Super Bowl

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Before we get to the Super Bowl... Wagerweb has a 200% bonus (max $2000) for the Super Bowl. I don't normally mention ads, but it's a pretty big bonus. Ok here's my thoughts on the game and a few props I'll be playing as well.

Baltimore +4 vs San Francisco

You gotta love Super Bowl hype. We've heard endless stories about Ray Lewis' retirement, the different QB styles and the battle between two brothers. There's a lot more to the gameplans than just those story lines, so let's look at the three phases of this game.

Special Teams

I always pay close attention to special teams and suspect this game could come down to a critical play or mistake in this phase of the game. Jacoby Jones gives the Ravens a big edge in the return game. Ted Ginn is nothing special, LaMichael James is a little better, but neither player has produced anything close to Jones' big plays. I haven't forgotten about Trindon Holliday's two returns against the Ravens in Denver, but the Ravens are the bigger threat to break off a long return on Sunday.

A bigger factor could be the kicking game. David Akers has struggled all year and has the look of a kicker who's lost his confidence. Justin Tucker is solid and gives Baltimore an edge. Who would you rather have lining up for a 45 yard game winner?

Niners O vs Ravens D

Kaepernick and the Niners read-option have been a tough assignment for opposing teams, with Gore, CK and LaMichael James putting up big rushing stats. Not as much has been said about the passing, but Kaepernick has been very efficient throwing the ball.

The Raven's must stop the run. Gore should be handled by Lewis and Ngata shutting down the middle of the field. Kaepernick & James both have enough speed to create big problems for the defenders, so we'll see the Niner's trying to break containment often. Terrell Suggs, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger must contain the Niner's running game on the edges. Baltimore should control Crabtree in the passing game, which leaves critical match ups between Ed Reed/Bernard Pollard vs Vernon Davis/Delanie Walker. The Raven's safeties MUST win that battle or Kaepernick will have a huge game.

Ravens O vs Niners D

The Ravens offense has improved greatly since they've gotten comfortable with Jim Caldwell's replacement of Cameron. It's been a balanced attack with the entire team contributing, Flacco has been nearly flawless.

The Niners beat a similar offense in Atlanta (with better wide-outs) and I doubt Baltimore can add anything that San Fran hasn't prepared for already. With all the Ray Lewis talk… let's not forget Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman are the best LB's playing Sunday. So how can the Ravens move the ball? They have a much better O-line than the Falcons and they've been great throughout the playoffs. Caldwell will spread the field often to get the Niners into nickel and dime packages where he'll have matchup advantages for Flacco to expose. I expect lots of screen and running plays in these situations. The Ravens will be able to move the ball effectively.

Intangibles

I hate intangibles, but they always play a big part in Super Bowls. The biggest intangible is the Harbaugh brothers. I'm not confident anyone can read something into it, and I don't see any obvious advantage going to either guy. They're both very good coaches and I suspect either one is capable of making a gutsy call or taking a risk or two in critical situations.

The Pick

I expect this to be a close game, with some back and forth. Both teams have started games slowly in the playoffs, which is likely to happen in this game as they play it safe early on. Eventually things will get rolling. I doubt the Ravens have enough speed to contain Kaepernick and the read-option consistently, so we'll see some big plays in the running game. Flacco will do plenty of damage spreading the ball around while exposing mismatches. Turnovers will be critical and this game is likely to come down to a late FG… made by Tucker. Pick: Raven +4

Prop Bets

Will he score a touchdown in the first half? – Torrey Smith (BAL) – Yes (+340):
I expect Smith to get targeted often, especially downfield early in the game. Flacco needs to extend the field to open up his screen game and running attack while the Niners are in nickel/dime packages. Good chance Smith snags a deep ball early.

Total Receptions – Torrey Smith (BAL) – Over 3.5 (EVEN)
Once again, lots of targets for Smith. The Niners have to respect the deep ball for the Ravens to win the game.

Total Rushing Yards – Colin Kaepernick (SF) – Over 48.5 (-110)
I don't think the Ravens have the players to consistently contain CK. Maybe the D-coordinator can devise something, but someone has to make the plays.

Total Receiving Yards – Vernon Davis (SF) – Over 42.5 (-110)
Davis will be a big part of the gameplan and he'll give the Ravens LBs and safeties problems.

R.Lewis solo+assisted tackles un 11½
Lewis has put up crazy stats since returning, but 11½ is too high - especially without the Baltimore stat crew handing out assists.

T.Suggs solo+assisted tackles ov 4½
Suggs has to help stop the read-option or Baltimore is in deep do-do. I suspect he'll be all over the field.

D.Ellerbe solo+assisted tackles ov 7
Ellerbe projects higher and he's likely to outproduc Ray-Ray. I know he's been on the IR's but he'll be ready-to-roll.

N.Bowman solo+assisted tackles ov 8½
Bowman's stats have been down recently, but it's all about opportunity. Baltimore will provide him with enough chances to hit double digits easily & he's one of the best tacklers in the league.

Will the game go to Overtime? Yes (+700)

Obviously I think this is a close game, so +700 makes sense.

Good luck. Let's win them all.