And then there were two. It all comes down to this. Four hours of pomp and ceremony, 60 minutes of actual play. Lots of ridiculously expensive ads, at least for viewers in the US, which for many of the once-a-year fans are the highlight of the event. And then there's Beyonce at half-time.
Get on with the game!
The beauty of NFL games at this end of the season is the vast array of markets available. Regular contributor and NFL tragic Ian Steven, @deevo82, analyses Super Bowl XLVII from a props betting perspective.
Super Bowl Preview – San Francisco 49ers vs Baltimore Ravens
To say there are a lot of similarities between San Francisco and Baltimore is an understatement. The respective head coaches, Jim and John, share the same parents. Both teams were the bridesmaids last year, losing out to the Patriots and the Giants respectively in the Conference Championship games. Quarterbacks Joe Flacco (Delaware) and Colin Kaepernick (Nevada) are from small schools and not heralded college programs. Both defences are elite units, running a 3-4 base, with iconic linebackers Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis the heartbeats of their teams. Both teams have a workhorse running back in Frank Gore and Ray Rice. Both teams have large offensive lines riddled with talent. So where do the similarities end and the match ups begin to favour one side over the other?
Let’s look at the least glamorous side of the game – the kickers. The 49ers kicker David Akers has been struggling of late with a 69% success rate this season. Akers has already been cut by one team, the Eagles, who felt he struggled in clutch situations after missing kicks against the Cardinals in the NFC Championship game in 2009 and the Eagles wildcard game vs the Packers in 2011. The Niners coaching staff have a reduced confidence level in Akers and this increases the likelihood that they decide against kicking a field goal in certain situations, electing instead to go for it on fourth down.
Baltimore on the other hand have confidence in Justin Tucker who missed only three field goals in the regular season. The Ravens should be able to move the ball on San Francisco but the NFC side will tighten things up in the red zone, forcing the Ravens to settle for field goals, making Tucker a valuable player to back. He should get 3-4 field goals in this game.
Both sides are strong against the run with players like Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, Terrell Suggs, Navaro Bowman, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis all excellent players in the front seven, not to mention safeties that like to get into the box and tackle. Ray Rice and Frank Gore will struggle to get many yards on the ground.
The main difference between the two defenses is the pass rush. Take Terrell Suggs away and you struggle to consistently get much pressure on Kaepernick. San Francisco on the other hand have a far more consistent pass rush led by Aldon Smith and this will force Joe Flacco to take quicker decisions to get the ball out of his hands. Dennis Pitta will become a go-to-receiver whilst Ray Rice should pick up a lot of check downs as well as screen passes that are prescribed for him. Frank Gore should see a couple of passes coming his way as well for San Francisco and with an over/under of 1.5 for Gore, this becomes a tempting prospect.
In terms of rushing, Ray Rice is at the 67.5 yards mark and he could well break it in the game. The Ravens will stick to their game plan and run the ball even if they do not get much success with it. Rice has been a magician at times this season and they will need to keep with him. Gore has too high a mark set for him and you might be tempted to place money on him not running well but I think the better value is with the reserves. I don’t foresee Bernard Pierce or LaMichael James having much impact and they are good value at backing them not to meet their rushing targets through a combination of elite defense and coaches electing to stick with their blue-chip running backs.
Another rushing wager to look at is with Colin Kaepernick as his over/under is set at 45.5 yards and I don’t see him making that mark. The Packers were destroyed by Kaepernick with the read option in the Divisional round and the Ravens are too long in the tooth to fall for that. I believe that Bernard Pollard will edge into the box to shadow the QB when he gives a read option look or they will instruct the LB with contain not to crash down. The focus on the ground game will mean that there will be pressure on the Ravens corners as they won’t have as much safety help as they would like, which leads us to receivers.
Michael Crabtree was very quiet in the NFC Championship game and this was partly due to legal questions that were hanging over his head. Those have now been quashed and he should be in the right frame of mind. He is a complete diva who demands the ball and Kaepernick is only too happy to send it his way. The receiver from Texas Tech has quickly become the young QB’s favourite target and he should have about 8-9 grabs in the game. He is better value with total receptions rather than yards as Crabtree is not a flat-out speed guy but he does have excellent strength and sticky hands, a lot like Anquan Boldin for the Ravens.
