If you were to look into a crystal ball before the playoffs began and proclaim that the Baltimore Ravens would be facing the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, most people would have bet the house on the 49ers.
But times have changed.
After victories over the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots in the postseason, the Ravens are only four-point underdogs in Super Bowl XLVII, according to Bovada.
Joe Flacco and the Ravens have gone on to huge upsets over Peyton Manning's Broncos and Tom Brady's Patriots, and the scale is beginning to tip.
One thing that has been consistent throughout Baltimore's run has been the play of Flacco, who tends to get more flak than he probably deserves. The 28-year-old has averaged an eye-popping 9.2 yards per pass attempt while tossing eight touchdowns to zero interceptions in three playoff games this season.
It all came together in the AFC Championship Game, when Flacco tossed for 240 yards and three touchdowns, and Baltimore held Brady to 5.9 yards per pass attempt with one touchdown to two interceptions.
More importantly, as the Ravens get set to face the 49ers' pass rush, center Matt Birk and guard Marshal Yanda are both coming off of an impressive game against the Patriots, as they gave Flacco time to throw the pigskin. If the offensive line can play at that level against San Francisco, the Ravens have a shot at upsetting the favorites.
There's also the fact that outside linebacker Aldon Smith has been struggling to get to the quarterback after a fantastic 14 weeks of football during the regular season. Some say that he looks tired, others say that he's over-pursuing. Whatever the reason, his dip in play hasn't made the 49ers' pass rush as formidable.
Of course, the Ravens have to stop, or at least contain, a San Francisco offensive attack that's led by dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick, running back Frank Gore and receiver Michael Crabtree. That will be no easy feat.
One thing's for sure: Whatever the outcome is in Super Bowl XLVII, you can bet that it will be a close and contentious battle.
What are your thoughts?
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!