Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Picks for Super Bowl XLVII

Michael SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 29, 2013

Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Picks for Super Bowl XLVII

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    It's the most...wonderful time...of the year. 

    While many people love the holiday season and others love summer or that first blooming flower of spring, our NFL experts have been working for this weekend—all season long. The preseason predictions have come and gone; the draft is still a long way off. This is Super Bowl week, and we at B/R couldn't be happier.

    Hey, did you hear Ray Lewis is retiring? What about the fact that Jim and John Harbaugh are (wait for it) brothers?! There may or may not be some sort of Super Bowl history with the 49ers as well; we're trying to confirm.

    Narratives aside (because you'll get plenty of that in the bajillion hours of pregame you're likely to watch as you're headed onto your second party tray of wings), there's a game to be played.

    Here are our picks.  

     

    Our B/R Panel of Experts

    Mike Schottey: NFL national lead writer (@Schottey)

    Ty Schalter: NFL national lead writer(@Ty_Schalter)

    Matt Miller: NFL draft senior lead writer (@NFLDraftScout)

    Will Carroll: Sports medicine lead writer (@InjuryExpert)

    Aaron Nagler: B/R Senior Video Producer (@Aaron_Nagler)

    Sigmund Bloom: NFL draft lead writer (@Sigmund_Bloom)

    Erik Frenz: AFC East divisional lead writer (@ErikFrenz)

    Andrea Hangst: AFC North divisional lead writer (@FBALL_Andrea)

    Chris Hansen: AFC West divisional lead writer (@ChrisHansenNFL)

    Nate Dunlevy: AFC South divisional lead writer (@NateDunlevy)

    Brad Gagnon: NFC East divisional lead writer (@Brad_Gagnon)

    Andrew Garda: NFC North divisional lead writer (@Andrew_Garda)

    Tyson Langland: NFC West divisional lead writer (@TysonNFL)

    Knox Bardeen: NFC South divisional lead writer (@KnoxBardeen)

     

    Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight up.

Michael Schottey: San Francisco 49ers

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    Final Score Prediction: 49ers 33, Ravens 28

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Colin Kaepernick

    X-Factor: Justin Smith (DE 49ers)

     

    What's your plan to stop Kaepernick? 

    You know what, never mind, don't answer that. It won't work. If Dom Capers and Mike Nolan couldn't stop the kid, neither will you and neither will Dean Pees. Nothing against the guy and nothing against the Ravens offense—there's just no telling what Kaepernick is going to do, as Greg Roman has kept teams guessing with a myriad of offensive schemes and wrinkles. 

    This begins and ends with Kaepernick's "student of the game" mentality, his determination and his incredible intellect—which gets far too little attention compared to his physical attributes. He digests playbooks like Mike Iupati digests double cheeseburgers, and he executes them to perfection. 

    In my mind, this is a higher-scoring game than people will expect. Good defenses, yes, but two offenses that have put up more points than anyone thought they could during these playoffs and two offensive coordinators that have two weeks to prepare. 

Ty Schalter—Baltimore Ravens

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    Final Score Prediction: Ravens 33, 49ers 27

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Ray Lewis

    X-Factor: Torrey Smith

     

    Let's get this out of the way: In a vacuum, the San Francisco 49ers are better than the Baltimore Ravens in almost every phase of the game. Super Bowls, though, are whatever the opposite of a vacuum is.

    49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been too hot for the NFL to stop, and he will be until defensive coordinators spend all offseason watching his film. The Atlanta Falcons proved that if Kaepernick can't run, he still can't be stopped, but he can at least be slowed down enough to keep it close. 

    The Falcons stumbled in the fourth quarter, but that's where Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense have been great. Flacco's thrown four fourth-quarter touchdowns in their three playoff games.

    My X-factor, Torrey Smith, and the Ravens receivers have been getting too open, too often to write off. On the ground, the Ravens tailbacks have been chewing up ground in big chunks, and their run game is similar to the Seahawks' attack—which gave the 49ers fits this season.

    Further, the Ravens defense has elevated its play in the postseason; I'd never have guessed they'd be able to go to New England and hold the Patriots to a single touchdown. If it's going to come down to the passing game late—and I think it will—the Ravens aren't at a defensive disadvantage.

    This should be one of the better Super Bowls in recent memory, with the Ravens winning a gradually escalating shootout.

    Ray Lewis will win MVP because...because he will.

Matt Miller—San Francisco 49ers

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    Final Score Prediction: 49ers 28, Ravens 27

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Colin Kaepernick

    X-Factor: Ahmad Brooks (OLB 49ers)

     

    Super Bowl 47 will come down to defense. Quite a change from years past, but in a situation where the two head coaches know each other so well, execution will be most important.

    Yes, I'm sure you've heard, the head coaches are brothers, and while that's a cute storyline, it's actually pertinent to the game. No two Super Bowl coaches have ever been more alike.

    They know each other's tendencies, habits and fears on the field. That's the most important aspect of the "brothers are coaches" hype machine you're destined to see all week.

    The 49ers, frankly, are better at executing. By this time of the year, that's all that matters, and when the rubber meets the road, they're the better team at making plays.

    The front seven can and will limit Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, putting Joe Flacco into a situation where he's throwing deep. With Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner patrolling deep, Flacco's inability to open up the defense will be the Ravens' demise. 

Will Carroll—Baltimore Ravens

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    Final Score Prediction: Ravens 23, 49ers 20

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Ed Reed

    X-Factor: Terrell Suggs (LB Ravens)

     

    This shouldn't be so even that it comes down to kicking, but it feels that way. I'm assuming that the blueprint the Ravens got from the Falcons on controlling Kaepernick will work with Baltimore's personnel.

    While Ray Lewis' return gets all the press, Suggs is going to be a huge part of containing the option/bootleg strengths of Kaepernick. That Achilles is what might decide the game.

    If it's close, David Akers might continue to struggle, missing one long one that Justin Tucker makes. Can Tucker be Timmy Smith, or does Akers become the new Scott Norwood? 

Aaron Nagler—San Francisco 49ers

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    Final Score Prediction: 49ers 31, Ravens 28

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Colin Kaepernick

    X-Factor: Bernard Pierce (RB Ravens)

     

    The 49ers and Ravens are two physical teams that should punish each other throughout Super Bowl XLVII. While much has been made about the 49ers' use of the zone-read and the pistol, Jim Harbaugh has designed an offense that is capable of punching you in the mouth repeatedly...until it senses you are tiring, and then it hits you with an explosive downfield play. 

    The Ravens have played their best football at the best possible time. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has seemingly fixed the problems his unit had against the run earlier this season, and the secondary is unafraid of playing physical football with opposing wide receivers. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has saved this team by being patient with the running game.

    The Ravens are a very good football team. The 49ers are a very good football team. On this given Sunday, the 49ers ruin Ray Lewis' storybook ending down in New Orleans. 

Sigmund Bloom—Baltimore Ravens

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    Final Score Prediction: Ravens 26, 49ers 24

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Joe Flacco

    X-Factor: Whoever the Better Kicker Is

     

    Even though the 49ers are the more talented team, this is a very evenly matched game. New Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has installed more vertical passing that should take advantage of the same flaws in the San Francisco secondary that Atlanta exploited.

    The Ravens' run defense will have problems defending the read-option, which has featured Colin Kaepernick or Frank Gore, depending on how the opponent has decided to defend it.

    Two X-factors emerge upon a closer look: the kicking game and the sense of urgency.

    The 49ers are still stuck with David Akers, who clanked a chip shot off of the upright in the NFC Championship Game after fending off a challenge from Billy Cundiff, who was cut from the Ravens after missing a chip shot that could have sent them to last year's big game.

    Rookie Justin Tucker has replaced Cundiff admirably, including a game-winner in the second overtime to send the Broncos home in this year’s postseason.

    The sense of urgency from a Ravens team that will be saying goodbye to Ray Lewis cannot be overlooked. The Ravens have overcome long odds just to get this far, and almost every player on this team has a long postseason history of disappointment to draw from.

    The 49ers don't understand how difficult and rare it is to make it this far, and they have a good chance of getting back to this game soon. The Ravens don't, and that difference is enough to pick them in what is truly a coin-flip game.

Erik Frenz—San Francisco 49ers

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    Final Score Prediction: 49ers 23, Ravens 20

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Colin Kaepernick

    X-Factor: LaMichael James (RB 49ers)

     

    I was one of the idiots that said the 49ers shouldn't make the switch to Colin Kaepernick. As it turns out, even a loss in the Super Bowl wouldn't prove me right.

    The 49ers are a much more explosive offense with Kaepernick, and they're ripe to give the Ravens matchup problems. We've been expecting the Ravens defense to show its age throughout the playoffs, and it's yet to happen.

    Even with an extra week off, this could be the week that finally happens, against a 49ers offense that has a lot of speed up the middle with tight end Vernon Davis, and now even more speed at the quarterback position with Kaepernick.

    The Ravens are far more adaptable on offense than they're given credit for, and they put that on display against the Patriots this past weekend. The big plays weren't there for Joe Flacco, but he took what was there and capitalized on New England's weakness over the middle.

    The problem is, the 49ers defense doesn't have a lot of weaknesses, and with the extra week off for Justin Smith, he could be even more effective than he's been in recent weeks. If the 49ers can get pressure, the game could get out of hand.