Vernon Davis will also be a focal point for the Niners. The Ravens will be so concerned with Kaepernick, Gore and Crabtree that they will have on-on-one match ups in the rest of the field. Davis could have a big day if Kaepernick is patient and goes through his progressions as he has the speed to run clear of the Raven’s linebackers. Randy Moss has been telling anyone who would listen this week that he is the best receiver of all time and he should get a lot of single coverage with 2.5 catches the over/under marker. Can he back up his bluster with a strong performance?
I think there is value to be had on the defensive side of the ball. Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed will be very active and will be involved in a lot of tackles from the safety positions as will Dashon Goldson for the Niners. Patrick Willis has a low mark set at 7.5 tackles and assists as the Niners defense is set up to put him in the best position to make a play and I think he will have a big game. Ray Lewis has had a lot of fanfare around him this week as he is set to retire and I would steer clear of him.
When it comes to the MVP then logic dictates it will be the quarterback from the winning team. Wide receivers and running backs have won the award as well as have linebackers, notably Ray Lewis from the Ravens triumph over the Giants. I have a glimmer of belief that it will be one of the Ravens safeties that win the award. Dexter Jackson was the MVP for Tampa after getting a couple of picks against the Raiders and I can see either Pollard or Reed making a big impression in what could be a defensive battle. I would stress using a very minimum outlay such as 10% of your lowest stake if you feel like you want to risk it for a very big longshot.
In terms of the result itself, I think the 49ers will win. They just have slightly more talent on offense than the Ravens, especially with the mobility of Kaepernick. I think the Niners will start strong and take an early lead but the Ravens will come roaring back but fall short at the end. I would probably go for a Niners half time-full time result. Following my MVP logic, Kaepernick should be the MVP in the game with Crabtree also up for the award if he catches eight or more passes.
Ray Rice over 67.5 rushing yards Coral @ 1.91 – 1 point 59 yards - lost
Ray Rice over 3.5 receptions Coral @ 1.91 – 2 points 4 receptions - won
Justin Tucker over 1.5 field goals Coral @ 1.91 – 5 points 2 field goals - won
Bernard Pollard over 6.5 tackles and assists Ladbrokes @ 1.9 – 3 points2 tackles - lost
Bernard Pierce under 35.5 rushing yards Ladbrokes @ 1.8 – 2 points (movement down on this price and yards total since Saturday afternoon) 33 rushing yards - won
Ed Reed over 3.5 tackles Paddy Power @ 1.83 – 3 points 5 tackles - won
Bernard Pollard Super Bowl MVP @ 276 Paddy Power 0.1 points Flacco MVP - lost
Ed Reed Super Bowl MVP @ 91 Paddy Power 0.1 points Flacco MVP - lost
Frank Gore over 1.5 receptions Coral @ 1.91 – 1 point 0 receptions - lost
Michael Crabtree over 6.5 receptions Coral @ 1.91 – 3 points 5 receptions - lost
Vernon Davis over 3.5 receptions Coral @ 1.91 – 1 point 6 receptions - won
Dashon Goldson over 4.5 tackles and assists Bet 365 @ 1.83 – 2 points 9 tackles - won
LaMichael James under 27.5 yards rushing Paddy Power @ 1.83 – 1 point 10 rushing yards - won
Colin Kaepernick under 45.5 yards rushing Coral @ 1.91 – 2 points 62 rushing yards - lost
Patrick Willis over 7.5 tackles and assists Paddy Power @ 1.83 – 4 points 10 tackles - won
Randy Moss over 2.5 receptions Coral @ 1.83 - 1 point 2 receptions - lost
Colin Kaepernick Super Bowl MVP Bwin @ 2.5 – 1 point Flacco MVP - lost
NET RESULT of Ian's bets at advised prices
+4.99pts on decimal prices (slightly better on fractional equivalents)
15.4% profit on turnover