The potential still exists for Super Bowl XLVII to turn into Super Bowl II Brothers Harbaugh.
That’s because Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens, have their teams playing Sunday for the NFC and AFC titles, respectively. If they both win Presto! one of the prominent Super Bowl storylines becomes a study of sibling relationships.
But it says in this here prediction column that only one of the Harbaugh boys will make it to the NFL’s championship game. The deduction is a result of the application of Stoda’s Mathematical Theory (a variation of a theme recently expressed by my friend, Alex Marvez, at FoxSports.com).
There are, of course, myriad X’s-and-O’s elements to consider everything from pass rush to punting game when undertaking prognostications such as these. At this juncture, though, the evaluations of lines, linebackers, secondaries, receivers, running backs and kickers turn out to be so complicatedly close as to not make a difference.
Better to focus on the vitally important areas, which are quarterbacks, coaches and … magic.
OK, OK, it’s necessary to give New England (vs. Baltimore) and Atlanta (vs. San Francisco) points for playing at home. They each get three. Every team gets seven points just as a gift, too, because offense is the coin of the NFL realm these days as demonstrated by last weekend’s 45-31, 41-28, 38-35 and 30-28 scores in the quarterfinal round of the Super Bowl tournament.
So, that’s 10 points each for the Patriots and Falcons with the Ravens and Niners at seven each.
It’s now time to award points on 1-to-10 scale for quarterbacking, coaching and magic.
The quarterbacks are New England’s Tom Brady, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. In order, they are great, good, a novice and a mystery.
Brady is a sure-bet Hall of Fame enshrinee who already has led the Pats to three Super Bowl wins. Any questions?
Flacco is a strong-armed passer whose fearlessness as a thrower must be simultaneously maddening and thrilling to his handlers.
Kaepernick emerged as a revelation during the second half of the season when his coach moved him into the starting job, and all he did in his playoff debut last weekend against Green Bay was run for two touchdowns (and 181 yards) and pass for two more (and 263 yards).
Ryan frequently leaves the impression that there is more to him than he reveals, which means he’s either underappreciated or overrated.
Points: Brady 10, Ryan 7, Flacco 6 and Kaepernick 5.
The coaches are New England’s Bill Belichick, the aforementioned Harbaughs and Atlanta’s Mike Smith.
Belichick is a sure-bet Hall of Fame enshrinee who already has led the Pats to three Super Bowl wins. Any questions?
Jim Harbaugh, who’s the younger brother, has gotten a lot of mileage out of his decision to give the football to Kaepernick when former starter Alex Smith was playing well. John Harbaugh, though, has been to the playoffs five times in five years on the job.
Smith has turned the Falcons into a formidable regular-season team, but not so much in the playoffs.
Points: Belichick 10, Harbaughs 7 and 7, Smith 4.
New England’s magic is its brand. The Patriots are one of the league’s elite franchises. How long has it been since an NFL season opened when the Patriots weren’t considered a Super Bowl contender regardless of personnel questions they might have been facing?
Baltimore’s magic is retiring superstar linebacker Ray Lewis, who, love him or hate him, is the Ravens’ inspirational leader with but a game or two remaining in his career.
San Francisco’s magic is the wonder of Kaepernick and the 49ers trying to back up the World Series title won by the city’s Giants.
Atlanta has no magic.
Points: Baltimore 10, San Francisco 8, New England 7, Atlanta 0.
There’s the math.
New England, 37-30.
San Francisco, 27-21.
Only one Harbaugh.