49ers seeking a sixth Super Bowl victory

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The conclusion of the 2013 NFL season is just days away with Super Bowl XLVII (47 for us non-Romans) to kick off at about 3:30 PM Pacific time on Sunday.

The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will have spent most of the preceding two weeks planning and preparing for the game that see the Vince Lombardi Trophy presented to the winner as Champions of the NFL.

San Francisco is seeking a sixth Super Bowl victory – tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most ever. Unlike the Steelers, who twice lost the Big Game, San Francisco is 5-0.

Baltimore hopes to win the franchise’s second Super Bowl in two tries. The Ravens’ prior win came in Super Bowl XXXV (35) following the 2000 season.

Come kickoff all the hype surrounding the “Battle of the Coaching Harbaughs” and the “Ray Lewis Finale” will become irrelevant. The players on the field will finally take center stage and treat the football fans in the U.S. and around the world to what is expected to be a competitively played game.

The line has pretty much settled in at San Francisco -3½ with some -4’s showing. The consensus of opinion is in likely not seeing the line drop to -3 but for perhaps a very brief time. The pros who earlier in the betting took +4½ to 5 will come back and lay 3 with the favored 49ers. 

Perhaps the wiseguys who have stayed on the sidelines in anticipation of further support on the underdog Ravens will be poised to make their moves. The expectation is that as kickoff nears more late money will come in on the 49ers and the line will most likely close -4.

The OVER/UNDER continued to drop over the first few days of last week and seems to have bottomed out at 47½. Noting the public’s historical tendency to bet both the favorite and OVER, it would not be a surprise if the total reversed direction and closed at 49.

Both teams made controversial and critical decisions late in the season that carried risk, but led to making the Big Game.

In early December Baltimore coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, replacing him with assistant coach (and former HC of Indianapolis) Jim Caldwell. After a sluggish start in a 34-17 home loss to Denver, the offense clicked in a 33-14 rout of the New York Giants. In their three playoff wins the Ravens have averaged 30 ppg.

QB Alex Smith was having a fine season with the 49ers and had just been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week following the team’s Week 8 Monday night win at Arizona. Following their Bye week, Smith suffered a concussion and second year QB Colin Kaepernick came in to rally the 49ers from a late deficit to a 24-24 overtime tie against St Louis. 

Kaepernick had a brilliant debut as a starter the following week in a 32-7 Monday home win over Chicago. Smith was cleared to play the following week but Jim Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick, citing the youngster’s “hot hand.”

Baltimore has annually had one of the NFL’s top defenses but the stats were down considerably in the 2012 regular season, largely due to the absence of key players for extended stretches of time. Pretty much at full strength once the playoffs began, the Ravens have played the intimidating and aggressive style of defense that has marked John Harbaugh’s five-season reign.

Baltimore had two one-sided losses. The first was a 43-13 rout at Houston in Week 7, just before the Ravens’ bye. The second was that 34-17 home loss to Denver in which the score was 31-3 after three quarters. Of the Ravens’ other four losses two were by a FG and another by a single point. Their 23-17 defeat at Cincinnati in Week 17 came with most starters being rested for most of the game.

So-called “proposition bets or props,” have increased in both popularity and creativity in the years since Super Bowl XX when the Chicago Bears, favored by 10 points, faced the New England Patriots. 

In order to increase interest in, and by extension, action on the Super Bowl, a wager was offered as to whether or not Chicago’s huge defensive lineman, William “the Refrigerator” Perry would score a touchdown. 

Naturally, “The Fridge” did score and although the books paid off at roughly 4 or 5 to-1, but what was initially a “loss leader” gave birth to a cultural phenomenon that continues to grow and generate greater interest as each Super Bowl nears.

There has never been a Super Bowl that has gone into overtime, although there have been some close calls. Historically, about 6 percent of all games have gone to overtime over the past 20 seasons and that percentage is pretty steady over most point spread ranges.

