BALTIMORE RAVENS (13-6)
vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (13-4-1)
Super Bowl XLVII - New Orleans, LA
Kickoff: Sunday, Feb. 3 - 6:30 p.m. EDT
Line: San Francisco -4, Total: 48
Although the stories in the mainstream media since the conference championship games have focused on the Harbaugh brothers matching wits on the sidelines, Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday promises to be one of the more interesting match-ups in recent Super Bowl history when the Ravens and 49ers meet in New Orleans.
For all intents and purposes, both of these teams are Super Bowl newbies. LB Ray Lewis was the Super Bowl XXXV MVP, but even longtime teammate S Ed Reed was two seasons away from his rookie year when the Ravens won their only title. The Ravens won the first Harbaugh Bowl, on Thanksgiving night 2011 in Baltimore, 16-6. It wasn’t a beautiful game, with each team kicking a pair of field goals over the first three quarters. A Joe Flacco-to-Dennis Pitta TD capped off a long drive to open the fourth quarter and seal the game. The Niners couldn’t generate anything on offense, gaining just 170 yards on the night. Niners RB Frank Gore had just 39 yards on 14 carries, while now-backup QB Alex Smith threw for just 140 yards and an INT, and was sacked a whopping nine times (three by Terrell Suggs).
Can the Ravens keep this game close with the possibility of a huge upset? For the answer, connect to Super Bowl XLVII Best Bets Guide for all the StatFox Experts picks -- ATS, Over/Under and Props -- for the big game. So far during the postseason, the experts are a collective 14-4-1 ATS (78%) and 10-4 (71%) on Totals. StatFox Brian is 5-0 ATS and 3-2 in Totals, Scott is 3-0 ATS and 3-2 in Totals, and Gary 3-0 ATS and 4-0 in Totals.
Baltimore came into this season with plans to put the game in QB Joe Flacco’s hands. It was an up-and-down year, but Flacco has stepped up big in the postseason, throwing eight touchdown passes without an interception. The Ravens offense will have to prove they can move the ball on the Niners’ top-notch defense. They got past Denver thanks to some big plays, and last week in New England they were going nowhere until Aqib Talib, the Patriots’ only NFL-caliber cornerback, went down with an injury. Defensively the Niners haven’t been as dominant as they were in 2011, but they’ll be by far the best defense Flacco has faced during the playoffs. The Flacco Ravens have had no shortage of postseason success away from Charm City. Since Flacco’s rookie year, they’re 7-3 ATS (6-4 SU) in road postseason games.
The Ravens defense hasn’t really shut anyone down this year, and they’re allowing 415.0 YPG in the postseason, but they have been tightening up in the red zone. They allowed the NFL’s second-lowest red zone TD percentage during the regular season (43.4%). They’ve been even stingier in the postseason, allowing just four touchdowns and 37 points on 10 red-zone trips.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is this game’s x-factor. He was on the sideline for last year's loss to Baltimore, but adds another dimension to the San Francisco offense. He’s been sacked just 13 times in nine starts, and after rushing for an NFL quarterback record 181 yards in his playoff debut, he was surgical as a passer in a comeback win at Atlanta (16-for-21, 233 yards, no turnovers). The Ravens saw mobile quarterbacks twice this year, and lost to both of them. They forced Michael Vick to turn it over three times in a November matchup, but also allowed 371 passing yards in a 24-23 loss at Philadelphia. In Washington in Week 14, Robert Griffin III threw for 242 yards on only 26 attempts, and while Baltimore held him to 34 rushing yards, they allowed 179 that afternoon in a 31-28 overtime loss.
In Kaepernick’s nine starts (including two postseason starts), the Niners have scored touchdowns on 51.2% of their red-zone trips. But they’ve really heated up in the postseason, scoring 9 TD in 12 red-zone chances. Keeping San Francisco from finishing drives will be especially key considering the recent struggles of veteran kicker David Akers. The lefty is just 12-for-20 on all field goals since Thanksgiving, including four misses from inside 40. Considering how evenly matched these teams are, a shank from Akers could very well spell the difference.