OK, New Orleans, here we go.
Much to the chagrin of their fans, the Saints aren’t in the Super Bowl, which will be played in the Big Easy for the first time in 11 years on Feb. 3 — their hopes to be the first team to play the title game in their home stadium smothered long ago by a disappointing 7-9 season.
Neither are Peyton and Eli Manning going to be around.
Alas, the much-talked about first brother quarterback matchup in Super Bowl history, which would’ve been played a short drive from the backyard of the Mannings’ childhood home, didn’t materialize.
So you’ll just have to settle for another brother act: Jim and John Harbaugh, the coaches of the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, who’ll meet in Super Bowl XLVII.
When the local organizing committee made a bid to bring the Super Bowl back a few years ago, they pitched it as a “Perfect 10” because it’ll be the 10th championship game played in New Orleans — tying it with South Florida as the most-frequent host site.
Obviously, they got more than they could have hoped for in the 49ers and Ravens, who will meet in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after stirring comeback wins on Sunday.
The 49ers captured the NFC title with a 28-24 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday before the Ravens shocked the New England Patriots 28-13 on the AFC side of the bracket.
In addition to the Harbaugh brothers, there will be some new faces at quarterback in the Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco — instead of a Manning vs. Manning matchup.
It’s not all that bad when you think about it: Kaepernick, the 49ers’ rising young star, facing off with Flacco, who ignored his detractors and got the Ravens over the hump by besting in the playoffs, in order, rookie phenom Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
And don’t forget that Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis’ final game of a Hall of Fame career will grab a large share of the spotlight.
Of course, the 49ers are no strangers to the Super Bowl — or New Orleans, for that matter. They certainly won’t need a road map from the airport to their downtown hotel, having made the trip many times in the past.
The 49ers, who have played in five Super Bowls and won them all, visited New Orleans to meet the Saints each year as fellow members of the NFC West from 1970 until 2001 before the league realigned in 2002.
They also won one of their five titles here, crushing the Denver Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV after the 1989 season.
More recently, the 49ers defeated the Saints 31-21 in the Superdome on Nov. 25 en route to winning the NFC West title.
Now we’re set for Harbaugh Bowl II, which will come a little more than 14 months after they met for the first time, the Ravens taking a 16-6 win over the Niners on Thanksgiving night 2011.
It should be one for the ages — and one for a proud Harbaugh family, to be sure.
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