The biggest problem for me coming Sunday is I don't know where my emotions will lie. In the past, my emotions align with my picks pretty well. But this Sunday, I will be watching the game with a large number of people, and (n-2)/n% will be 49ers fans. [That is, only me and my daughter aren't 49ers fans...(shut up Scott, I won't be having any of that.)] And I know that I would probably have a good time aligning my rooting interest with the rest of the room. I mean, I have no problem going totally contrarian and being the only guy cheering when the rest of the room is groaning...and maybe I can get some good odds on the Ravens by a die hard 49ers fan...but I don't know if that will actually happen. Mostly because this game is so close that I really won't be confident in my pick either way. A couple weeks ago, I picked the Falcons confidently and looked to be in good shape when the score was 17-0, and as the game wound down, my emotions really did side with the Falcons +4. But I know my smallest $ pick is going to be one of the teams against the spread.
The two resources I am relying on this week are the Las Vegas Hilton's list of prop bets and this collection of every commercial that will be on during the Super Bowl. Because which link actually interests you more. Which one are you going to spend more time on? You don't have to answer that, we all know the truth.
You want to know how close I have this pick? My initial analysis says to take the Ravens +4 or the 49ers -3.5. That half point is the difference between one team and the other? That just isn't any fun for me. So I'll probably put $20 on one of the teams, then try to see if I can beat Scott via prop bets. In fact, this is basically a coin flip in my brain, so I'll try to decide which team I want to win, then look up the final spread in yahoo fantasy sports, and make my pick that way.
The single biggest reason why I think the Ravens can win is their deep passing game. Watching the playoff games, Baltimore's O-line has done an amazing job providing a ton of time for Flacco to throw deep. And the 49ers pass rush just hasn't been as strong since Justin Smith tore his tricep. I'm not saying it's going to be bad, but I expect Flacco to be upright most of the game. If San Francisco sends extra rushers, Anquan Boldin is probably going to have a big day on short and intermediate routes, and Ray Rice is also a great checkdown option. If San Francisco only sends four, I expect Flacco to have plenty of time to throw to Torrey Smith deep. Now just because Torrey Smith is open deep and Flacco has time, doesn't necessarily mean it will be completed or that it turns into a touchdown. It wouldn't surprise me if there is a slight overthrow or Smith makes a big catch, but gets tackled on the 5 yard line and has to settle for a field goal. I would count that as a win for the 49ers.
Chris Brown (of Smart Football and Grantland) also gave me the idea that a good smart blitz package by the Ravens defense could give Kaepernick problems. Sending the extra guy or two would diminish the impact of the zone read in the running game, by returning the advantage of numbers to the defense, and while this would put a lot of pressure on defensive backs playing man coverage, if the blitz can get to Kaepernick quickly, he may have a little trouble making the accurate throws we have seen from him so far. The other thing is that I have seen great straight line speed from Kaepernick, but I don't know that I've seen great scrambling or escaping the pocket by Kaepernick. Not saying he can't do it, but this is why the Kaepernick O/U 48.5 yards rushing concerns me. I don't think he'll get there on designed runs because I think the Ravens will mostly take away that option, but I could see a pass play called and him scrambling for 50 yards on one play.
The reason I seem to be focusing on what the Ravens can do to win is because every other form of analysis I have shows the 49ers have a slight to significant advantage. A noticeably better Pythagorean winning percentage, which tells me on a neutral field the 49ers win 63% of the time. Football Outsiders tells me they win 57% of the time. San Francisco's offense throws fewer interceptions than Baltimore (1.84% vs. 1.96%) and their defense catches more interceptions than Baltimore (2.47% vs 2.33%). This isn't a very big difference. Baltimore is 6% more likely to throw an interception. And one game or even 50 passes by each team really isn't enough to notice the difference. See how these things keep making it look like a really close game? I'm starting to eye Ravens win by 1-4 points 9/2 and 49ers win by 1-4 points 7/2. Or will the game be decided by exactly three points 7/2.
Other prop bets paying at least 3/1 that seem a little interesting:
Over 62.5: 4/1
Successful 2 point conversion: 4/1
Total touchdown passes by Joe Flacco under 0.5: 3/1
Will Bernard Pierce score a touchdown, Yes: +375 (He's been getting more carries in the playoffs.)
Will Torrey Smith score a touchdown in the first half, Yes: +340
Will Ed Reed intercept a pass, Yes: 4/1 (The odds probably aren't high enough, but it's interesting.)
Who will score the first touchdown of the game? Who will score the last touchdown of the game? Every player is at least 6/1, with some really good options at 9/1.
I've now been staring at the screen for a long time... I still don't know who to pick. I guess my gut tells me that Baltimore's O-line gives Joe Flacco enough time to hit a long pass to Torrey Smith early in the game. With the luxury of a lead and the confirmed threat of a deep pass Baltimore will be able to be a little more creative on offense. San Francisco will have to rely more on traditional passing, rather than the zone read and play-action that makes Kaepernick so dangerous.
Baltimore (+3.5) over San Francisco.
Posted by Aaron at 2/01/2013 10:42:00 PM