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This SB is for the Birds

| Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 12:19 a.m.

As a fan, I have no rooting interest in the Super Bowl Sunday as these are two of my least favorite teams.

It doesn't matter to me to root for Baltimore because of the tiring soap opera “Ray Lewis is retiring” story. And it doesn't mean much to me that if San Francisco wins, the 49ers will tie the Steelers for the most SB titles at six.

That said, I'm going to do what we all like to do before the big game: pick a winner.

The 49ers are slight favorites, having opened at 4.5 points and since dropping to 3.5.

When I look at the two teams in this game, I look at recent Super Bowl trends.

On paper, the 49ers are the best team. They are favored. They have the better defense. They have been solid right out of the gate, except for a hiccup or two.

Going back over the past seven Super Bowls, starting with SB XL with the Steelers and Seahawks, the winner of the championship has not necessarily been the best team all season, but the hottest team.

In 2006, the Steelers were a sixth seed in the AFC and barely qualified for the playoffs before winning three road games andf the title, 21-10.

In SB XLII, the Giants snuck into the playoffs in the NFC, got hot and then went on to defeat previously undefeated New England, 17-14.

In SB XLV, the Packers were the team that had to get help just to get into the playoffs, but rolled through the competition and then beat the Steelers in the championship, 31-25.

Last year, the Giants got hot at the end of the season and snuck into the playoffs and yep, you guessed it, they won the title beating the Patriots again., 21-17.

Even if you look back at SB XLIV, the upstart Saints were taking on the unstoppable Peyton Manning-led Colts and the Saints came out on top, 31-17.

Sensing a trend here?

Now let's look at the 49ers and Ravens.

The 49ers (13-4-1) have been at the top of everybody's power list from the opening of the season while the Ravens (13-6) were pre-season contenders and then had a swoon in the second half of the season that had some thinking they might blow their huge division lead.

Going into the playoffs, I figured the Ravens for a certain one-and-done.

However, like the Steelers, Giants (twice) and Packers before them, the Ravens have been dominating in the second season.

I don't see why that trend should stop Sunday.

Yeah, I know the 49ers have a great defense and a rookie quarterback in Colin Kaepernick who nobody has found a way to contain yet.

But the Ravens have a defense that after looking rusty all season has suddenly looked like the unit the chewed teams up in their previous SB season of 2000-01.

And while the defense has been great, the Ravens' big-game choking quarterback Joe Flacco is no longer looking like Wacko Flacco. He is looking every bit like a potential Super Bowl MVP.

Last but not least, even though the 49ers have a huge experience edge in the kicking game, veteran David Akers (29-of-42 FGs) has been lucky to keep his job down the stretch while Ravens rookie Justin Tucker (30-of-33 FGs) has been clutch.

On paper, I do think the 49ers are better. But I'm not about to buck the trend of recent history.

Pick: Baltimore 23, San Francisco 20.

Enjoy the game!

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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