It's been about two weeks of eager anticipation leading up to Super Bowl XLVII. Finally, an official prediction seems fitting just over 24 hours before kickoff between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.
The spread is currently set at 3.5 in favor of the Niners, which does seem about right. Betting either way on it is definitely a risk, as this should be a tight game—mostly due to the familiarity factor between sibling head coaches John and Jim Harbaugh.
Here are some last-minute predictions for Sunday's epic clash in New Orleans' Superdome, including a final score projection. But if there is a way to go, it would be for San Francisco to cover.
Ray Lewis will have the game-high in combined tackles
This is the iron man linebacker's self-proclaimed "last ride." With 44 tackles already in the postseason, it's clear that Lewis is on a mission to capture his second championship.
With all the outstanding Ravens defensive units he has been the emotional epicenter of in his storied, Hall of Fame career, it's hard to believe that Lewis only has one Lombardi Trophy to show for it.
Always one to wear his heart on his sleeve, the passion has been on display for Lewis throughout this captivating Ravens run, as the 13-time Pro Bowler is evidently thankful he has finally reached pro football's ultimate stage once again after an 11-year hiatus of close calls and disappointments.
Lewis' legacy is already sealed, but he can add to his legend by capturing Super Bowl glory once again. That will lead to him playing yet another inspired game in which he leads all defenders in stops.
Projected Numbers: 15 tackles (2 TFL), sack, forced fumble
A non-offensive touchdown will be the difference
As mentioned, the Brothers Harbaugh will likely have each others' number. In a game of split seconds and inches, special teams just may prove to be the difference.
The Ravens' special teams struggles have been well-documented, most notably in the divisional round. And remember the last time Ted Ginn Jr. played in a football championship? He ran the opening kick back in the BCS national title game for Ohio State.
Alternatively, it could be the team that blinks first on offense with a mistake that pays the ultimate price.
Both defenses pitched second-half shutouts against high-octane offenses in the conference championship round. Each is absolutely loaded with talent and savvy veterans who will rarely be caught out of position.
Although Niners QB Colin Kaepernick and counterpart Joe Flacco have played outstanding football in the postseason, both are due to make some sort of critical mistake. Both have been very hot, but neither has been quite under this type of pressure.
As NFL.com points out, this will be the first Super Bowl since 2002 that doesn't feature Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady or one of the Manning brothers.
Prediction: Ted Ginn Jr. returns a punt for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Joe Flacco throws for 300-plus yards
When the Niners couldn't apply pressure on Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the NFC Championship Game, he torched them. That's how they fell into a 17-0 hole, only to climb out of it.
Flacco has been on fire under new play-caller Jim Caldwell, relentlessly attacking down the field. Second-year WR Torrey Smith has emerged as one of the league's most dangerous deep threats as a result, and he should flash that big-play potential more than once.
The combination of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce in the backfield should allow the Ravens to establish a decent running game and set up play-action opportunities for Flacco to have a big game.
Pass protection has also been outstanding. Bryant McKinnie has done well to protect his QB's blindside, and the right side of C Matt Birk, guard Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher has been stellar as well.
The impact Caldwell has had can't be emphasized enough, as he has finally shown why the Ravens have believed in Flacco all along.
With all the times Baltimore throws deep, it seems Flacco's interception-less streak is destined to end in New Orleans. However, he will still have a great showing and give Baltimore an outstanding chance to win.
Projected Numbers: 28-of-40, 335 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT.
49ers cover spread, win Super Bowl XLVII
As excellent as the Ravens defense has played in the postseason thus far, it has not faced anyone like Niners QB Colin Kaepernick. His combination of pocket prowess and speed are equally devastating—and that's not even to mention the running game featuring Frank Gore.
There isn't a lot of speed in the Ravens' front seven, and Kaepernick should take advantage of that with his feet.
Should the play break down, look for him to rip off several big gains rather than to launch a pass deep with Baltimore safety Ed Reed lurking in the defensive backfield.
Baltimore also won't have an answer for Niners TE Vernon Davis, who finally resurfaced in the conference championship, catching all five passes thrown his way for 105 yards and a touchdown. Man-to-man coverage against him will be a nightmare for Lewis or whomever draws him.
Kaepernick will continue redefining the quarterback position with another incredible performance. He will lead the Niners to victory in a relatively high-scoring, entertaining affair to cap off another great season of NFL action.
Final score: 49ers 35, Ravens 27
MVP: Colin Kaepernick
Projected Numbers: 18-for-30, 210 yards, 2 TDs; 11 carries, 95 yards, TD