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Niners' QB Situation

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Book Hoping Kaepernick Stays Healthy, Keeps Smith Off Field

A backup quarterback playing in a Super Bowl for reasons other than mop-up duty is fairly unusual. After all, no starting quarterback in his right mind would leave the biggest game of his career with an injury unless he literally had to be carried off.

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San Francisco second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick has started just nine games in his NFL career. He took over for Alex Smith - who was leading the NFL in QB rating at the time - when Smith suffered a concussion in Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams. Normally a player isn't supposed to lose his job due to injury, but Kaepernick was brilliant in his first start the next week and hasn't relinquished the job. It's a foregone conclusion that Smith will be traded by the Niners this offseason as he is owed a guaranteed $7.5 million for 2013 on April 1.

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Kaepernick is the sixth quarterback to start a Super Bowl after not starting his team's first five games of the season. Four of the previous five QBs led their team to a victory, the last being Baltimore's Trent Dilfer in Super Bowl XXXV. The book is definitely rooting for Kaepernick to stay healthy on Sunday, because if Smith were to get into the game and play well enough to earn MVP honors, it would be easily the book's biggest loss on that Prop.

Probably the most famous backup quarterback in Super Bowl history is Earl Morrall. In the 1968 season, Morrall replaced future Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas to start that season when Unitas was hurt during exhibition play. Morrall led the Colts to Super Bowl III and would be named the league MVP. However, Morrall struggled against Joe Namath's Jets, throwing three interceptions. He was replaced by Unitas, who led the Colts to their only touchdown. However, the Jets won 16-7 in what is considered the biggest upset in NFL history.

Two years later, Unitas was the Colts' starter heading into Super Bowl V against Dallas. Unitas was injured late in the first half and replaced by Morrall. The Colts were down 13-6 at the half as Unitas had thrown two picks. Morrall would lead Baltimore to 10 second-half points and a 16-13 win. He finished 7-for-15 passing for 147 yards with an interception. Super Bowl V was notable because Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley was named the game's MVP, still the only player from a losing team to win that award.

Morrall's time replacing a legend wasn't finished. In the Miami Dolphins' perfect 1972 season, Morrall replaced injured starter Bob Griese in a mid-October game against San Diego. Morrall led the team to the AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh, but he struggled in the first half of that one. Griese replaced him and led Miami to a comeback win and then started over Morrall and led the Fins to victory in Super Bowl VII.

Morrall's story is brought up because of the possibility that Smith gets into Sunday's game. He opened at 100/1 to win the MVP honors but has taken big action to drop to 75/1. The book is easily most exposed on him. The other player the book is rooting against is 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis. He is 40/1 to win MVP honors. Willis' tackles total is set at eight (over -130 favorite), and he is 16/1 to get the first interception of Super Bowl XLVII.

Only two linebackers in NFL history have won the Super Bowl MVP: Howley and the Ravens' Ray Lewis. The latter has the shortest MVP odds of any defensive player in years at 7/1 as he attempts to become the first defensive player to win two Super Bowl MVP awards. The book isn't exposed there. Kaepernick is the 8/5 MVP favorite at the book. Of those five previous former backup QBs to start the Super Bowl, one took home MVP honors: the Oakland Raiders' Jim Plunkett in XV.

*-Coin toss: No major lean on either heads or tails, with both set at -105. Last season's Super Bowl was noteworthy in that the AFC ended a 14-year losing streak on the coin toss in Super Bowls (the AFC won nine of those previous 14 games). The Patriots deferred. The Giants would punt on their opening drive, leading to a safety for New York on a Tom Brady intentional grounding penalty in the end zone. New England did score a touchdown on its first drive of the second half to take a 17-9 lead before New York's come-from-behind victory.

Heads is now on a four-game winning streak in Super Bowls. The NFC hasn't lost back-to-back coin tosses since Super Bowls XXIV (Broncos won it) and XXV (Bills). The AFC lost both those games. The Ravens lost the coin toss before routing the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV and will call it this year. Heads has come up in the 49ers' two most recent Super Bowls - San Francisco is 4-1 all-time in winning the Super Bowl coin toss and of course 5-0 in the actual game.

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