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Talent, statistics mean little in trying to pick a Super Bowl winner

On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
February 1, 2013

So, Super Bowl Sunday is finally here! Having trouble sleeping? Biting your nails? Probably not, unless you're a die-hard fan of the San Francisco 49ers or the Baltimore Ravens.
If so, though, I know the feeling. I was practically sweating blood for the Buffalo Bills when they lost those four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s. For those not emotionally involved, it's more or less just another football game, except for the TV commercials, the l-o-n-g halftime show, all the Buffalo wings you can eat and the New Orleans French Quarter scenes they'll show.
Yeah, I'll watch it-hey, I always do. So, you gridiron geniuses out there, who's going to win, the 49ers or the Ravens? As this is written, San Fran is a five-point favorite, but questions abound: Can the Ravens run the ball against the brick-wall-tough 49ers defense? Can the 49ers' pass defense stop Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco from picking them apart?
Can the Ravens keep 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick under enough pressure to stymie his passing game? And if they do, how about his fast feet, which averaged 6.6 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns in the regular season?
Sorry, guys, but the only sure thing about any football game, especially in the NFL, is that nothing is guaranteed. OK, so there's one exception in this Super Bowl: You can bet the farm that Coach Harbaugh's team will win this game. The problem, though, is which Harbaugh-the 49ers' Jim, or his brother, John, who coaches the Ravens?
Look, the 49ers were 11-4-1 in the regular season and the Ravens were 10-6. If either of them had gone undefeated, 16-0, that team would be the obvious favorite, but even that would mean absolutely nothing on game day. An NFL game is never a given, no matter which two teams are playing. Too many little things almost always come into play that overrule talent and statistics.
No. 1 on that unpredictable list: turnovers. When and how many of those will happen is no more a given than which way a punt is going to bounce when it hits the ground. So what happens if the ball slips out of Flacco's or Kaepernick's hand on his own 8-yard line as he takes it back to throw a pass, making it a fumble, and the other team recovers?
What happens if Ravens running back Ray Rice, who rushed for 1,143 yards in the regular season, or 49ers RB Frank Gore, who had 1,214 yards, loses a fumble at midfield while fighting for another yard or two? And what if he reaches out to catch a pass and tips the ball instead, and an opposing defensive back grabs it and runs untouched for a touchdown?
No. 2: big plays. How about a kickoff return? A player on whichever team fields the ball a yard or two in the end zone and breaks loose about his own 30-yard line, then cuts to the sideline. Then the only defender with a clear shot at stopping him slips, and the guy with the ball can all but trot in for a TD.
Or a defensive back slips on a deep pass, leaving a receiver wide open, or the DB gets called for pass interference (which happens a lot more than the refs even notice!), giving the other team a first down in the red zone.
And speaking of the game officials, there are blown calls by the refs that can change the outcome of a game. Then there are made and missed field goals (though not many), missed tackles, player injuries, good bounces, bad bounces, etc.
I find it amusing that all those "expert" football analysts out there are evaluating everything but the players' blood types. I know I'm repeating myself, but the real bottom line is: It's not how good you are; it's how good you are today. So whether you're for the 49ers or the Ravens, keep your fingers crossed. Actually, cross everything but your eyes!
That said, I'll crawl out on a limb and pick the 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII. It is not a scientific prediction, just a guess, because I've always been somewhat of a 49ers fan, just not on the front row. As for the score, I haven't a clue-60-0 or 7-3. Either one is fine with me.
As for betting on the game based on the point spread-as I said, five points earlier this week-let me suggest that instead you and some of your fellow football fanatics get together wherever you live and predict the exact temperature for April Fools' Day.
Rick Woodson's column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at His book, "Words of Woodson," is available at Listen to his weekly program, "The Golf Tee," at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.2/1/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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