NFL Picks - Super Bowl XLVII
Super Bowl XLVII: Predictalator Picks Paul's Analysis
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Super Bowl XLVII Pick: San Francisco (-3.5) over Baltimore (Covers 59.7%)
Super Bowl XLVII features two teams whose identities have been largely forged on defense, yet have leveraged impressive offensive performances, particularly by their young, emerging quarterbacks to make a run to the Super Bowl. While the teams are linked by those traits (and a Harbaugh for a head coach), their paths to New Orleans have shared some other characteristics in their journeys. The hottest playoff teams will obviously usually find themselves in this spot, yet unlike what we have seen from many recent Super Bowl participants, Baltimore and San Francisco backed into the playoffs (to varying degrees). Despite starting the season 9-2, the Ravens lost four of their final five games. The 49ers close to the season was not as bleak from a wins and losses standpoint, but a 3-2 straight-up finish to the year was just 2-3 against-the-spread.
More notably though, while neither of these teams ended the regular season on the highest of notes, major offensive changes that each made in the second half of the year, coupled with health improvements on the defensive side of the ball have fueled these postseason success stories.
After back-to-back losses to the Roethlisberger-less Steelers and the Kirk Cousins-led Redskins, John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on December 10 and appointed former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell to that role. Caldwell has not changed tempo to the degree that we had originally anticipated, but he has opened up the offense with far more three receiver and shotgun looks. The approach leverages the combination of quarterback Joe Flacco's arm strength and the play making abilities of Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and others. The result has been a lower completion percentage (with players like Christian Ponder and Ryan Fitzpatrick completing a high percentage of passes for fewer yards per pass and others like Andrew Luck and Eli Manning airing it out without a high completion percentage, there was virtually no relationship between completion percentage and winning this season), yet a much more dynamic vertical passing game that has been close to dominant throughout the postseason (it has not hurt that a shuffling of the offensive line has given Flacco even more time than he had before as well). In the five full games under Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator, Flacco has completed 56.8% of his passes for 8.4 yards-per-attempt, 12 touchdowns and just one interception (which came at the end of the first half of Flacco's first game in the stretch). The 8.4 yards-per-attempt would have ranked as the best in the league (among qualified quarterbacks).
Defensively, Baltimore has undergone major changes recently as well. Standout linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs - each with an NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in his career - did not see the field together for the Ravens until the postseason. Meanwhile, defensive end Haloti Ngata, who, when healthy, is the best defensive player on this roster, was not near 100% for most of the season and has clearly benefited from resting late in the season. During the regular season, Baltimore allowed 4.0 yards-per-carry, 21.5 points-per-game and 6.4 yards-per-pass - good, but not great numbers. In the postseason, against three potent offenses, the Ravens have allowed opposing running backs to average just 3.6 yards-per-carry, opposing quarterbacks (i.e. Andrew Luck, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) to throw for just 5.9 yards-per-pass and opposing offenses to account for just 14.3 points-per-game. Those numbers would qualify the defensive efforts of the Ravens in the Playoffs as great.
Not to be outdone, San Francisco made a more drastic change to its offense in the second half of the regular season. Colin Kaepernick filled in for previous starting quarterback Alex Smith after Smith was knocked out of the November 11 tie with the St. Louis Rams with a concussion. At the time, Smith was completing 70.2% of his passes for 8.0 yards-per-attempt with 13 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 6-2 record. Kaepernick had been used on about 3-5 plays per game before that, yet had only attempted nine passes. Most assumed at the time that, when Smith was healthy, he would resume starting. Instead, Kaepernick used his freakish physical abilities and knowledge of the pistol offense to get the most out of the 49ers offensive strengths and take the offense to a new level. In Kaepernick's nine starts, San Francisco is 7-2 straight-up (4-3-1 against-the-spread) with the team averaging almost five more points per game than it had with Smith at the helm (28.5 PPG as opposed to 23.6 PPG - the OVER is 7-1-1 in Kaepernick's nine starts). As a starter, Kaepernick has completed 62.7% of his passes for 8.6 yards-per-attempt, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions with an additional 440 yards rushing on 7.3 yards-per-attempt and four touchdowns.
