Anyway, I don't know about any of you, but I'm not much of a fan of the fact that the Super Bowl has two weeks of hype behind it after the conference championships, as if it needed the extra exposure. What that produces is an oversaturation of the same headlines for two straight weeks with only a wee little Pro Bowl interruption (and that might be gone after this season). So instead of adding to the hype train that is already gaining steam, I'm going to give you the five storylines that you will be sick of by as early as this Wednesday, more than ten days before the actual game is played.
5. The 49ers' championship history
I don't know how many of you have heard of Joe Montana and Steve Young, but they combined to win five championships in the span of 14 years in the 80's and 90's, and are both in the Hall of Fame as a result of their dominance during this period. Only the Steelers have more Super Bowl wins (6). The problem with this whole "storied franchise" thing is that they have not been in a Super Bowl before or since that period. They had two of the greatest quarterbacks and the greatest receiver of all time for a continuous period, and they won a lot during that time. Other than that, not so much.
4. Colin Kaepernick and the Read-Option
Last year we whetted our appetite for this stuff with Cam Newton's breakout. This year we went full-on bonkers for the read-option running scheme, with RGIII, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick all having great success using an offensive philosophy that was previously mostly limited to the college ranks. Yes, Kaepernick is a much more exciting player to watch than Alex Smith, but it's interesting to note that the Niners averaged 170 rushing yards per game in their 9 games with Smith, but just 159 with Kaepernick, and we can all agree that Kaep is adding a lot more rushing value than Smith.
3. Is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?
This discussion actually started about Eli Manning at the start of last season, and he validated his own confidence by winning a Super Bowl. Flacco made a similar claim about his "eliteness" at the start of this season, stating that his expected contract value was only going to go up as the year went on. Well, he made it to his first Super Bowl, and does own a very impressive 54-26 career regular season record, and perhaps a more impressive 8-4 postseason record. Even if he wins this game, I'm not going to engage in the "Oh, he got a ring, so he's gotta be elite" discourse until I see more consistency out of him. Flacco's Total QBR for each season in his career has never been higher than 12th in the league, and this year was a dismal 25th, while his playoff-snakebit contemporary has never finished lower than 14th and has finished in the top 5 in his other four seasons.
2. Ray Lewis' Farewell Tour
After soon-to-be-Hall-of-Fame-linebacker Ray Lewis announced at the start of the playoffs that this season would be his last, we all knew that people would be talking about it all over the place. And the Ravens have given Lewis an opportunity to go out on top, a feat that has recently been accomplished by the likes of Elway, Bettis, and Strahan. Lewis has also had a pretty good postseason amid all the hoopla, with 25 solo tackles and 19 assisted tackles in three games. It's hard to argue with the attention being paid to the retirement (potentially with a Super Bowl ring) of one of the three greatest players at his position of all time, it's just been a lot of attention, and it's already been cooking for three weeks.
1. The Harbaugh Bowl (Harbaughl?)
I think that the over/under for references by the announcers to the Ravens and 49ers' coaches being brothers during the game should be set somewhere around 30, and that might be conservative. There will be all sorts of prop bets in Vegas on the number of times they show the parents, or which Harbaugh they show more often, or whatever. I actually feel that the attention that will be paid for this pales in comparison to the explosion that would happen if we ever get a Manning Bowl (and God help us if that happens), but we'll deal with this for now. As I found out from my friend Allyson after I told her the story, there's a good chance that non-football-people could find this game more watchable than usual, so I suppose that's all right. But I really don't need to deal with the comparisons, contrasts, baby pictures, and plays on words that are going to ooze out of the media in the next two weeks.