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February 2, 2013

The Daily Star Super Bowl XLVII Predictions

The Daily Star

---- — Rob Centorani

Staff Writer

I’ll bet you didn’t know that area high school graduates Nicholas Bell, Kevin Campbell and Matt Newman of Unatego; Bryan Bordinger and Cody Losie of Oneonta; Taylor Sohns and Jeremiah Warren of Delhi; Justin Plows of Unadilla Valley; and Will Neale of Walton were teammates of a guy playing in this year’s Super Bowl.

At least, I think they were.

The year was 2005 and it was the Ernie Davis Classic – an annual football All-Star game for Section Four seniors.

Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones – a Union-Endicott graduate – played in the Ernie Davis game that season, as did the aforementioned players.

I’m fairly certain all of them played on the East team, but I can find no mention of that game anywhere online. And, of course, if it’s not online, it simply cannot be found.

It’s possible the local boys played against Jones, who went on to play for Syracuse before going in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.

Now for the some things that have been bothering me:

… I couldn’t care less about player safety in the NFL. If players are worried about the long-term risks of their profession, then they shouldn’t be playing. I’m tired of guys being flagged 15 yards for playing football. So the league needs to put an end to this safety stuff. If not, I’m certain it will lose at least one fan.

… I’m upset Phil Mickelson had to issue a fake apology for complaining about his taxes. I about blew a gasket when I discovered the feds whacked $20 from my paycheck when the payroll tax extension ended in January. Mickelson is losing millions. If it’s true that he’s paying 62 percent of his earnings in taxes, he has every right to whine.

… I’d like to start a campaign to keep Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rumor has it that they’ll be on the veterans committee ballot this year. If Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire can’t get into the Hall because they abused drugs, then the managers who said nothing while their players were cheating also should be left out. Their silence means they condoned it or didn’t know about it, which seems unlikely. Either way, I say they’re out.

If it seems like I’m avoiding the Super Bowl, it’s because I am.

As a Steelers fan, I don’t like the Ravens. As a Steelers fan, I don’t want to see the 49ers tie our record for Super Bowl victories.

But I’m told I have to make a pick.

Prediction: Ravens 31, 49ers 20

Justin Vernold

Copy Editor

My below-the-radar Super Bowl story is Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie, a supremely gifted ex-University of Miami All-American and Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowler who could have gone down as his generation’s greatest lineman had he applied himself.

After eating his way off Minnesota’s roster in 2010, the 6-foot-8, 360-pounder got one last chance to salvage his career from Ravens coach John Harbaugh and worked himself into the best shape of his career. After sitting out all 16 regular-season games, McKinnie’s been an upgrade over steady veteran Michael Oher, who has shifted to his more natural right tackle spot, allowing rookie brawler Kelechi Osemele to shift inside to the less-demanding left guard spot.

In three postseason games with McKinnie starting, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been sacked four times. It’s no coincidence that Flacco, a stationary pocket passer, has thrived (eight touchdowns, zero interceptions) with such solid protection. Can McKinnie stop 49ers All Pro linebacker Aldon Smith (33.5 sacks in 32 career games)? Probably. Smith hasn’t had a sack in five games, and McKinnie held up fine against Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney and Denver’s Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.

Flacco might never be a Hall of Famer, but in his fifth season, he finally seems comfortable reading NFL defenses and is starting to show off his abundant arm talent. Flacco outplayed Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady over the last three games, and seems good enough to win a Super Bowl with.

Second-year 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick also has plenty of talent, but he doesn’t have much experience, and I’d like to see him do it a few more times before I go predicting Super Bowl wins for him. That’s not to say Kaepernick can’t do it, but I’m a little hesitant to bet on a quarterback who was winless in two games against the hapless St. Louis Rams this year.

Prediction: Ravens 27, 49ers 24

Mike Neagle

Former Sports Writer

Finally … Mike Neagle has come back to Oneonta!

Twelve years ago, when I was last a regular contributor to this newspaper, The Rock was the top wrestler, “The Simpsons” were a network TV staple, and the Baltimore Ravens were in the Super Bowl.

Today, The Rock is the WWE Champion, “The Simpsons” are still a pillar of Sunday night television, and the Baltimore Ravens are in the Super Bowl.

