February 3, 2013
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Check out Super Bowl XLVII Props and Odds at Sportsbook.ag!
BALTIMORE RAVENS (13-6) vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (13-4-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: San Francisco -3.5 & 47.5
Opening Line & Total: 49ers -5 & 50
Although the stories for the next two weeks will focus on the Harbaugh brothers matching wits on the sidelines, Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 promises to be one of the more interesting matchups in recent Super Bowl history when the Ravens and 49ers meet in New Orleans.
For all intents and purposes, both of these teams are Super Bowl newbies. LB Ray Lewis was the Super Bowl XXXV MVP, but even longtime teammate S Ed Reed was two seasons away from his rookie year when the Ravens won their only title. The Ravens won the first Harbaugh Bowl, on Thanksgiving night 2011 in Baltimore, 16-6. It wasn’t a beautiful game, with each team kicking a pair of field goals over the first three quarters. A Joe Flacco-to-Dennis Pitta TD capped off a long drive to open the fourth quarter and seal the game. The Niners couldn’t generate anything on offense, gaining just 170 yards on the night. Niners RB Frank Gore had just 39 yards on 14 carries, while now-backup QB Alex Smith threw for just 140 yards and an INT, and was sacked a whopping nine times (three by Terrell Suggs).
With these teams having so little Super Bowl experience, the Ravens have been more playoff-tested in the past five seasons with Flacco winning an NFL record six playoff games outside his home stadium. Flacco will be starting in his 13th playoff game, while Colin Kaepernick will be making just his 10th career NFL start.
In addition to the experience factor, the Ravens have favorable trends to combat both sides of the Colin Kapernick-led offense. John Harbaugh is 11-3 ATS (79%) in road games versus excellent passing teams (64%+ comp. pct.) since becoming the Ravens head coach, and Baltimore is 22-9 ATS (71%) versus good rushing teams (130+ rush YPG) in the second half of the season since 1992.
Baltimore committed just 16 turnovers during the regular season (tied for 2nd-fewest in NFL), including only four giveaways in its past seven road games combined. Despite New England's opportunistic defense (41 forced turnovers during regular season, 2nd-most in NFL), the Ravens posted a +3 TO margin in their AFC Championship win. The Niners are also strong in the ball protection area (1.0 TOPG), but they are more susceptible to mistakes with four multi-turnover games on the road this year.
Baltimore came into this season with plans to put the game in QB Joe Flacco’s hands. It was an up-and-down year, but Flacco has stepped up big in the postseason, throwing eight touchdown passes without an interception. The Ravens offense will have to prove they can move the ball on the Niners’ top-notch defense. They got past Denver thanks to some big plays, and last week in New England they were going nowhere until Aqib Talib, the Patriots’ only NFL-caliber cornerback, went down with an injury.
Defensively the Niners haven’t been as dominant as they were in 2011, but they’ll be by far the best defense Flacco has faced during the playoffs. The Flacco Ravens have had no shortage of postseason success away from Charm City. Since Flacco’s rookie year, they’re 7-3 ATS (6-4 SU) in road postseason games.
The Ravens defense hasn’t really shut anyone down this year, and they’re allowing 415.0 YPG in the postseason, but they have been tightening up in the red zone. They allowed the NFL’s second-lowest red zone TD percentage during the regular season (43.4%). They’ve been even stingier in the postseason, allowing just four touchdowns and 37 points on 10 red-zone trips.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is this game’s X-factor. He was on the sideline for last year's loss to Baltimore, but adds another dimension to the San Francisco offense. He’s been sacked just 13 times in nine starts, and after rushing for an NFL quarterback record 181 yards in his playoff debut, he was surgical as a passer in a comeback win at Atlanta (16-for-21, 233 yards, no turnovers). The Ravens saw mobile quarterbacks twice this year, and lost to both of them. They forced Michael Vick to turn it over three times in a November matchup, but also allowed 371 passing yards in a 24-23 loss at Philadelphia. In Washington in Week 14, Robert Griffin III threw for 242 yards on only 26 attempts, and while Baltimore held him to 34 rushing yards, they allowed 179 that afternoon in a 31-28 overtime loss.
In Kaepernick’s nine starts (including two postseason starts), the Niners have scored touchdowns on 51.2% of their red-zone trips. But they’ve really heated up in the postseason, scoring 9 TD in 12 red-zone chances. Keeping San Francisco from finishing drives will be especially key considering the recent struggles of veteran kicker David Akers. The lefty is just 12-for-20 on all field goals since Thanksgiving, including four misses from inside 40. Considering how evenly matched these teams are, a shank from Akers could very well spell the difference.