The San Francisco 49ers take the field Sunday facing the toughest test in the team’s six Super Bowl appearances. While oddsmakers, Nate Silver and most pundits see a 49ers victory, the Ravens surprised the experts in beating Denver and New England and are viewed by many as a team of destiny. I saw a 49ers-Broncos Super Bowl prior to the season, and predicted the Ravens defeat of the Patriots in a game that became a rout. I disagree with Steve Young and others who see the Ravens as unable to stop the 49ers offense, and question Silver’s assessment that the 49ers will win because they have the better defense. Here is my take on a game I do not recommend betting on.

Ravens Underestimated

In their playoff game against the Broncos in Denver, the Ravens defense gave up only 21 points. It then held the Patriots to 13 points, and kept them scoreless in the second half. That’s the same Patriots team that rolled up 28 second half points against the 49ers.

Season-wide statistics on the Ravens defense are misleading due to the unit’s many injuries. This is a defense that continually rises to the top in big games. It is also a defense that consistently causes injuries to opponents. I would be surprised if at least one 49er offensive starter is not physically unable to play before game’s end.

Steve Young knows a lot more about football than I, but I do not know why he is so confident that the 49ers offense will simply prove unstoppable. Neither the Packers nor the Falcons have a defense as good as the Ravens, and the last time the 49ers faced a strong defense---against Seattle---the team had trouble moving the ball.

Also underestimated is the Ravens offense. It scored 38 points against a Broncos team that---prior to that game---was said to have a great defense. Joe Flacco is still underrated, and the only team in the league with a better run-pass combination may be the 49ers.

The Ravens were large underdogs against both the Broncos and Patriots. Denver was only in a position to win because of special teams, and New England was never close to victory.

49ers Strengths

The 49ers have an explosive offense that no team since the Seahawks has been able to stop (and that game is discounted due to the 49ers prior week’s emotional away victory in Foxboro). Colin Kaepernick is the real deal and those who think he might suffer from the Super Bowl pressure are wrong.

Defense elevated the 49ers to elite status last year, and it is the ability of their defense to stop the Ravens that will decide the game. It seems clear that Justin Smith’s injury brought the entire defense down, and that his health has restored the unit’s strength.

Those seeing a 49ers victory see its pass rush as denying Flacco the time he had against either the Broncos or Patriots, which prevents the Ravens from having the sustained drives needed to keep its older defense off the field. Getting pressure on Flacco may be the key to the game, and my confidence in the 49ers ability to do this is why I seem them with the best chance to win.

Recall that it was not until the defense got pressure on Matt Ryan that the 49ers slowed the Falcons offense, which in the first half was almost unstoppable.

I also think Jim Harbaugh is a better game coach than his brother. John Harbaugh has made some head scratching decisions over the years, while Jim is rock solid.

Prediction

I would not be surprised by a Ravens victory, but think the 49ers will find a way to win by a 21-17 or 28-24 score. The Ravens often have trouble scoring, and this will cost them in Ray Lewis’ final game.