Win More Blog
Superbowl XLVII Preview
The Super Bowl is when non-gambling people come out of the woodwork to make their only sports-related bet of the year. These annual bettors range from true dilettantes who have no clue about American football to rabid fans who are staunch non-gamblers. For some reason, the pomp and circumstance of the Super Bowl encourages people to make a wager, even if it’s only for a few quid. But that’s not all, there’s plenty of additional prop bets you can participate in that are related directly to the game (like who will score the first touchdown) or somewhat absurd (what will be the outcome of the coin flip to start the game, or how long will it take Alicia Keys to sing the national anthem?).
This year’s Super Bowl has been billed as the “Harbaugh Bowl” because the head coaches, John and Jim Harbaugh, are brothers. Football is in their blood and their father was a well-respected college head coach. The Harbaugh brothers met each other as coaching adversaries only once before – on Thanksgiving Day in 2011 – and Baltimore beat San Francisco 16-6. And yes, somewhere out there you can make a wager on how many times the announcers mention the phrase “Harbaugh Bowl.”
The Baltimore Ravens’ appearance in Super Bowl 47 is somewhat surprising considering they beat two teams, Denver and New England, either of which many fans expected to be playing San Francisco. Baltimore’s heart and soul is linebacker Ray Lewis, one of the most feared defensive players in the history of football who is retiring after this game. Lewis invokes scripture and the wrath of God to fire up his teammates. Baltimore’s aging defense has vastly improved in the playoffs (only giving up 14 points compared to 21 in the regular season), and they’re led by a smoking-hot quarterback implementing a revamped, vertical-attacking offense. Joey Flacco’s QB rating was only 88 in the regular season, but he posted an impressive 115 rating in the playoffs. Flacco has not thrown an interception in three playoff games (with 8 touchdowns in that span) and he’s riding a non-interception streak of 162 passes or 5+ games. In short, Baltimore is a good team peaking at the right time.
If you crunch the numbers, the stat geeks will tell you the San Francisco 49ers are the superior team. San Francisco was considered among the NFL’s elite teams all season long anchored by a Top 3 ranked defense. They also have an exciting young quarterback in Colin Kaepernick who is on his way to becoming the next big thing. The highly efficient and versatile Kaepernick is a rare double threat who can beat you on the ground and in the air. San Francisco is one of the best rushing teams in the league because of their effective power-run blocking schemes and a punishing 1-2 punch with workhorse Frank Gore and the speedy Kaepernick.
In the NFC Championship, Atlanta did not let Kaepernick beat them on the ground, but in doing so they underestimated the amount of damage the Niners’ running backs would inflict on their porous middle. The Niners’ Frank Gore (sheer power) and LaMichael James (lightning quickness) ran at will against Atlanta. Kaepernick has two reliable top-notch receivers in Michael Crabtree and veteran Randy Moss, but TE Vernon Davis elevated his game with a monster performance against Atlanta.
Spearheading San Francisco’s defense is the dynamic trio of Navarro Bowman, Aldon Smith, and Patrick Willis, who are among the premier linebackers in the NFL. DE Justin Smith had much-needed time to rest his torn tricep and should be ready to cause headaches for Baltimore’s O-line.
Baltimore holds the edge in overall special teams. They also have a strong kicker in rookie Justin Tucker, who missed only three field goals all season and was Mr. Automatic in the playoffs. Tucker gives Baltimore an extra 5-7 yard cushion because he’s a veritable threat from 50+ yards. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s David Akers was one of the MVPs of last season, but he’s struggled this year. You hate to think the outcome of this game could come down to a last second field goal. Who would you rather have? A cold-as-ice Tucker or an erratic Akers?
Football is a game of attrition. If any of the quarterbacks get hurt, San Francisco holds the edge with a formidable backup. If Kaepernick goes down, San Francisco has the benefit of going to Alex Smith, who lost his starting job midway through the season. Baltimore is in deep trouble if Flacco gets knocked out. Their backup, Tyrod Talor, has only attempted 30 passes in his brief two-year career.
If Baltimore is going to win… they have to strike first on offense and get as many points in the first half as possible. San Francisco’s defense starts slow but finishes strong, which is why Baltimore has to score on their first possession. They have to get Ray Rice going early on because if he has a big game, that automatically alleviates the pressure off Flacco’s shoulders. WRs Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will garner tighter coverage, but they have to make big plays whenever Flacco targets them downfield. Flacco must continue to manage a turnover-free offense and keep his “zero interceptions” streak alive against San Francisco’s swarming secondary. Baltimore’s O-line only allowed 4 sacks in the postseason, but they’ll face their toughest battle of the trenches all year trying to keep San Francisco’s front line away from Flacco. On defense, Baltimore only has six sacks in the postseason, so they’ll have to do a better job at putting pressure on Kaepernick. They also have to thwart whatever rushing attack Gore/Kaepernick/James tries to unleash on them, while keeping Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis in check.
If San Francisco is going to win… they must eliminate Flacco’s deep threat capability, which means safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner and cornerback Carlos Rodgers will have their plate full shutting down Baltimore’s Boldin and Smith. San Francisco’s secondary gave up 5 TDs on deep balls but they also generated 6 interceptions. On offense, Kaepernick must take whatever Baltimore gives him and not force the action (and avoid potential turnovers). The O-line has to thwart Baltimore’s unpredictable blitzes, but they run complex blocking schemes which should be able to blow open huge running holes for Gore. Kaepernick must convert TDs in the Red Zone and not rely on Akers (who missed 13 FGs this year) to win the game for them. Baltimore is a gritty team that never gives up, so San Francisco has to play hard the entire game and not let Baltimore sneak in a win late in the game.
Some quick stats… San Francisco has never lost a Super Bowl and the franchise is 5-0 in five previous appearances. In 21 Super Bowl games with a spread of 6.5 or fewer points, the favorite won 14-7. However, underdogs are 10-5-2 over the last 17 Super Bowls.
Pauly’s Pick: San Francisco Moneyline at around -170 and San Francisco -3.5
Final Score Prediction: San Francisco 24, Baltimore 19