Super Bowl prediction: Ravens 24, 49ers 21

ESPN.com Illustration

If this were a game of Madden, I'd take the 49ers because, quite frankly, they're better on paper -- and a computer, too. But the team with the best players doesn't always win the Super Bowl; the best team usually does.

The Ravens are another example of a team getting hot at the right time, shades of last year's Giants. The defense received a morale boost with the return of Ray Lewis and the offense found its true identity under new coordinator Jim Caldwell, leading to an impressive playoff run.

I'm concerned about the Ravens' ability to keep QB Colin Kaepernick off the edges with the ball in his hands and I'm concerned about their lack of speed in the middle of the field. Lewis and Ed Reed have lost a step or two, and they could exposed if the 49ers can isolate TE Vernon Davis and a running back on them.

In the end, though, I think the Ravens will win because, with a hot Joe Flacco at quarterback, they're more balanced than the 49ers. They're also better on special teams, and that could be huge, especially if slumping 49ers PK David Akers finds himself in a pressure spot.

And, by the way, I'm picking the "under" on the length of the post-game handshake/hug between Jim and John Harbaugh -- the over-under six seconds, according to Vegas. This will be the most eagerly awaited handshake since the days of Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini.