Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers (-3.5, 47.5)
Brothers facing off as opposing head coaches. The finest linebacker of his generation - and arguably of all time - playing in the final game of his storied career. A pair of quarterbacks that few could envision playing for a championship - much less even setting foot on the field in the case of one of them. Those are among the myriad story lines taking center stage for the Super Bowl XLVII matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in New Orleans.
The matchup between Jim Harbaugh's 49ers and older brother John Harbaugh's Ravens nearly happened a year ago, but both teams lost nail-biters in their respective conference title games. San Francisco has history on its side - the 49ers are a perfect 5-0 in the Super Bowl - but also had the luxury of riding Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young during its title reigns. Niners QB Colin Kaerpernick has made only nine career starts and must solve a defense led by Ray Lewis, the MVP of Baltimore's only Super Bowl victory 12 years ago.
TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS.
LINE: San Francisco opened as high as -5 and was bet down as low as -3 before action on the favorite raised the spread to -3.5. Books predict the spread could climb as high as -4.5 by kickoff. The total came down from its opener of 50 to as low as 47 but with public money taking the over, books expect the number could get back to as high as 49 before late buyback on the under.
CONSENSUS: 60 percent of Covers Consensus plays are on Baltimore while 52 percent are taking the over.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (13-6, 9-9-1 ATS): There were plenty of doubts about Joe Flacco's ability to lead a team to a championship, which is one reason he's set to hit the free-agent market. Flacco silenced even his staunchest skeptics with a stirring postseason run, throwing eight TD passes and zero interceptions in Baltimore's three victories. Along the way, he set an NFL record for most playoff road wins with six while outplaying Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on their turf. Flacco threw three second-half touchdowns to rally the Ravens to a 28-13 victory at New England in the AFC title game.
Two of the scoring passes went to Anquan Boldin, who has 16 receptions and three TDs in the three playoff wins. Speedster Torrey Smith had 10 TD receptions this season, including two long ones in the win at Denver. Ray Rice has carried the running game for his entire career, but rookie Bernard Pierce came on strong down the stretch. The Ravens' defense cannot compare to the dominant unit of the 2000 Super Bowl season but it limited the high-powered Patriots to a season-low 13 points. Lewis returned from a 10-game injury absence to make 44 tackles in the postseason as he approaches his last game.
ABOUT THE 49ERS (13-4-1, 11-7-0 ATS): Jim Harbaugh made the biggest coaching gamble of the season when he inserted the dynamic but untested Kaepernick into the lineup in place of Alex Smith. The second-year quarterback has had moments of sheer brilliance, helping San Francisco blow away Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by throwing for 263 yards and two TDs and rushing for 181 yards and two more scores in his playoff debut. Kaepernick played a more controlled game in the NFC championship game, calmly rallying the 49ers from a 17-0 deficit, and will enter the Super Bowl with the third-fewest starts for a quarterback.
Frank Gore rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons and provides the tough inside running to prevent the Ravens from attempting to tee off on Kaepernick. Tight end Vernon Davis emerged from a long slumber with five catches for 106 yards and a TD two weeks ago and wideout Michael Crabtree has 50 receptions in his last seven games. San Francisco's defense allowed the second-fewest points (17.1) during the regular season but has been lit up for at least 31 points in three of its final five games and had trouble defending the deep ball against the Falcons.
* The Ravens downed the Niners, 16-6, on Thanksgiving Day last year,
marking the only time Jim Harbaugh has come up short in a non-conference
tilt, as he is 7-1 SU and ATS against the AFC. That ties into his 19-5
SU and 18-4-2 ATS record in all games played outside the NFC West
* Super Bowl favorites are 20-12 SU and 13-17-2 ATS record in the last 32 Big Games, including 5-10-2 ATS the last 17 games.
* The NFC has held the upper hand over the AFC in Super Bowl games since the 1980 season, going 21-10 SU and 20-9-3 ATS, including 4-0 SU and ATS the last four years. However, the NFC is only 6-9 SU and 8-6-1 ATS in the last 13 Super Bowl contests.
* Twenty-eight points is the cut-line for favorites in Super Bowl games. Since 1980, those who failed to score 28 points in the big game are 1-16-1 ATS. Those who managed to tally 28 or more points are 12-1-1 ATS. Baltimore has surrendered 28 or more points in 13 of 93 games under John Harbaugh, including twice in 12 playoff games.
1. Baltimore has won the last three meetings, including a 16-6 win on Thanksgiving Day in 2011.
2. A win will lift San Francisco into a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl victories.
3. The 49ers and Ravens are only the second pair of teams to reach the Super Bowl after losing in their conference title games the previous season (Pittsburgh and Dallas, 1994-95).