Again, as with Baltimore, San Francisco also struggled with health defensively that has improved in the postseason. In this case, we are specifically discussing the injury to 3-4 defensive end Justin Smith. As with Haloti Ngata - who plays the same position for the Ravens - when Smith is 100%, he is the best player on San Francisco's team. In this case, at 100%, he would probably be the best player on the field in the Super Bowl. In the games that he played before an early-second half injury against the Patriots, Justin Smith helped the 49ers hold opponents to 12.7 points-per-game. In the two and a half games that Smith missed with a torn triceps - all relevant games to the 49ers playoff status, San Francisco gave up 34.4 points-per-game. Obviously, it is a limited sample size, but similar splits were also seen in almost every efficiency category as well as very glaringly with teammate Aldon Smith's inability to rush the passer near the level he had exhibited previously. While he may not be 100% right now, Justin Smith has been back on the field for the playoffs and the defense has looked pretty strong - holding the Packers' offense to just 24 points (which included a last minute, irrelevant touchdown pass) and 6.4 yards-per-pass and completely shutting down the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of the NFC Championship game.
While their journeys and turning points may sound similar, there is one major difference between these two teams - the 49ers are supposed to be here. San Francisco has the best offensive line in the NFL, a top three overall defense against the run and the pass and the most physically dynamic quarterback in the league (who also just happens to be the most experienced player in the pistol offense in the history of football). The 49ers finished the year second in our NFL Power Rankings (after waffling back and forth between #1 and #2 for most of the season) and topped our pre-Playoffs list of most likely NFC Champions. Baltimore ended the year 12th in our NFL Power Rankings and had just a 6.2% chance to make it to the Super Bowl before the postseason began (and were only 1.4% likely to win over Denver in the last minute of their Divisional Round game). Admittedly, any analysis of the Ravens over the last month has involved playing some catch-up, but we are still Baltimore 2-1 ATS in Ravens postseason games (12-6 ATS overall in Baltimore games this season) and have not seen the Ravens shift any more dramatically in our projections than their counterparts in this game.
By the numbers, the 49ers are 13-4-1 straight-up and 10-6-2 against-the-spread versus the third toughest NFL strength-of-schedule this season. The OVER is also 10-6-2 in their games. In total, they have outscored their opponents by an average score of 26.1 - 18.2. The 49ers finished the regular season as our second-best overall team in the NFL. In our strength-of-schedule-adjusted efficiency metrics, San Francisco ended the year tenth in passing offense, second in run offense, third in pass defense and third in run defense. The 49ers outgained their opponents by 1.8 yards-per-pass (second in the league to Seattle), 1.5 yards-per-rush (second in the league to Minnesota) and 1.3 yards-per-play (first in the NFL by a wide margin) - and all of those numbers have improved during the Colin Kaepernick era. San Francisco did not have another amazing (read: lucky) season with turnovers in 2012 like it did in 2011, but the team still finished eighth in turnover margin. While Andy Lee is the league's current best punter, the 49ers are below average (barely) in both overall special teams and in penalty ratio (where they are tied with the Ravens by committing penalties on 2% more of their plays than their opponents).
The Ravens are 13-6 SU and just 9-9-1 ATS versus the 15th toughest NFL strength-of-schedule this season. In total, Baltimore has outscored its opponents by an average score of 25.6 - 21.1. The Ravens finished the regular season as the 12th ranked team in the league according to our NFL Power Rankings. In our strength-of-schedule-adjusted efficiency metrics, Baltimore ended the year 13th in passing offense, tenth in run offense, 16th in pass defense and 11th in run defense. Obviously, the team has seen improvement from those numbers, yet this is still a squad that is average to above average in everything, yet not elite at anything (whereas the 49ers are essentially elite in everything - except for special teams). The Ravens outgained their opponents by 0.6 yards-per-pass (eighth in the NFL), 0.3 yards-per-rush (sixth in the league) and 0.4 yards-per-play (sixth in the NFL). Baltimore finished ninth in turnover margin, first in overall special teams (one of few slam dunk matchup advantages in this game period, let alone for the Ravens) and tied with San Francisco in penalty margin.
Little can be gleaned from looking at common opponents as Baltimore and San Francisco only both played against New England and the Giants (the Ravens went 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS in those matchups, while the 49ers were 1-1 SU and ATS).
