Should John Harbaugh's Ravens enter the Super Bowl as underdogs?
If they're like most teams in sports, the Ravens are actually happier in this position. Nothing seems to fire up a squad more than playing the "nobody believes in us" card.
Well, the Ravens can certainly lay a claim to being members of that club for the past few weeks. Most fans assumed that a Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots AFC Championship Game was inevitable, and playing the first two rounds was just a mere formality.
Now that they are entering the big game following major road wins, do they deserve to be the underdogs yet again?
This matchup is incredibly tough to peg. Judge the teams off of regular-season play and San Francisco would garner a much larger advantage than 3.5 points. Despite only earning one more win, the 49ers amassed more yards on offense while allowing significantly less on defense.
Their plus-124 point differential also stands much more favorably than Baltimore's plus-54 rate.
But then again, Baltimore is now healthy on the defensive side and catching fire offensively. Ray Lewis' return has rejuvenated the squad while the tandem of Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin has turned in three exceptional postseason outings.
Losing four of their last five regular-season games, the Ravens squashed the theory that the hottest team at the end of the season wins it all. Asserting them as the favorite, however, would just be adjusting that ideology, handing Baltimore the edge due to three excellent postseason performances.
If they were able to shake up the cobwebs after a poor finish to the season, what's there to say the opposite result couldn't formulate? Does playing well in three games really ensure success in the fourth one?
The 49ers have not slept-walked their way to their Super Bowl nod. They prevented Aaron Rodgers from burning them on big plays, limiting him to 6.6 yards per attempt. Holding the game's top quarterback to checkdowns is no small achievement.
San Francisco has looked impressive, but not in the same ways as usual. While the defense eventually buckled down enough to salvage a victory, two fortunate turnovers saved the 49ers from a whooping courtesy of Matt Ryan.
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Instead, the offense has stolen the show, accumulating 73 points and 952 total yards in two games. Overall, this attack might provide just as much of a headache to contain than New England or Denver's aerial assaults.
It's hard to roll with the momentum factor since both teams obviously must have done something right recently to reach this stage. Anyone who dares to label either side as a "team of destiny" is lazily using that premise as a crutch to avoid bringing any factual evidence or thought to the table.
So the oddsmakers are right to sift through each team's entire body of work in order to hand San Francisco the slight edge. But you're probably better off saving your money anyway.