    At that point, it's up to Baltimore's aging defense to get the stops.

    I don't expect that to happen, which is why I'm picking San Francisco.

Nate Dunlevy—San Francisco 49ers

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    Final Score Prediction: Niners 31, Ravens 17

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Vernon Davis

    X-Factor: Joe Flacco

     

    The 49ers are a much better team than Baltimore and should win handily. The Ravens played well in making it through a weak AFC slate, but they needed plenty of help from a substandard officiating crew in Denver to get this far.

    As well as Flacco has played over his past three games, there's a difference between a hot quarterback and a great one. Flacco may be the most overrated player in football right at this moment; I expect him to come up small in the Super Bowl as he did so many times in 2012. He's an average quarterback who has played great in the playoffs. That tends not to last.

    The team that wins the Super Bowl is not usually the best team in football; it's often just the team that got lucky and hot at the right time. The 49ers, however, could lay a legitimate claim to truly being the best team in the league.

    There were several times this season they looked like a dominant squad. They are better offensively and defensively than Baltimore by a significant margin, and they have the better Harbaugh brother at coach.

    Baltimore will have a hard time keeping it close, but as always, games are a matter of probability. The Ravens have a three- or four-in-10 chance of winning, so with a few breaks, they could steal another upset and take home the title.

Andrea Hangst—Baltimore Ravens

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    Final Score Prediction: Ravens 31, 49ers 27

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Joe Flacco

    X-Factor(s): Anquan Boldin, Frank Gore

     

    The playoffs proved that both the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens boast hard-to-stop offenses combined with extremely physical defenses. These are very well-matched teams that, through the course of the postseason, have had the best balance and found ways to win in a multitude of situations. It could very well prove to be one of the better Super Bowl matchups in the history of the game.

    That being said, I see the edge going to the Ravens on Sunday. Their offensive line has proven capable of keeping Joe Flacco protected in the pocket, and if that happens against the 49ers, he should be able to take advantage of the myriad mismatches between the Ravens receivers and tight ends and the San Francisco secondary. Effective running from Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce should only advance this agenda.

    The main question is whether the Ravens can stop San Francisco's running attack—not just containing Colin Kaepernick, but also keeping Frank Gore under wraps. The Falcons were more concerned with preventing Kaepernick from taking off, and Gore burned them as a result. Therefore, the Ravens need to focus on simply shutting down the run, making the offense one-dimensional by forcing Kaepernick to throw.

    Believe it or not, I think Baltimore can pull this off enough to put up more points and nab the Super Bowl win.

Brad Gagnon—San Francisco 49ers

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    Final Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Ravens 23

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Aldon Smith

    X-Factor: 49ers' Front Seven

     

    I can't see Joe Flacco outplaying Colin Kaepernick to enough of a degree to compensate for the fact that San Francisco's defense is much better than Baltimore's. Healthier, deeper, more consistent, period. 

    Baltimore's defense has a lot more to deal with. While Flacco is a bigger deep threat, at least the 49ers defense can dial it up against a quarterback who has struggled under pressure all season. The 49ers also have a much better defensive backfield than New England, Denver or Indianapolis. The Niners gave up only 38 20-yard completions during the regular season, which was the third-lowest total in the NFL.

    With Ray Lewis no longer the player he used to be and Dannell Ellerbe and Terrell Suggs both less than 100 percent, I don't think the Ravens D is capable of shutting down San Francisco's unique, option-based offensive attack. Frank Gore should be in for a big day on the ground, and Kaepernick should be able to find some openings. 

    I'm expecting a big turnover to be the difference, which is the main reason I'm giving Aldon Smith the Super Bowl MVP. This is destined to be a close game, and while Flacco has had some superb playoff performances, I get the feeling the Ravens will be more prone to giving up a second-half strip sack or a pick-six.

    I doubt San Francisco wins big, but I do believe the Niners have a clear edge in this game.

Knox Bardeen—San Francisco 49ers

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    Final Score Prediction: 49ers 23, Ravens 14

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Frank Gore

    X-Factor: Frank Gore


    Those familiar with the history of the San Francisco 49ers over the last 10 years know that it's not the happiest of stories. This historically dominant franchise has been mired in mediocrity for some time. In the middle of all those losing seasons has been running back Frank Gore.

    Gore has been the punishing ground attack (and sometimes sole bright spot) for this 49ers offense through the recent tough years. Now, with San Francisco on the cusp of its sixth Super Bowl victory, look for Gore to make sure things get done right now that he's finally got his shot.

    In the NFC Championship, the Atlanta Falcons clamped down on the Colin Kaepernick portion of the read-option. The move was only partially successful, because Gore made the Falcons pay by stepping up his game.