Using strength-of-schedule-adjusted, play-by-play statistics, the Predictalator has played Super Bowl XLVII 50,000 times before it's actually played. The San Francisco 49ers win outright 66.9% of those games and by an average score of 28.6-21.3. As 3.5 point favorites, who win by just over a touchdown on average, the 49ers (-3.5) cover the spread 59.7% of the time, which is a "normal" play that would warrant a $77 play from a normal $50 player. The money-line for the 49ers is -170 (i.e. wager 170 to win 100). This requires at least 63% to play. A normal $50 player with -170 odds on a team winning 66.9% of the time can justify a $53 wager on the team to win. The OVER is 20-15-2 in games these teams have played this season, including hitting in the last six 49ers' games. With two dynamic quarterbacks leading to powerful (overhauled) offenses, the OVER (47.5) is a weak, but playable play, covering 53.7% of the time, which would warrant a $14 play from a normal $50 player. Utilizing the Parlay Calculator, San Francisco (-3.5) and the OVER (47.5) both cover 32.1% of the time.
In analyzing games, the team that wins a game is most often the team that best exploits favorable matchups and generally gets a little "lucky." While luck usually comes from turnovers, especially when the two teams are otherwise evenly matched, balance is critical to success. In this case, balance does not necessarily mean that a team must pass as often as it runs, but that it must find the right mix of decisions to exploit the other team's weaknesses while hiding its own.
Let's take a close look at the matchups in Super Bowl XLVII:
San Francisco's Run Offense vs. Baltimore's Run Defense:
As noted above, San Francisco finished the season our second ranked run efficiency offense (behind the Minnesota Vikings). The 49ers averaged 5.1 yards-per-rush during the year and have bested that total by running for 7.5 and 5.2 yards-per-rush in their two playoff games against the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons respectively. While the 49ers were dealt a significant blow with a late-season injury to backup running back Kendall Hunter (371 yards rushing, 5.2 yards-per-rush), rookie LaMichael James has stepped into his place and performed well. At the heart of the 49ers' current attack are the read-option running plays and the pistol formation (these are two different things in general, though they are linked in San Francisco's attack). The formation allows the quarterback to make quick reads in the passing game out of an abbreviated shotgun while getting the ball quicker to a running back set behind him (around where he would normally be in a formation). The read option gives the quarterback the choice on whether to keep the ball and run or handoff to a back. Read plays were called and used effectively in both playoff games. In one - against Green Bay - the Packers played man coverage to focus on Frank Gore and the running backs (while trying to limit big plays in the passing game). Colin Kaepernick exploited that decision with 181 yards rushing. In the other - at Atlanta - the Falcons clearly were focused on stopping the quarterback, which gave the running backs time to shine. Colin Kaepernick is not only the physical prototype for the formation and best pistol quarterback in the league, he is the best and most experienced pistol quarterback in the history of football (over 3,500 snaps and 14,000 yards from the formation in college). As young as he is, no one has more experience on or against that offense. Put that experience behind the best offensive line in the league, with two very good running backs - Gore and James - and an unsung fullback - Bruce Miller, who keyed several of the 49ers' scoring plays in the NFC Championship - and this is a potent run offense. Yes, Baltimore has improved drastically against the run with Lewis and Ngata on the field and healthy, but this appears to be a very difficult challenge for the Ravens to win - even with two weeks to prepare. In the projected Super Bowl XLVII boxscore, the 49ers combine for 5.1 yards-per-carry.
Edge: San Francisco
San Francisco Pass Offense vs. Baltimore Pass Defense:
With what we have seen recently out of the Baltimore pass defense - shutting down Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back weeks - it is tough to go against the Ravens here. Ed Reed is playing well, the cornerbacks have improved over the last six weeks, Suggs and Ngata are doing a better job at getting pressure on the quarterback. Yet, in a closer matchup than the one above, the 49ers have still have the edge. Beat up with injuries throughout the season - primarily to top cornerback Lardarius Webb - Baltimore's pass defense was just average during the regular season. In fact, while not a "weakness" by most team's standards, the secondary and overall pass defense have been the Ravens' biggest issue throughout the year. With Kaepernick's undervalued experience running this offensive system (and succeeding at least as much in the passing game as the running game), the 49ers' 8.6 yards-per-pass in Kaepernick's starts and two very good downfield threats in emerging wide receiver Michael Crabtree and matchup nightmare Vernon Davis, San Francisco has a potent air attack right now that rivals any elite passing game in the league today. Also, if an unheralded player provides the difference in this game, do not be surprised if it comes from the 49ers passing game. Versatile tight end/H-back Delanie Walker, future Hall of Famer Randy Moss and the aforementioned Bruce Miller (in that order) are all strong candidates (or at least stronger than the public/market perception) to make game-altering plays for San Francisco. One thing to watch with this matchup is the pass rush. Alex Smith was one of the league leaders in sacks and hits taken before he was knocked out of of the first Rams game with an injury. Kaepernick's mobility has certainly helped to improve the numbers, but the 49ers still finished as the third worst team in the league in sack rate allowed (8.5%). Baltimore was essentially average over the year with its pass rush. However, with Suggs playing at a higher level (and thus less pressure and focus on inferior pass rushers like Paul Kruger), an improved pass rush for Baltimore could be a game changer. San Francisco averages 7.5 yards-per-pass in our projections for this game.