An example of the “needle in a haystack” prop would be identifying the player who will score the game’s first touchdown. At one property this wager has 20 different options including that no touchdown will be scored (odds of 200 to 1) or that the first TD will be scored by none of the listed players (6 to 1). The opening favorite was San Francisco WR Michael Crabtree at odds of 7 to 1. One player who might see his opening odds of 10 to 1 drop is 49ers TE Vernon Davis as he should be a popular choice.

Since the Niners are the favored team the odds are less for them on the higher numbers than for the Ravens. For example, to score exactly 27 points the odds for the 49ers are 12-1, but for the Ravens the odds are higher at 15-1.

Because the smaller bettors are usually attracted to nice “plus” prices, the professional bettors often don’t mind laying a lot to win a little as they have the percentages in their favor. The pros may well lay the 1,000 that there will not be an overtime suggest the “true line” should be more on the order of laying 1,500 to win 100.

Jay Kornegay and his staff at the LVH (formerly Las Vegas Hilton) have long been at the forefront of prop offerings and this edition of the Super Bowl is no different. Jay’s team has created more than 300 separate props that fill more than 23 pages (8½ by 14 inch variety).

Although most properties do not allow for the parlaying of props the LVH does permit the parlaying of just two props from among 3 dozen props specifically noted as being eligible for this treatment.

There are many ways to look at betting the props. Some bettors advocate looking for props that follow the way you think the game will play out. Often this would mean looking to play props that favor the Ravens if you think Baltimore will win the game or looking for props that favor 49er players doing well if you think San Francisco will win the game.

Likewise, you might focus on “Over” props if you think the game will be high scoring or on “Under” props if you expect a defensive battle. Some bettors look at props in isolation, making no connection between a specific prop, especially those involving players, and the expected outcome of the game.

One approach that has been written about in past Super Bowl columns is to concentrate on the head to head props – the ones that have only two options. 

Looking at the “plus” side of such props can also be a way for the casual or recreational bettor to increase their chances to show a profit. Although not quite as simplistic or as easy as it sounds, if a bettor were to make 20 bets and each of them carried a plus price then by winning most of those 20 bets or even going 9-11, the bettor would show a profit.

Of course, in taking a “plus” price you are betting on the “underdog” part of the prop – which has less than a 50 percent chance of cashing.

But in a one game scenario those chances may actually be closer to 50/50 than if that prop were similarly priced over the course of several games and a larger sample size.

One tactic used with some degree of success going back more than a decade is to play “tandem” props in which you bet the underdog part of two props that are in some way related or are similar.

An example would be whether or not the first pass by each QB will be complete or incomplete. The “complete” part of the prop is generally a heavy favorite with the “incomplete” priced at +150 or higher.

Although this is the most important game of the season, it is just another wager as far as the professional bettors are concerned. In fact, many of the pros will have much more invested in an NBA or college basketball game played earlier in the day.

The intent for most fans is to enjoy the game and wagering on its outcome and on the many props that are offered greatly enhances the overall experience of watching the game unfold and play to its conclusion.

As to a prediction it’s easy to make a case for each team.

The Ravens, under HC John Harbaugh and QB Joe Flacco, have made the playoffs in each of their five seasons, going 8-4 both SU and ATS in a dozen playoff games, including 6-4 SU and 7-3 ATS on the road. San Francisco was favored by many prior to the season to win the NFC and they did just that.

The full season statistics do support San Francisco as being the better team. Interestingly, not only did both teams have identical plus 9 turnover margin they did so in the same way, losing just 16 turnovers apiece while forcing 25 off opponents.

Back in September the prediction in this column had San Francisco defeating Pittsburgh 23-17. Injuries prevented the Steelers from making the playoffs but the 49ers are where they were expected to be.

At a FG or more, taking the points with the Baltimore Ravens is an attractive option as is a play on the UNDER if the total rises to 49 or higher.

In a rare Super Bowl in which the points matter, the forecast is for San Francisco to capture its sixth Super Bowl trophy. Niners win 24-23. The cover goes to RAVENS +3½.

Don’t feel too sad about the end of the football season. The college draft is in late April, followed a few weeks later by the posting of OVER/UNDER season win totals for the 32 teams sometime in May.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

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About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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