Recent History Hints At Close Super Bowl; Kicking Matchup Likely Favors Ravens
The Super Bowl is of course the biggest sporting event of the year in the United States as well as by far the most-wagered upon. However, the Super Bowls often tended to be dog games in the previous century.
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For every classic like SB XXV - the Scott Norwood game - there were plenty more like the Dallas Cowboys' blowouts of the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII. From Super Bowl I through XXXIII (Jan. 31, 1999), only two Super Bowls were decided by three points or fewer. Since then, four Super Bowls have been decided by a field goal or less, oddly all involving New England: Patriots 20, Rams 17 (XXXVI); Pats 32, Panthers 29 (XXXVIII); Patriots 24, Eagles 21 (XXXIX) and Giants 17, Patriots 14 (XLII). An additional four Super Bowls since 2000 have been decided by a touchdown or less, including the past two and three of the past four.
So perhaps that bodes well for Sunday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in the Superdome. New Orleans could use a close Super Bowl. This is the 10th time the Big Easy has hosted a Super Bowl. The first eight all were decided by double-digits, but the last Super Bowl in the Crescent City was that Patriots-Rams classic.
The favored margin of victory for SB XLVII is 49ers by 1-6 points at 3/1, followed by Ravens at 1-6 and 49ers at 7-12, both at 4/1. The Super Bowl record for margin of victory is 45 points, when San Francisco beat Denver 55-10 in XXIV in New Orleans. The Ravens winning by 31-36 points and by 37 points or more are the longest shots on the board at 75/1.
Perhaps the Ravens should be thankful they are four-point underdogs at Bovada. The underdog has covered in the Super Bowl in four of the past five years and won straight up in three of them. The spread has closed at four points just three times previously: Pittsburgh (-4) beat Seattle 21-10 in SB XL; Tampa Bay (+4) crushed Oakland 48-21 in XXXVII; and Oakland (-4) beat Minnesota 34-14 in XI. The favorite has covered in five of the Super Bowls played in New Orleans but not in the past two.
If the game comes down to a potential winning field goal, the Ravens should feel good about their chances and the 49ers not so confident. Baltimore lost last season's AFC Championship Game when Billy Cundiff shanked a potential 32-yard tying kick against New England. Cundiff was sent packing in favor of rookie Justin Tucker this season. He has been terrific, hitting 30 of 33 field goals during the regular season. That includes a game-winning 27-yarder against the Patriots at the gun in Week 3. Tucker has attempted only two field goals in the playoffs but has hit both, including the game-winning 47-yarder in double-overtime against heavy favorite Denver in the Divisional Round.
San Francisco's David Akers was arguably the NFL's best kicker last year, hitting a league-record 44 field goals during the season. He has been very unreliable this year. Akers led all kickers with 13 misses during the season, including four in the fourth quarter or overtime (also worst in the league). In the playoffs he is 1-for-2, missing a potential tying 38-yarder in the third quarter of the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta. The team actually brought in, ironically enough, Cundiff before that game for a competition with Akers, but Akers won that.
Tucker has a season-long kick of 56 yards, while Akers tied the NFL record by connecting from 63 yards out in Week 1 against Green Bay. The over/under for longest field goal in SB XLVII is 44.5 yards, with the over a -130 favorite. The Super Bowl record is 54 yards by Buffalo's Steve Christie in XXVIII. The Ravens are the -145 favorites to have the longest field goal in this game, with San Francisco at +115. The Niners are -125 favorites to have the shortest field goal in the game, and the over/under for the shortest overall is 24.5 yards (over-125 favorite). San Francisco is also -125 to have the most successful field goals, with Baltimore at -105. That a field goal is the final scoring play of the game is +135 (along with safety), compared to -165 for a touchdown.
A kicker has never won Super Bowl MVP honors. Akers is 66/1 to do so, with Tucker at 75/1. Certainly it would take a monster game for a kicker to get the award - the Super Bowl record for most field goals in a game is four. Both Akers and Tucker have a Super Bowl points total set at 7.5. Neither missed an extra point this season. The record for most extra points in the game is seven.
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