Edge: San Francisco
Baltimore Run Offense vs. San Francisco Run Defense:
In the Super Bowl podcast (complete with picks, props, Live ScoreCaster and more), we analyze each unit against its corresponding unit on the opposing team. Baltimore fares much better in that exercise than when looking at this head-to-head matchup. In that discussion, we note that Ravens' starting running back Ray Rice is a better all-around player than Frank Gore, backup rookie running back Bernard Pierce is a bigger threat than LaMichael James and Vonta Leach is an even better, more versatile fullback than Bruce Miller. In running backs, Baltimore has the edge. In the running game, though, the Ravens have a tough task to face. Baltimore is going up against two inside linebackers - NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis - who are as effective out of the 3-4 as three linebackers are against the run in the 4-3. In their 18 games to-date, San Francisco has held 13 opponents to under four yards-per-rush and 11 opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing. As the opposing team's running game goes, so seems to go the 49ers chances at winning/covering. In the five games where the 49ers allowed more than four yards-per-carry - vs. New York Giants, vs. Seattle, vs. St. Louis, at Seattle and vs. Green Bay (in playoffs), San Francisco went 1-3-1 against-the-spread with their only ATS win coming over Green Bay in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. In their other games, the 49ers are 9-3-1 against-the-spread, with their lone straight-up loss coming on the road to St. Louis. Though stats such as this - "Baltimore is 21-3 straight-up all-time when Ray Rice carries the ball 20+ times" - are largely influenced by the fact that the Ravens are running the ball because they are already winning, efficiency is a different thing. Clearly, when teams can find effective ways to move the ball on the ground against San Francisco, it gives the 49ers trouble. Only four teams succeeded in doing that this year though. If Baltimore is going to win the game, it probably has to win this matchup - which is not likely. The Ravens only average 3.6 yards-per-carry in our simulated Super Bowl.
Edge: San Francisco (this matchup should make the difference)
Baltimore Pass Offense vs. San Francisco Pass Defense:
San Francisco finished the season as a top three pass defense in our metrics, but this is essentially a wash. Like with the other passing game matchup, San Francisco's defense had an average pass rush, while Baltimore's offense had a below average sack rate allowed (though not nearly as bad as the 49ers throughout the year). Also, Joe Flacco has not generated turnovers at a high rate this season (especially under Jim Caldwell) and San Francisco has not really done at great job at forcing turnovers in the passing game. Few sacks or interceptions/turnovers are expected out of the Baltimore passing game. What the Ravens can do on a per-play basis will be important to deciding this matchup. With great speed (Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones) and excellent hands (Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta) as valuable weapons, the passing game is Baltimore's greatest strength. Of course, with elite outside linebackers and a very good and very deep secondary, San Francisco has one of the best pass defenses in the league. Look for Baltimore to take shots deep and for the 49ers to do everything they can to hold Ravens to shorter throws. Though his arm strength maybe the best in the league, Flacco is not as accurate on shorter throws as he needs to be. A lower completion percentage in situations where the team struggles to get the ball deep when it does complete passes could lead to several short Ravens' drives. Still, they should be able to hit a big play or two in the passing game to keep this matchup pretty even.
In the short-term (i.e. one game, not 50,000), a big special teams play has far more relevance than it does in assessing teams' general strengths and weaknesses. In other words, this will be short because it does not mean too much to this exercise. That being said, this is a slam dunk win for the former Eagles' special teams coach (who also has his own kicking-specific coach on staff) John Harbaugh and his Ravens. Baltimore is better in every facet of the return game and currently has the better kicker (though we project David Akers to score more points in this game than Justin Tucker) with the stronger leg. Andy Lee and the 49ers win the net punting comparison, but barely, as Sam Koch is well above average for the NFL as well. It does not make a ton of difference in 50,000 simulations, but it would not be a surprise to see Ravens' return man Jacoby Jones (or the 49ers' Ted Ginn, though that would be slightly more surprising) making a difference in the game when it is played once.