Seems as if some things never change. But these Ravens are a different bunch than the 2000 version that decimated my Giants, who were a Ron Dixon kickoff return away from an ignominious shutout.

For one, they have a more-than-competent quarterback in Joe Flacco, the AFC’s Eli Manning – i.e., a streaky QB who has a knack for getting it done in the playoffs, especially on the road. The current team’s defense is not nearly as stout as it was 12 years ago. The 2000 Ravens were first in the league in points allowed and second in yards; the 2012 version was 12th and 17th, respectively, in the regular season. Quite pedestrian.

But I’ll leave all the statistical analysis to the professionals. Since the Giants aren’t involved this year, I really don’t care either way. It’s just a matter of who I least want to see win. This is where it gets tricky.

In one corner, the 49ers are led by coach Jim Harbaugh, king of the sideline tantrum (did you SEE him during the NFC Championship game?). There’s also wide receiver Randy “Straight Cash, Homey” Moss, a notorious malcontent who has taken more plays off than a Broadway understudy. Factor in all the Niners’ bandwagon fans emerging from a nearly two-decade slumber and there’s not a lot for the uninvested observer to root for here.

In the other corner: Ray Lewis, master of the cry-face and deflector of all questions about PEDs and murder. “That’s the trick of the devil,” Lewis said in dismissing such questions. Know what else is a trick of the devil? Cheating and murder.

Lewis is reason enough for me to root for two ex-Giants – Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs – to win another ring in San Francisco. Too bad neither will play on Sunday. Just like the rest of the 2012 Giants.

Prediction: 49ers 31, Ravens 21

Greg Klein

Cooperstown Crier

I grew up in Maryland. Otsego County is the only place I have lived where I have to add, “No, the state of Maryland.” I have a lot of friends who migrated to Baltimore, and who became Ravens fans when the team moved from Cleveland. I am picking with my heart because I like when my friends are happy … as long as my friends aren’t Yankees fans. Or Alabama fans. My cheering for other people’s teams has limits.

I like San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I am amazed at what he has accomplished in his second season, taking over as a starter midway through the year. But I think his inexperience is going to hurt his team in the Super Bowl. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave the game either from injury or a big deficit.

San Francisco made a nice comeback against Atlanta, but I think the Ravens are tougher than the Falcons. The 49ers have a lot of offensive weapons. But Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees has come up big in this year’s playoffs by defying big quarterbacks. I know Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are dropback passers, and Kaepernick is a good runner and a good passer, but I believe Pees will come up with a scheme to shut Kaepernick down, too.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco gets a lot of criticism, but he has won a lot of big games now. He would have been in the Super Bowl last year if Lee Evans hadn’t dropped that pass. He has played in a lot more big games than Kaepernick, who will be starting his third playoff game. I think Flacco will win his Super Bowl much like his predecessor Trent Dilfer won his for the Ravens in 2001: Don’t make mistakes, let the defense do its job, make one or two big plays.

If that happens, you also can bet on Ray Lewis for a second MVP.

The other thing about the 49ers is, if I am wrong and it is a close game, no one believes David Akers is going to win a Super Bowl for the 49ers by making a big field goal. So I like the Ravens in a close game, too.

But I don’t think it will be close. We’ve been on a pretty good run of good Super Bowls, but I think this one is more like the 1990s.

Prediction: Ravens 37, 49ers 17

Dave Coury

Sports Clerk

For years I have been making Super Bowl prognostications by playing a relatively unknown board game called Pizza Box Football against my brother Ben. Over the years, our predictions have been surprisingly accurate. This year, with a Thursday deadline and my brother and I unable to get together for our annual game until Super Bowl weekend, I was at a loss to find a new way to choose between two balanced teams.

The Ravens have had a magical run to the Super Bowl. They started the playoffs by dominating a young Colts team at home. They then went on the road and won back-to-back games as 9 1/2-point underdogs. In the AFC Championship game, they rallied from a six-point halftime deficit, outscoring New England by 21 points and shutting out Tom Brady and the NFL’s top-ranked offense in the second half.

In the NFC, the story of the year has been talented, young quarterbacks running modern, run-and-gun offenses that have befuddled one defensive coordinator after another. Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson were brilliant, leading their respective teams to playoff berths, but neither has shone as brightly as San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, who took over the job as starting quarterback for the Niners after Alex Smith suffered a concussion in a week 10 tie versus the St. Louis Rams.

