Ravens’ resurgence can deliver Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS hosts the 47th edition of America’s greatest sporting showpiece when the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers meet in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

For the first time in NFL Super Bowl history the opposing head coaches are brothers as the Ravens’ John and the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh go into battle. The only other occasion the siblings clashed came in the 2011 season, when John marked Thanksgiving with a 16-6 victory over younger brother Jim.

Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis has dominated pre-match headlines and will represent the Ravens for the final time. He will hope to claim a second Super Bowl ring to accompany his 2001 triumph for the same team in which he was named Most Valuable Player.

The Championship contests emphasised how strong both franchises are, as the 49ers came from behind to beat Atlanta on the road, while the Ravens won 28-13 against the New England Patriots.

Colin Kaepernick took over the 49ers quarterback duties mid-season and fully justified the decision to take his career record to 7-2, while he is 2-0 in the play-offs.

His opposite man is also enjoying a brilliant run that has seen the Ravens win their past four games – improving Joe Flacco’s play-off record to 8-4.

The 49ers and Ravens also thrive on the defensive side of the game. The 49ers allowed 17.1 points per game and finished third in total defence this season. In their past four games the Ravens have limited Eli Manning (New York Giants), Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) and Tom Brady (New England Patriots) to a 55.3 percent completion rate, with nine sacks, five touchdowns and five interceptions in their past four games.

The Ravens’ 2001 defence is regarded as one of the best of all time and before the post-season, this current unit was failing to live up to the franchise’s legacy. It all changed during the wild card game with a dominant performance and 24-9 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts.

Their aggressive defence has returned and seems to have a date with destiny powered by Lewis’s looming retirement after a 17-year career. Although age has slowed him, the linebacker has 44 tackles in the post-season and his presence is invaluable.

The Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has been exceptional in clutch situations, while 49ers’ veteran David Akers is no longer dependable as his simple 38-yard field goal miss at Atlanta demonstrated. The 49ers are 1/2 favourites with Blue Square Bet and I’m keen to leave them alone.

Quarterbacks have earned the MVP honour 25 times in 46 Super Bowl games and it’s Flacco that leads the NFL in the play-offs with a 114.7 passer rating, including eight touchdowns with no interceptions.

He can inspire the Ravens to the Vince Lombardi trophy to ensure that Lewis rides off into the sunset with the ultimate prize, an outcome Coral are offering 6/4 for. Spread bettors are advised to sell San Francisco’s supremacy at 3 with Sporting Index.

■ Pointers…
Baltimore Ravens at 6/4 with Coral
Sell San Francisco supremacy at 3 with Sporting Index