It's a quiet, chilly scene inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the Ravens and San Francisco 49ers prepare for tonight's Super Bowl.
Arriving at the stadium hours before kickoff along with Baltimore Sun colleagues Jeff Zrebiec, Peter Schmuck, Monique Jones, Mike Preston, Kevin Richardson and Childs Walker, plus our team of photographers, Gene Sweeney, Ken Lam, Lloyd Fox and Jerry Jackson, we're assembled in the press box ready for the action tonight.
The players and coaches aren't on the field yet, so there's nothing to report yet about warmups.
The video screens were playing old footage of a young Ray Lewis during Super Bowl XXXV, displaying the retiring Ravens inside linebacker chasing down Tiki Barber in the Ravens' Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants.
Now Lewis is hoping to reprise his vintage form at the advance age of 37 years old in his final football game before walking away for good. He'll need to keep up with bruising 49ers running back back Frank Gore tonight to help propel his team to a second Super Bowl victory.
It's an interesting set of matchups.
How will Lewis and 34-year-old free safety Ed Reed, a St. Rose, La., native, fare against the multi-faceted talents of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick?
Kaepernick's young legs provide him rare speed for a 6-foot-4, 230-pound strong-armed quarterback.
Will Joe Flacco rise to the occasion in what's been a sterling postseason so far with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions? He's rivaling Joe Montana and Steve Young statistically and is hoping to follow in their footsteps tonight and hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Flacco has already outdueled Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Now, he's trying to do it one more time against a stingy 49ers defense headlined by Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Dashon Goldson, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Donte Whitner.
For coach John Harbaugh, his sibling rivalry growing up with younger brother Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers coach, is about to unfold in front of the entire world. Whatever happens, parents Jack and Jackie Harbaugh are already proud winners as their sons have reached the pinnacle of NFL success.
Will rookie kicker Justin Tucker continue his string of splitting the uprights? Will 49ers veteran kicker David Akers falter one more time in a continuation of his rough season?
I'm on record picking the Ravens, 20-17, and winning it on a Tucker field goal. Having him replace former Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff several months after his flubbed chip shot in the AFC championship game last year against the New England Patriots might be the Ravens' best decision of the entire year.
Predictions are merely a hunch, though.
Who will be the hero? Who will be the goat?
We're about to find out later tonight as the AFC champions and NFC champions square off in the Big Easy to decide who will emerge as the NFL champions.
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