A 60-minute matchup boiled down to mere seconds and a measly five yards. It was Super Bowl XLVII, where Baltimore left carrying the Lombardi Trophy and San Francisco headed home empty-handed. Now, the two are in for another challenge — escaping the Super Bowl hangover. And despite winning the 2013 Super Bowl, the Ravens have just 22-1 odds to return the trophy to Baltimore.
The hangover — or curse — strikes Super Bowl champions the next season, limiting their success and preventing them from having a strong year. Case in point: since 1993, only Denver, Dallas, New England and Green Bay have advanced to a championship game following a Super Bowl win the previous year.
The Ravens will be looking to return to the playoffs — and break the curse — and have already begun reshaping their roster. They started by resigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco to a $120.6 million, six-year contract. High expectations are in store for Flacco; with Ray Lewis retired, Ravens fans will be looking to him to fill the leadership void. Lucky for Flacco, he has a strong arsenal of players he can rely on including Torrey Smith (eight touchdowns, 855 yards) and Ray Rice (nine touchdowns, 1,143 yards).
Baltimore has also unloaded some players in free agency, including Ed Reed to Houston. While the safety finished the 2012 season tied for 11th in the NFL in interceptions, he’s suffering a hip injury that may limit his impact on the field. Bernard Pollard was also released and signed by Tennessee.
Fortunately, Terrell Suggs, who missed the first six weeks of the regular season, is healthy and ready to anchor one of the best defenses in football. The former Defensive Player of the Year will be looking for a bounce-back season after injuries hampered his 2012 campaign. The Ravens also acquired some young talent on defense: first-round pick, safety Matt Elam from the Florida Gators and second-round pick, linebacker Arthur Brown from Kansas State.
Whether you believe in superstitions or not, in a league with 32 teams and an emphasis on parity, it’s not easy to claw your way back to the playoffs, let alone the championship game. And while some teams (like the New England Patriots, for example) show consistent year-to-year success, it’s important to note that they’re the exception, not the rule.
But win or lose, the curse doesn’t discriminate. The last Super Bowl winner to make a return visit? Those aforementioned Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2004 and 2005. The last time a Super Bowl loser made a return visit and won? The 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Oddsmakers peg the Niners as 6-1 to win the Super Bowl, suggesting that books aren’t overly concerned with the hangover’s history. With Michael Crabtree out to start the season with a torn Achilles tendon, the fact that San Francisco remains the outright favorite to win it all speaks to their impressive depth on both sides of the ball.
In the meantime, the 49ers have Anquan Boldin (received in a trade from the Ravens) to fill the notable absence of Crabtree. During the 2013 playoffs, Boldin had four touchdowns and 380 yards, while Crabtree scored three touchdowns for 285 yards. Look for the duo to light up the field when Crabtree returns to the game late in the fall.
The Ravens have won nine or more games every season since 2008 and have a regular-season win total listed at 8.5. The 49ers have a regular-season win total of 11. Although the 49ers have a better chance of playing next February at MetLife Stadium, the Ravens are just strong enough to give us the first back-to-back rematch since the Cowboys and Bills did it in 1993 and 1994.
This post is presented by Bovada.