If your 2013 Super Bowl predictions don’t include the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, you didn’t watch football on Saturday.
As talented as the other teams still alive in the NFL playoffs are, Baltimore and San Francisco are just so hot that it’s difficult to imagine anything other than a Harbaugh Bowl right now. The squads simply hit their stride at the right time.
Let’s be real—the Ravens weren’t that impressive in the regular season. Sure, they had flashes of brilliance, but for crying out loud, the Houston Texans beat them by 30, the Denver Broncos doubled them and the Charlie Batch-led Pittsburgh Steelers beat them at M&T Bank Stadium.
The 49ers’ play in the second half of the season wasn’t much more promising. Their triumph over the New England Patriots was overshadowed by a dumbfounding 0-1-1 record against the mediocre St. Louis Rams and getting more than tripled by the Seattle Seahawks on national television.
After dominating performances by each club in the Divisional Round on Saturday, though, those struggles are a distance memory.
Baltimore dropped 35 points in regular time on the fourth-ranked Denver defense, and it did so with a balanced attack. It ran the ball 39 times compared to 34 pass attempts.
Cam Cameron is speechless.
Ray Rice finished with 131 rushing yards on 30 carries. Only three other times this year did Rice carry the football more than 20 times. The Ravens are undefeated when he does so, by the way.
And how about Joe Flacco?
Bomani Jones brought up yesterday how much different fans’ perceptions of Flacco would be if Lee Evans hadn’t dropped that go-ahead touchdown last year against the Pats, and he’s right. For his age, Flacco is one of the most winning quarterbacks in NFL history. Down late in the fourth quarter against the Broncos, his critics chirped that he had choked again.
Then he outclosed Peyton Manning.
And while we’re talking quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick kind of played well yesterday. He had 444 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns—that’s going to be fun for the NFC West to try to stop the next 10 years.
The 49ers flat-out imposed their will on the Packers, racking up 323 rushing yards on an otherworldly 7.5 yards a pop. They carried the torch much of the season as the NFL’s most dominant team, and after a couple late-season hiccups, it’s well within their grasp once again.
It’s nearly impossible to stop a quarterback who’s equally capable of killing a defense with his arm as he is with his legs. If Kaepernick stays hot, combined with Patrick Willis and company holding down the fort on the other side, they’re Super Bowl bound.
And just to put Baltimore’s W into perspective: The Ravens beat the Super Bowl favorites despite surrendering two return touchdowns—that’s how dominant their offense and defense is right now.
Poor Jackie Harbaugh. Jim and John's mother is going to have stomach ulcers from being so nervous on Feb. 3.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.