Gerald Herbert / AP
Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 | 7 p.m.
READER POLL: Which team would you bet in Super Bowl 47?
- Ravens vs. 49ers
- 49ers -4 — 52.7%
- Ravens +4 — 47.3%
This poll is closed, see Full Results »
Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
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- The Sun's Super Bowl section
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I hate the Super Bowl.
OK, admittedly, that’s overdramatic and not altogether accurate. I don’t truly dislike anything that involves one side of 11 guys trying to get into the end zone and another unit of 11 attempting to stop them.
But out of the 267 NFL games, Sunday’s is one of my least favorites. It’s rejoiced to the point of exhaustion, and for what? The passing of the most popular sport to bet on for seven months doesn’t strike me as a reason for celebration.
Sure, one team will hoist the Lombardi Trophy while the other will walk off the field with their heads down and get drenched by confetti anyway. It will be exciting, yes, but also depressing. That is, unless we use this final opportunity to cash a few tickets.
The Sun’s Ray Brewer already broke down some of the props offered by sports books, so I’ll focus exclusively on the spread in this space. Just like the first three rounds of the playoffs.
Despite my negativity, I’m motivated to finish with a profitable against-the-spread record for the playoffs.
Check below for a quick breakdown of the line and the matchup at Super Bowl XLVII.
Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers; New Orleans; 3:30 p.m. on CBS
The line: San Francisco -4. For the second straight year, it looked like the Super Bowl was going to feature a public underdog. The Ravens were the far more popular bet for the first week after the matchup was set, moving from plus-5 to plus-3.5 last week. That’s evened out now. The 49ers money has started showing up, especially as California tourists arrive for the weekend. Almost every sports books is now at 49ers minus-4, where they’re getting even action.
The matchup: Going back to the rant at the top, there’s probably a reason it came out this year as opposed to any of the previous Super Bowls. This game is tough to handicap. The line feels right.
Boil the Super Bowl matchup down to a sentence and it’s a team that’s been a contender all year, the 49ers, against a team that’s transformed into one by playing its best football at the right time, the Ravens. History clearly favors one situation over the other. Like the Ravens, eight teams have reached the Super Bowl despite not getting a bye in the first round of the playoffs since the turn of the century. Seven of those teams covered the spread in the Super Bowl and the eighth, the 2000 Tennessee Titans, pushed as 7-point underdogs against the St. Louis Rams. Five won the game straight-up, including the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers the last two years.
But, still, it’s hard to trust a sample size of three games — even if they are in high-pressure playoff situations. San Francisco was one of the four best teams, if not the best, in the NFL all season. It finished No. 4 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, but spent many weeks in the top spot. Baltimore occupied the No. 8 spot at the end of the regular season, but was regularly outside of the top 10 during the year.
The decline of the Ravens defense is why they were as high as 25-to-1 to win the Super Bowl during the season. Football Outsiders rated Baltimore 19th against the run, as it gave up 123.5 rushing yards per game. And the Ravens have seen nothing like the read-option Colin Kaepernick and the Niners are going to throw at them. Yes, aside from top cornerback LarDarius Webb, Baltimore has a fully healthy defense for one of the first times this season. But Ray Lewis is going to need a lot more than deer antler spray if he’s the one expected to slow Kaepernick and Frank Gore the most — bet under 10.5 tackles for the 37-year old.
Also look out for Jim Harbaugh, who holds a slight coaching advantage over older brother John Harbaugh, to add a wrinkle or two for explosive backup running back LaMichael James. It worked against the Falcons in the NFC Championship, as James had a 15-yard touchdown run for the 49ers first score on a play they hadn't run all season.
The concern of betting on San Francisco might actually come on defense, where it uncharacteristically applied little pressure on quarterbacks and got exposed by the deep ball down the stretch. The 49ers haven’t been the same since Justin Smith went down with a partially torn triceps. Smith is back now but not fully healthy. Second-year sensation Aldon Smith, who had 19.5 sacks this season, still hasn’t recorded one since Justin Smith got hurt. As far as being vulnerable downfield, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Torrey Smith aren’t exactly guys teams want to go against when having that problem.
There’s an abundance of valid arguments on both sides, but one team is almost a touchdown better when considering the whole season.
Pick: 49ers -4
NFL Playoffs ATS record: 5-4-1Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.