With the Super Bowl just a few days away, we will see a brother - brother matchup for the first time in the history of the event. The 49er's are favored by only 3.5 points in some sportsbooks, with the Ravens being the underdogs. We want to take a deeper look at the Super Bowl betting odds and how we think you can and should bet the Super Bowl based on advanced football metrics, courtesy of Football Outsiders.
1. Special Teams
San Francisco does not handle football teams that have a strong hand in special teams well, as they were 1.5% below average, or 20th overall in this area. This was demonstrated by losing three out of four games to top 10 special teams units this year. The Ravens are the number one unit. By a lot, 9% in fact. This should give San Francisco some fits. What's bodes even worse for the 49er's a stat called hidden factors. This evaluates things such as the predicaments special teams units were put in by opposing teams in things such as average kickoff yards, punt yards, etc... The Ravens were last in the league in this category. That means they were the most unlucky special teams unit, yet were still the number 1 team in that area. To make it even worse, the Ravens had one of the worst weather related effects on special teams, yet as we mentioned, were still the number one special teams unit.
2. Riding The Hot Hand
In terms of weighted season averages, the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos had the two highest ranked offenses. The Ravens beat both of these teams. That spells bad news for the number five ranked San Francisco defense because they are worse off than the other two teams Baltimore was able to overcome, especially considering they held the Patriots to just 13 points and shut them out in the second half... on the road.
3. Variance and Explosiveness
This could be a good or bad thing, but the Baltimore Ravens were the 8th most consistent team this year, while the San Francisco 49er's were the second most inconsistent team. It's good because we know what we're getting out of the Ravens. It's bad because we have no idea what we'll get out of the 49er's. They can be explosive and dominant, or just barely hang in there.
4. The Ray Lewis Factor
Most people probably don't know how much of an impact Ray Lewis has as an on field role model and leader for his teammates. The fact that he's retiring has clearly had some external impact on the defense's performance because they have been considerably better in the playoffs thus far since Lewis announced his retirement. Don't count out what this all time great can do when motivated, and when he can get others motivated.
MY PICK (BAL +3.5): I think the 49er's are the better team, but Baltimore is extremely hot and sometimes that's all you need in the postseason, and Baltimore has been especially dominant in the one area San Francisco has struggled. I'm going Baltimore. Good luck and enjoy the Super Bowl!