    The Baltimore Ravens are going to have to consider doing something very similar in the Super Bowl to take away Kaepernick's ability to run the football. On the biggest stage of his professional career, expect Gore to capitalize on Baltimore's focus on the 49ers quarterback.

    Even if the Ravens focus on Gore, I can't imagine a running back who has been through as much to get to the biggest game of his life not shining in it.

Chris Hansen—Baltimore Ravens

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    Final Score Prediction: Ravens 28, 49ers 24

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Torrey Smith

    X-Factor: Joe Flacco

     

    A month ago, I thought the Ravens were one of the most overrated teams in the playoffs, and then they beat the Broncos and Patriots on the road. Colin Kaepernick is a good young quarterback, but he's not Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.

    The Ravens will have to contend with Kaepernick in the Pistol, but it's worth noting that Ray Lewis and the Ravens were also the first team to solve the Wildcat back in 2008. The Ravens should be able to stop the 49ers after studying them for two weeks.

    It will likely come down to the play of Joe Flacco. He has his detractors, and I've been one of them, but there's no denying what he's done in the playoffs this year. It's possible Flacco will come back to
    earth and throw a couple of interceptions on Sunday, but it's also possible he continues to produce.

    The 49ers were exposed against the pass by Julio Jones and Roddy White in the NFC Championship Game, and the Ravens will use those cracks to get Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin the ball.

    The 49ers will likely make a couple of Super Bowl appearances over the next several years, but the Ravens’ window is closing. The Ravens will want it just a little more on Sunday.

Tyson Langland—San Francisco 49ers

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    Final Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Ravens 21

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Colin Kaepernick

    X-Factor: Colin Kaepernick


    The San Francisco 49ers' quest to earn their sixth Super Bowl and stay undefeated in the big game will become a success after Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens. Both San Francisco and Baltimore have gotten hot at just the right time.

    The Ravens finished the season as losers in four out of their final five games, and the 49ers were losers in two of their final five. Not overly impressive, but both offenses kicked it into high gear when postseason play started to fuel a historic run.

    The Harbaugh Bowl will be historic indeed, yet it will come down to the play of Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco. Even though Kaepernick doesn't have the playoff experience of Flacco, he does possess a better supporting cast and more dynamic playmaking skills as a runner.

    He has the ability to solely change the outcome of a game with the use of his legs. The Ravens defense isn't exactly littered with youth and speed, which creates enormous matchup problems. When I look at Baltimore's defense, I can't pinpoint one guy who can run step-for-step with Kaepernick.

    Without question, it will come down to the wire, but the second-year quarterback out of Nevada will help the 49ers bring home the Lombardi Trophy and a Super Bowl MVP award of his own.

Andrew Garda—San Francisco 49ers

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    Final Score Prediction: 49ers 31, Ravens 27

    Super Bowl MVP Prediction: Colin Kaepernick

    X-Factor: Ravens Offensive Line

     

    This isn't going to be a blowout by any means, and neither the score nor the winner I predicted means the Ravens have no chance. It comes down to whether Joe Flacco can continue to stay hot the way he has all postseason, and to do that, Baltimore's offensive line has to slow down one of the better defenses to come down the road.

    Nobody is more critical than the Smiths, Bowman, Brooks and Willis vs. Bryant McKinnie, Mike Oher and Co. Flacco has had a good pocket (for the most part) during the playoffs, but the Niners cannot let him get comfortable. So expect a lot of pressure early and often for the Ravens offensive line.

    If they can handle it, they’ll definitely have a shot. 

    As for the Niners, I’m all in on Colin Kaepernick and this offense. Every time we think we’ve seen what this team will do, smiling Jim Harbaugh comes up with a new wrinkle. The 49ers can go spread, read-option, shotgun, under center—this team’s playbook is deep and multi-layered. Go ahead and guess at what they will do, and they’ll move a different direction.

    Ultimately, I expect the 49ers defense to have more luck than the Ravens in terms of stopping the opposition. Either way, I expect a great game.

Consensus Picks

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    B/R Consensus Pick: San Francisco 49ers (9-5)

    Vegas: 49ers (-4)

    MVP Picks:

    Colin Kaepernick (6)

    Joe Flacco (2)

    Vernon Davis 

    Ray Lewis

    Aldon Smith

    Torrey Smith

    Frank Gore

    Ed Reed


    X-Factor Picks:

    Joe Flacco (2)

    Anquan Boldin AND Frank Gore

    Frank Gore

    Justin Tucker OR David Akers

    Justin Smith

    Torrey Smith

    Ahmad Brooks

    Terrell Suggs

    Bernard Pierce

    LaMichael James

    Colin Kaepernick

    49ers Front Seven

    Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line


    Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.