Since taking over for Smith, Kaepernick has led San Fran to a 7-2 record that includes two playoff victories. At home in a divisional playoff game against Green Bay, Kaepernick ran for ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns, throwing for two more scores. A week later, Kaepernick and the Niners overcame a 17-point deficit to take down the top-seeded Falcons in Atlanta.

Throughout most of Super Bowl week, I have been leaning toward picking the Ravens, mostly because I have trouble believing that Kaepernick, in his second year out of Nevada and in his 10th career NFL start, can continue playing Hall-of-Fame caliber football. However, as stories started emerging from New Orleans about Baltimore practices being disrupted due to weather and construction at their Tulane University practice facility, and Ravens players started having to answer questions about their emotional leader, Ray Lewis’ alleged use of liquefied deer antlers, I started leaning more toward the 49ers.

As I sat squarely on the fence teetering each way from moment to moment, I got a phone call from friend and co-worker Eric Scheer, who told me he had been attacked by a large black bird while breaking down athletic equipment in a local gymnasium.

Aha! It’s an omen!

I understand a that bird trapped inside is a fairly common occurrence during an upstate New York winter, certainly more common than an infestation of pickaxe wielding gold-miners, but I am quite sure this was a sign.

The Baltimore Ravens will win Super Bowl XLVII and they will do it the old-fashioned way, on the ground. Overlooked by the talented, young Kaepernick and the somewhat elite Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is that this game features two of the best running backs in the NFL. The Niners’ Frank Gore and Baltimore’s Ray Rice will be heavily utilized in their respective gameplans. With both teams touting stout defenses and marquee backfields, I expect scoring to be down from other playoff games this season. I think we are in for a good, old-fashioned slugfest, and the team that can capitalize on one key mistake will earn the win.

Predictions: Ravens 24, 49ers 17; Ray Rice wins the MVP; and heads on the opening coin toss.

Bob Goble

Sports Clerk

Well it’s that time of the year again – another late-night email from Sports Editor Dean Russin (3 a.m.) requesting our Super Bowl predictions.

You may recall (or maybe you don’t) that I wondered aloud who is up at 3 a.m. sending off emails, let alone actually working. Well, I have known Dean long enough to know that this is his “me” time (he mentioned this last year) and this is the time of day he works best, so it is not a surprise any longer.

This year, I will not even mention the fact that Dean will invoke his professional right as Sports Editor to “blow up” my prediction, because that’s a given and, if I have to be honest, it probably will need to happen. Unfortunately, that is still my mug shot.

Just so you understand, I am 1-0 with my predictions, so I am feeling real good about this one as I look to extend my winning streak. Granted, it was my son, Jordan, who actually made my prediction last year, so I guess he is 1-0 and I am just riding on his shirt tails. I am sure some of you are saying, “Be a man and pick the game yourself.” That’s fair, but why be a man and be wrong when I can lean on a 9-year-old and probably get it right again this year? Plus if it is wrong, it’s because I listened to a 9-year-old.

We .. or rather Jordan … is picking the Ravens. As soon as Ray Lewis announced his retirement as the end of the season, and Jordan’s Cowboys (never said he knew everything) fell out of the playoff race, Jordan has liked and wanted the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. Let’s just say he is sentimental like his dad.

You know it would be a neat story. The Ravens are playing with a lot of emotion right now and their defense is healthy for the first time all year (can’t argue with that now, can you?). Also, Joe Flacco has come into his own during the playoffs and the offense is playing very well right now.

Prediction: Ravens 31, 49ers 24

Eric Deemer

Sports Clerk

Once again we approach the Super Bowl, a day of good football, beer advertisements and over a billion chicken wings served. I’m not sure what concerns me more, though - the outcome or the estimated seven million people expected to play hooky the next day. Maybe it correlates to the 325 million gallons of beer predicted to be consumed, but who really cares anyway? The economy will take its annual dose of steroids as consumers quickly empty their wallets in preparation for the big day.

Unfortunately, I will be missing the game this year racing around delivering pizza after pizza to hungry football fanatics who, hopefully, won’t forget to tip.

But enough about me, let’s talk about the game. The past years, I’d ask myself, “Are the Patriots going to win again, or will something interesting actually happen this year?”

