Yes, normally you’d rather have a 38-year-old veteran handling kicking duties versus a 23-year-old rookie on the grand stage. However, Tucker is no normal rookie (32 of 35 on FGs this season and postseason) and Akers is no normal veteran (29 of 42 during the regular season).

‰Ravens’ X-factor > 49ers’ X-factor. San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis will have a big game overall, but I see a certain linebacker coming up with key stops late. No, not Ray Lewis. His name is Dannell Ellerbe, a fourth-year Georgia product. Keep an eye on No. 59. So, while the coaching matchup is at a virtual stalemate, somebody's got to win. Which brother will it be? I like John … after all, he’s the big brother.

Snyder says: Ravens 26, 49ers 21.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.

com or (606) 326-2664.