In a game as big as the Super Bowl, there’s no shortage of analysis and re-analysis. The media mosh pit breaks down every angle for the Big Game, in hopes of finding the edge.
We’ve been doing this each week of the NFL season, exposing the underlying mismatches to keep you one step ahead of the books, and we’re not going to stop now. Here are three betting mismatches you may or may not have considered when handicapping Super Bowl XLVII.
Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers (-3.5, 47)
Ravens’ deep threat vs. Niners’ deep-rooted issues
The Ravens rode the big arm of QB Joe Flacco to New Orleans, with Baltimore averaging 276 yards per game and 9.2 yards per pass in the playoffs. Flacco isn’t afraid to let it fly, going 20 yards or more on over 17 percent of his pass attempts this year – highest in the league. Half on his 22 TD passes this season have been on deep balls.
San Francisco watched Atlanta move the ball with ease en route to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter of the NFC Championship Game. The Falcons spread the love amongst their receivers and got two deep strikes from WR Julio Jones. The 49ers have been beat up by the deep ball recently, allowing 15 plays of 20 or more yards in the last three games, with four of those plays posting 40 or more yards. They gave up only 32 plays of 20 or more yards in the 15 games previous. To cut the Niners some slack, those games were against elite QBs Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
Niners’ QB Colin Kaepernick vs. Ravens’ record vs. dual threats
Baltimore’s aging defense hasn’t had to tangle with many dual-threat QBs this season. However, the two times they did have to worry about the QB breaking off big gains, they got burned for losses. The Ravens fell 24-23 to Philadelphia and Michael Vick (371 yards passing, 34 yards rushing and a TD) in Week 2 and lost 31-28 in overtime to Washington and rookie Robert Griffin III (242 yards passing, 34 yards rushing) in Week 14.
The Ravens have a tough time getting sideline to sideline and Kaepernick presents a huge challenge. Not only does his ability to scramble and break the big run need to be accounted for on every snap, but he’s proven just as dangerous with his arm. Kaepernick gashed Green Bay for 181 yards and two TDs on the ground while tacking on two more scores and 263 passing yards in the NFC Divisional Round.
Ravens’ oh-so special teams vs. Niners’ not-so special teams
The biggest chink in the 49ers' armor this season is their special teams. San Francisco was second worst in the NFL in kick return coverage, giving up 26.9 yards per kickoff. The Niners didn’t take any chances last week, recording five touchbacks on five kickoffs. The Ravens return team was tops in the NFL in average return yards, picking up 27.3 yards per kickoff and returned two kicks for scores, both from speedster Jacoby Jones.
On top of that, Baltimore boasts the steady leg of rookie Justin Tucker, who connected on 32 of his 35 field goal attempts and is perfect on extra points. He’s hit both FG attempts in the postseason so far, which is more than 49ers kicker David Akers can say. Akers has been shaky all season (29 for 42 FGA) and “donged” a 38-yard attempt off the left upright versus Atlanta two weeks ago. San Francisco may roll the dice on fourth down instead of sending out Akers for the long FG shot Sunday.