2014 Super Bowl Predictions
Super Bowl 47 between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will be historically significant for a variety of reasons, not the least being it'll be the first time brothers have squared off as coaches. Baltimore's John Harbaugh has guided the Ravens to the playoffs every year since he took over the team in 2008 but will be looking for his first Super Bowl title. So to is younger brother Jim Harbaugh, who has been the architect behind the San Francisco 49er's return to contention. In fact, the Harbaughs are the first brothers ever to serve as NFL head coaches and the fact that both are considered among the best in the business makes it even more remarkable.
Ray Lewis' Swan Song:
The biggest off field storyline involves future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. The Ravens were slumping late in the regular season but have found new motivation following Lewis' announcement that he'll be retiring at the end of the playoffs. For a long time the Ravens were known for their formidable defense and while they're not a bad defense from a statistical standpoint they're not as good as the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners had the #2 scoring defense in the NFL this season but both teams are especially physical in their style of play.
Rookie Kapernick Leads The Niners:
Heading into the season many NFL observers felt that the quarterback position was the Niners' biggest liability. Alex Smith had never impressed as a starter but did a reasonable job last season. Still, there was much speculation that San Francisco wanted to upgrade themselves at the position. After being shut out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes they settled on Smith. Things changed dramatically when rookie Colin Kaepernick was forced into action in Week 10 due to an injury to Smith. Almost immediately Kaepernick energized the offense and led the team to eight wins in ten games after becoming the full time starting quarterback.
The Case For San Francisco:
The Niners came close to a Super Bowl berth last year and definitely are a better team this year. The versatile Kaepernick has added a new dimension to the offense and the rushing attack led by Frank Gore and defense is as good as ever. San Francisco has playmakers on both sides of the ball and one of the best coaches in the sport. San Francisco's biggest concern could be special teams with PK David Akers having a subpar season and the erratic Ted Ginn, Jr. handling returns.
The Case For Baltimore:
Baltimore wasn't especially impressive for most of the season but are definitely 'gelling' at the right time of the season. The much maligned Joe Flacco has become a dependable presence at quarterback and has shown a knack for winning in pressure situations. In his last six playoff games he's got a 15 to 2 touchdown to interception ratio and has set a NFL record for road playoff victories. Flacco's 6 road playoff wins is better than any number of 'legendary' quarterbacks before him including Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Brett Favre, etc. Baltimore's rush attack is solid as well with Ray Rice handling the duties and although the defense isn't the impenetrable wall it used to be it's still solid.
Betting The Super Bowl:
At one point, favorites were the way to play the Super Bowl covering 20 of the first 29 games. Since then the underdogs have come back strong-they've covered 10 of the last 17 games with two ending in a 'push'. In the past decade, the underdogs have been even better-they've covered seven of the last ten Super Bowls including four of the last five. When it's all said and done, however, the important thing is to just 'pick the winner'. There have only been six times where the Super Bowl betting favorite won the game and failed to cover the pointspread (2009, 2005, 2004, 1996, 1989 and 1976) though it's worth noting that three of the six 'non covers' have come in the past ten years.
Super Bowl Betting: The Verdict:
Baltimore is playing their best football of the year at just the right time. They've got a great motivational edge with the Ray Lewis retirement angle and a big special teams edge. It should be a close, hard fought game but look for the Baltimore Ravens to emerge victorious. The +4 point spread gives us a nice margin for error but here's thinking it won't be necessary. The total opened at 52' and was quickly bet down with the current number at 47' or 48. In our opinion, the original total was the right idea-both teams should score in the high 20's/low 30's making the 'Over' the play.
Bet Baltimore Ravens +4
over San Francisco 49ers
Bet Baltimore/San Francisco Over 48