Misc. - Coaching, Penalties, Turnovers, Crowd
Most of this is either factored in or discussed above. Coaching comes through in the numbers. In this case, we have a set of brothers as head coaches competing in each's first ever Super Bowl appearance (and both made the conference championship last year). As Jack Harbaugh would probably prefer, coaching looks like a wash – at least on the sidelines and in the press box. The shift to Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator was a boost to Baltimore, as has been what the 49ers offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, has done with the offense recently. With a kicking only coach and John’s background, Baltimore is more prepared in special teams, while San Francisco’s Vic Fangio looks like the better defensive mind than Dean Pees (barely - and that's a rare thing to say about the Ravens with their lineage). However, as alluded to above Colin Kaepernick, with his experience in the pistol formation, is almost like a coach on the field, which gives the 49ers a slight edge. The 49ers are generally thought to be better at forcing turnovers, avoiding costly mental errors and limiting penalties. The numbers from this season do not totally agree with that, yet both of these teams are similar in all of those regards and neither team is prone to making big mistakes. While the crowd may ultimately be in favor of one team or the other, we have not incorporated that into our numbers.
Based on that information, here are the most important players for each team:
Most Important Offensive Player to a Ravens' Victory: Ray Rice, RB
This really goes to all three key running backs for the Ravens - Rice, Pierce and Leach. As we discovered, San Francisco has only really struggled against teams that could run against them. Rice is a good all-around player who can take over and win some games - vs. New England, at San Diego, vs. New York Giants and vs. Indianapolis - but he can also disappear for stretches. The running game's success is paramount to the Ravens' chances of winning this game. And as important as that is, Rice still plays a vital role in the passing game as a short outlet for Flacco when the deep routes are covered.
Most Important Defensive Player to a Ravens' Victory: Terrell Suggs, LB
Headlines have been hard to come by for Suggs as he plays alongside Ray Lewis, but his ability to rush the passer and to make smart decisions when coming off of the edge on read plays will likely be far more important to this game than anything that Lewis does (or does not) do. Suggs had ten tackles, a tackle for loss, two sacks and a pass deflection in the game against Denver - and Baltimore still barely won. He may need to be that good again for this team to stay in the game.
Most Important Offensive Player to a 49ers' Victory: Colin Kaepernick, QB
Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Joe Staley all warrant serious consideration for this award. Ultimately though, this offense is utterly defined by what Colin Kaepernick can do. It's not his arm or his legs that are critical to the 49ers moving the ball effectively - it's Kaepernick's understanding of the game. As much of a case as I can build for Kaepernick being the most experienced pistol offense player in the history of the game, he will still only be making his tenth NFL start - and he's never had to stare across the line at Ray Lewis (and his insane facemask) in the Super Bowl. One element that is relevant to the numbers, yet may be under discussed this week is that Manning and Brady struggled against Baltimore in adverse weather conditions, while the Superdome track can only help the athletic Kaepernick.
Most Important Defensive Player to a 49ers' Victory: Justin Smith, DE
With the importance placed on stopping the run, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga would be adequate choices. Justin Smith is the most obvious and important player on the 49ers defense because he is both the best player on the defense and the most questionable. Few 3-4 defensive ends have the ability to hold the point of attack in running situations, take on double teams and still rush the passer. J.J. Watt is one of the few others that comes to mind. Justin Smith was J.J. Watt before J.J. Watt. If an extra week off allows Justin Smith to regain the strength and ability to play at 100%, he could dominate this game (sorry, Bryant McKinnie, you have played pretty well recently, but you have never been in Smith's league). If he is not 100% or has to miss game time, the opposite result could occur.
For the most part, both of these teams have battled through earlier season injuries and have just recently settled into healthy lineups. We will update this section and the pick next week with more if necessary, but all of the players who came out of the conference championship games with injuries, returned in some capacity or appear to be fine.
Interesting notes from the Predictalator:
- The average result is a San Francisco 28-21 victory. A seven-point victory by San Francisco is the most likely scenario, occurring 5.4% of the time (1 in every 12 49ers' wins). The 49ers are 38.6% likely to win by more than ten points (58% of San Francisco wins).
- Baltimore loses, yet covers (i.e. San Francisco wins by one, two or three points) 7.2% of the time.