I can only imagine the pressure on Jim and John Harbaugh, and what a win will mean for both of them and their families. The real weapon to utilize in this huge game is the will to win, and I haven’t seen a team play with as much heart than when I watched the Ravens beat down on the Pats for the AFC title.

If you ask me, any team that can crush the Patriots like Baltimore did in the AFC title game is capable of a Super Bowl victory. The hype around Ray Lewis stepping down after a glorious 17-year career is one more reason the Ravens will be motivated to win it all. Baltimore is riding too much momentum right now, and I don’t see 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick coping with the Ravens experienced and perseverant defense.

In order to shed more light on this subject, I turned to my longtime friend and experienced pizza maker Dan Marino. I asked him what he felt was important about this Super Bowl, and he brilliantly responded: “You know Eric, that’s a good question. With a game like this, I tend to think less about the hype and more about the will to win. After Ray Lewis’ retirement and these illegal substance claims against him, I feel as though Baltimore’s locker room will remain unified around Ray Lewis. I’ll look for the Ravens to play a little bit harder and pick up a close win over San Francisco.”

So if all goes well for Baltimore, I think Kaepernick will crumble against a tough and spirited Baltimore team that knows how to execute at the finish.

Prediction: Ravens 28, 49ers 23

Hannah Walsh

Sports Clerk

I’ll be brief.

Predicting the winner of Super Bowl XLVII is pretty tough because both teams are great this year. This is definitely one of the better matchups in recent years.

Both teams are pretty evenly matched with good defenses and solid, young quarterbacks. I’ve decided it has to be the Ravens, though. Just a gut feeling.

Prediction: Ravens 20, 49ers 17

Dean Russin

Sports Editor

I don’t usually read anyone’s Super Bowl predictions before I write mine, but I need material because it’s getting late. If I don’t buzz Goble awake with a 3 a.m. email, he won’t have anything to write about next year.

So far, The Daily Star sports department has been relatively predictable with its predictions.

As usual, Centorani localized his story by making some incredibly obscure link to a player nobody’s heard about, then talked about golf, baseball and government spending. The only thing he left out was a reference to Ronald Reagan or JFK (which I edited out; you’re welcome).

Neagle, who is a diaper-changing machine these days, gave cheap pops to The Rock and the WWE … which he pretty much did in every article he ever wrote for us around the turn of the century. I think he actually Sharpies a raised eyebrow onto his baby girl’s forehead before putting her down for naps with the People’s Elbow.

Klein, who we traded to the Cooperstown Crier for a washing machine and future draft picks, opened with a geography lesson and later stated “no one believes David Akers is going to win a Super Bowl for the 49ers by making a big field goal.” I know Greg’s a hard worker, but it’s hard to believe he asked everybody in the world and they all got back to him by Thursday.

Coury bet the house on a random bird attack, which I assume is the same system he uses to determine who goes first in the Punt, Pass and Kick qualifier at Neahwa Park. I was going to write that’s how he comes up with the “pecking order,” but that’s just silly.

Goble relied on a 9-year-old. I assume that’s the same person who dresses him in the morning. That would explain the Transformers T-shirt and shorts combo he wore to work the other day.

As for the newcomers, it’s obvious Vernold has way too much time on his hands, Deemer’s already been brainwashed by Centorani, and Walsh isn’t about to let stats get in the way of a good prediction.

It’s also obvious nobody knows what he or she is talking about except Neagle, and that just scares me.

Ravens this, Ray Lewis that. Blah, blah, blah.

Have you seen Colin Kaepernick play football? It’s like he’s throwing magnets at robots, and those men of metal include Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. All of those guys have had 900-plus-yard seasons at some point in their careers, and they’re all on the same team.

Frank Gore’s sixth 1,000-yard rushing season means he’s kind of good at running back, too.

And I think the Niners have way more tattoos, so duh? That means they’re way tougher than the Ravens.

David Akers’ mom and I believe he can kick a big field goal in the Super Bowl, too. He won’t have to, though, because it’ll be all Niners on Sunday.

In short, nobody believes there’s room for fluff about taxes, family, pizza or random acts of bird violence in a Super Bowl prediction. I know because I asked Greg, and he asked everybody again.

Hey Goble and the rest of you “sports” people, wake up!

Prediction: 49ers 35, Ravens 17