On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons and head coach Jim Harbaugh booked his trip to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. Less than a handful of hours later, the Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots and Jim's big brother, head coach John Harbaugh, joined the family trip. Now, the brothers - and more importantly, their football teams - will meet up for a conclusion to a year of football that couldn't have been more perfectly scripted. The focus in the weeks before the actual game will probably remain solidly on the brothers and their path to this point in terms of their family, despite their claims that it's not about them. In fact, when it comes to San Francisco and Baltimore, there's plenty to say about each of these teams.
In making a furious comeback over the Falcons, San Francisco firmly established their young quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, as a foundational piece for the future. After recording a performance that tops the list of rushing yards for a quarterback in last week's game against the Packers, Kaepernick continued his hot streak, matching Matt Ryan in efficiency, if not in yards thrown. The 49ers got the all-important W, and coach Harbaugh's decision to switch Alex Smith out of the quarterback position at midseason in favor of Kaepernick seems validated. The 49ers will be appearing in their sixth Super Bowl, having won all five of their previous big games. They are the only team in NFL history to appear in more than one Super Bowl and still maintain an undefeated record in that last game of the season. It's a lofty record to rest on the shoulders of a young man who took over the team during their sixth game of this season, but he's proved himself to be more than capable.
In stark contrast to San Francisco's reliance on a young QB, the Baltimore Ravens showed that their defense still reigns supreme and their leader, Ray Lewis, having announced that this season is his swan song is just about set up to exit the stage on a perfect note. The Ravens smashed the Tom Brady-led Patriots, humbling the would-be dynasty with a smothering defense in the second half, leading to the Patriots' first ever defeat at home after leading at half. Baltimore is far from a one-note team, however, generating plenty of heat from the QB position, as they've gotten more from Joe Flacco than ever before. The 5 year veteran has hovered right around the same completion rate for each of his seasons, but he's played with a loose air this postseason that's reflected in this Super Bowl appearance. This mixture of Flacco's experience on offense and Lewis' veteran status on defense combines to make the Ravens a tough out, as the Patriots found out.
For now, the two teams will retreat to their respective corners and cede the spotlight to the Pro Bowl, while their coaches plot strategy. But next week, as media day approaches and the teams arrive in New Orleans, the bright lights will appear even more frequently as we all prepare for something unseen: brothers coaching against one another's teams in a Super Bowl. Fortunately, the teams match up well enough to justify all the hype it's going to get. The San Francisco 49ers get the early edge as 4-point favorites, proving that sometimes, the little brother can have an advantage.