- Though we do not endorse the QB rating, we can calculate it. Colin Kaepernick completes 59.7% of his passes for 231.6 yards (8.0 yards-per-pass),1.6 TDs and 0.8 interceptions. That equates to a QB rating of 92.3 Joe Flacco completes 59.2% of his passes for 215.7 yards (6.1 yards-per-pass), 1.3 TDs and 0.8 interceptions. This results in a QB rating of 79.7. We cannot calculate Total QBR because we are not allowed (fortunately it is useless).
- Last season, we were projecting quarterbacks to throw for 610.2 combined yards and for both quarterbacks to top 100 QB rating. This year, we are projecting just 447.3 passing yards from the quarterbacks.
- Colin Kaepernick, our most likely winning quarterback, is one of three evaluated players for whom our projected MVP chances are greater than the odds needed to wager on him. Kaepernick wins the award 37.3% of the time, which is enough to justify 7:4 odds (need 36.4%+).
- 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree at 14:1, who is our fourth most likely MVP and wins 6.9%, and Delanie Walker at a long shot 100:1 are the other two players with MVP value.
- Last season, the quarterbacks combined to win more than three out of every five simulations (63%). This year, the two quarterbacks win the MVP award a combined 57.4% of the time. Quarterbacks have won five out of the last six Super Bowl MVPs, yet just 25 of 46 (54.3%) Super Bowl MVPs all-time.
- 12 players win the MVP more than one percent of the time (ten did in last year's simulations). The most likely members of the "field" to win the MVP are Jacoby Jones, return man for the Baltimore Ravens, and Justin Smith of the 49ers.
- Late scoring and drama would not be a surprise. These teams combine to score 27.4 points in the second half - as compared to just 22.5 in the first half and a total of 15.4 points in the fourth quarter alone.
- San Francisco has only averaged 2.6 points-per-game in the first quarter during the Colin Kaepernick era (setting the table for several props involving Baltimore scoring first and/or scoring more than San Francisco in the first quarter).
- The quarterback is sacked once every 17 times he drops back in this game, which is the NFL average for this season.
- Though only 22 points were scored the last time these two teams met, a team was shutout in just 780 out of the 50,000 games. San Francisco won 554 of those games.
- Not only has the OVER covered in seven of Colin Kaepernick's nine starts, kicker David Akers has attempted at least two field goals in all but two of Kaepernick's starts and is a career 81.0% kicker (hopefully, he is also healthy now). He attempted three or more field goals in six of Kaepernick's nine starts and in ten games overall on the season.
- Colin Kaepernick has rushed for fewer than 50 yards in six of his nine starts and in 14 of the 18 career games that he has played. He had more than seven rushes just three times all season and one of those came in a game that he did not start.
- Having more to do with San Francisco's defense and the game situations that will require Baltimore to throw than Joe Flacco himself, we like the UNDER on Flacco's passing yards (250), yet have a slight lean towards the OVER (34.5) on his pass attempts. In losses this season (ignoring the Week 17 game against Cincinnati when he only threw eight passes and then left the game to rest), Flacco averaged 200.6 passing yards on 36 pass attempts a game.
- Flacco has only rushed for more than two yards seven times in 19 games this season.
- With Jim Caldwell as the offensive coordinator, Ray Rice has averaged just 24.6 receiving yards a game. He averaged 32.6 receiving yards-per-game before the change.
- Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith have both only topped 65 yards receiving in a game three times in 19 games. Collectively, they have only topped their current receiving yards lines 15 times in 38 opportunities this year. (Plus, basically, as our opinions on Joe Flacco-based props go, so go our props picks on Boldin and Smith.)
- Delanie Walker has had 20+ yards receiving in six of Kaepernick's starts and has averaged 3.2 targets-per-game in that nine game stretch.
- In the last 13 weeks, David Akers has only successfully made a longer field goal than Justin Tucker twice.
- In cross-sport props, Dwight Howard is making 50.3% of his free throws this season and is a 58.3% career free throw shooter. Even with the new offense cutting into his completion percentage, Joe Flacco's completion percentage should top Dwight Howard's free throw percentage. That being said, Howard is a good bet to block more shots than Flacco throws touchdowns.
- The only person in the recorded history of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl to exceed 2:15 was Jennifer Hudson who hit 2:17. Whitney didn't do it. Aretha did not do it. Christina did not do it...