Jim and John Harbaugh fight for Super Bowl title

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It’s taken 20 weeks, 266 games and the season coming to an end for 30 NFL teams to reach this point. Just two teams and one game remains before the identity of the Super Bowl Champion for the 2012 season will be known.

It won’t be Blue versus Gray. Nor will it be North versus South. Perhaps more like East versus West. But certainly much of the attention leading up to the game will be focused on Brother versus Brother. And no doubt there will be many more Civil War references that might be used to describe the combatants in, and the play of, Super Bowl XLVII.

The San Francisco 49ers overcame an early 17-0 deficit and then survived an Atlanta Falcons drive that consumed the first seven of the fourth quarter’s final eight minutes to hold on for a 28-24 victory in what continued a string of very entertaining playoff games. 

San Francisco’s reward was to advance to New Orleans as the NFC’s representative in the Super Bowl.

About four hours later the 49ers’ opponent for America’s Big Game was determined as the Baltimore Ravens defeated the New England Patriots 28-13 to set up a rematch of a well-played 2011 regular season game on Thanksgiving night, won by the Ravens 16-6 – a game that featured the first NFL game between a pair of coaches who are brothers. 

Now Baltimore’s John Harbaugh and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh will match wits for the NFL’s ultimate prize – the hoisting of the Vince Lombardi Trophy as the winner of Super Bowl XLVII.

There were several similarities in how the Ravens and 49ers made it to the Super Bowl. Both teams won on the road. Both teams overcame halftime deficits. And, perhaps most impressively, each shut out their opponent in the second half.

Trailing 24-14 at the half, San Francisco outscored Atlanta 14-0 after recess. The Ravens trailed 13-7 at halftime and then outscored the Patriots 21-0 in the final 30 minutes of play.

The 49ers and Ravens now have two weeks to rest injuries, break down film and devise strategies for their showdown on February 3 in New Orleans.

San Francisco is seeking to make it 6 for 6 in Super Bowls as the franchise has never lost a Super Bowl, winning 4 in the 9 seasons between 1981 and 1989 (including two consecutively) and a fifth in Super Bowl XXIX, 18 seasons ago. A sixth Super Bowl win would tie the 49ers with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins. However, the Steelers also have a pair of Super Bowl losses.

The Baltimore Ravens are also perfect in Super Bowls, gaining its lone win in Super Bowl XXXV, dealing the New York Giants that franchise’s only Super Bowl loss in 5 games.

Younger readers who scour the Internet may note that Baltimore lost Super Bowl III and then won Super Bowl V. But those were the Baltimore Colts, now located in Indianapolis. The Ravens are the “old” Cleveland Browns who never did make it to the Super Bowl prior to relocating to Baltimore in 1996.

San Francisco is the eleventh different NFC team to play in the Super Bowl in the past 12 seasons. The New York Giants are the only NFC team to play in two Super Bowls in this stretch and, in fact, played in the Super Bowl 13 seasons ago as well.

In that Super Bowl (XXXV) the Giants faced the Ravens. Since then only four different AFC teams have made the Big Game – New England (5 times), Pittsburgh (3), Indianapolis (2) and – get ready for this – Oakland (1).

For Super Bowl XLVII San Francisco opened as 5 point favorites at the neutral New Orleans site and by late Sunday evening the line had dropped to a solid minus 4 at most Sports Books with just a handful of 4.5 lines still available. The OVER/UNDER opened as high as 51 but within hours the prevailing total ranged from 48 and 49.

The Money Line had San Francisco laying from -175 to -180 with the take back on Baltimore ranging from +155 to +160.

There should be only minor movement, quite likely up and then back down or down and then back up, over the next ten days with any meaningful one direction movement occurring in the 48 to 72 hours prior to kickoff.

In next week’s column a predicted final score will be given along with some of the multitude of proposition bets that may present some edges. The “prop” bets have increased both in number and creativity over the years and have been a major factor in the significant increase in wagering handle seen over the past decade. 

