Super Bowl 2013: Predicting the Most Likely Matchup

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Super Bowl 2013: Predicting the Most Likely Matchup
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The San Francisco 49ers will win Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

It is the prediction I made at the beginning of the 2012 NFL season, and I’m sticking to it. Nothing, as of yet, has dissuaded me from believing such a prediction will prove correct.

But it is not simply sticking to a prediction made many moons ago. It is through careful observation of trends that have expressed themselves throughout the 2012 NFL season.

As noted here, teams that run the football effectively generally win in the playoffs. With this weekend's four games added to the total, seven of the eight games this postseason have been won by the team who ran for more yards (an elementary, yet effective way to determine the better running team). 

The 7-1 in 2013 added to the 24-9 from 2010-12 means the more effective running team has won 30 of the last 40 playoff games played. That, of course, comes out to an even 75 percent. 

One could argue that if 87.5 percent of the teams in these playoffs have won by running the ball more effectively, one must lose in the final three games to get us back to our average. 

Not necessarily, though. In the 2011 postseason, the more effective rushing team lost just once in 11 postseason games. 

The column preaching balance observed that of all the playoff teams, Seattle was the best running the ball, followed by San Francisco. 

Atlanta was the worst. For that reason, little else is needed to safely predict that the 49ers will get by the Falcons in next weekend's NFC Championship Game. 

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In the AFC, it isn't quite that simple. 

New England and Baltimore are fairly even as running teams. 

The AFC Championship Game rematch from 2012 figures to come down to a similar scenario of a needed clutch kick, or for a receiver to make a big play. The Ravens' Lee Evans dropped a go-ahead touchdown pass in the end in the closing seconds of last year's match. 

If it does come to that, the New England Patriots were second worst in the league in drops with 41 on the season, while the Ravens were second best, dropping only 19 passes on the season. 

Then there's the simple rating system: Who wants it more? 

Is there any doubt the Ravens, with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed likely down to their final game, are going to fight, scratch, claw and hold if they must to win this football game? 

The Patriots know how to win these games, but the Ravens figure to be so motivated by last year's collapse and Lewis and Reed's last chance that there is nothing anyone could possibly do to stop them. 

It's not a very scientific method, but when all else is even, it's not a bad way to evaluate and predict the winner of a championship game. 

That leaves us with a dream matchup: "The Harbaugh Bowl."

A game like that one could easily go either way. John and Jim know each other as well as any two coaches in the league possibly could. There would be no surprises. 

The Ravens would present a challenge to Colin Kaepernick with all of their tremendous experience. It is a defense that has given up 4.0 yards per carry on the season. That fits right into the 49ers' model of power running. 

It is a unit that is susceptible to play-action passing, when the running game is sustained. 

Going the other way, San Francisco yields just 3.7 yards per rush. It is also one of the top sack teams in the league. Baltimore is one of the worst teams at protecting its quarterback and surrendering sacks. 

These are the reasons the 49ers are the most likely team to take home the Lombardi Trophy. Any of the four remaining teams are capable. They each have their own case. 

The collective use of advanced statistics seems to favor the 49ers. 

 

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