Most Sports Books will have several pages of props with perhaps Jay Kornegay and his staff at the LVH (formerly Las Vegas Hilton) producing what has for years been the largest offering of props, numbering over 300 and filling nearly 20 printed pages!

To whet your appetite for the “Big Game” let’s take a look at some recent Super Bowl history. Of course, with just 46 Super Bowls having been played to date, we don’t have a very large sample from which to draw conclusions. However even those 46 have been played in several different “eras” dating back to the first following the 1966 season.

In fact, we may want to disregard more than half of those 46 in terms of providing relevant data. The first 24 Super Bowls saw some played prior to the integration to schedules following the AFL/NFL merger, during a time when the regular season consisted of 14 rather than 16 games and with formats that had fewer than the present 12 team playoff fields.

Two periods make sense to analyze. From 1990 through 2001 (12 seasons) the playoff format consisted of 6 Division winners and 6 Wild Cards. In 2002 realignment resulted in 8 Division winners and 4 Wild Cards comprising the playoffs field. For purposes of this column the following data will be drawn from the 22 Super Bowls played under the present 12 team format.

Conference success has been cyclical. AFC teams won the Super Bowl in 8 of 10 seasons from Super Bowls XXXII through XLVI. Since then the NFC team has won 4 of 5 Super Bowls including each of the last 3.

Since 1990 the team with the better regular season Straight Up record has won 9 of 17 Super Bowls SU but has gone just 4-12-1 ATS (25 percent). This may be indicative that current form may take precedence over season long results. A playoff team is, by definition, almost always good, often playing its best late in the season.

This is the fourth Super Bowl since 1990 that matches a No. 2 seed (San Francisco) against a 4 (Baltimore). In the three prior such Super Bowls the 2 seed is 1-2 both SU and ATS, with all three games going OVER the total.

Since 1990 there have been 11 Super Bowls involving one team that played in (and obviously survived) the Wild Card round, as will be the case this season with the Ravens. Whether Division winners or qualified for the Playoffs as a Wild Card such teams had to play (and win) an extra game to reach the Super Bowl.

Although this appears contrary to what would be expected, the team that had win that extra game has gone 7-4 SU and a remarkable 9-1-1 ATS with each of the last 8 Super Bowl teams that played in the Wild Card round covering the spread. That includes the New York Giants in both of the Super Bowl wins over New England.

The only Wild Card Super Bowl team that lost ATS in the Super Bowl was Buffalo back in Super Bowl XXVII when they were routed 52-17 by Dallas for their third (of four) straight Super Bowl losses.

Four of those 11 Wild Card survivors were actually favored in the Super Bowl and each of those teams won both SU and ATS. 

The 7 Wild Card teams that were underdogs in the Super Bowl (as Baltimore will be this season) went 3-4 SU and 5-1-1 ATS but have covered in each of the last 5 such situations. Totals have been evenly split with the OVER 11-11 since 1990.

As to whether the point spread matters, the Super Bowl winner has gone 16-4-2 ATS since 1990 with 7 underdogs winning outright. 

Because of the one sided nature of many of those early Super Bowls in the “12 team format” era the average score in the 22 Super world title games since 1990 has been roughly 31 to 19, resulting in an average margin of 12. The average total has been 49.4.

Only once in the last 22 Super Bowls has the team with a negative turnover margin won the Big Game (Pittsburgh defeated Seattle 21-10 in Super Bowl XL). In 17 of the Super Bowls the team with the positive turnover margin won the game. In 4 of the games turnovers were even.

As you do your own evaluation of this Super Bowl’s most intriguing of matchups and contemplate the bets you plan on making, be sure to separate fact from fiction and rumor from reality. Much will be written and spoken about Super Bowl XLVII in the two weeks leading up to the game, often extolling the virtues of one of the teams or pointing out flaws and weaknesses.

The Super Bowl has gone beyond  just a marquee sporting event. It has become a cultural phenomenon.

And next week column will provide additional analysis, commentary and opinion as to how this game may play out and which Harbaugh brother will join the list of Super Bowl winning coaches.

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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