With most of the media pouncing on the verbal miscues of players, familial back stories, and deer antler byproducts, one can easily forget the ultimate reason for all the hoopla – Super Bowl XLVII (aka Har-Bowl 1). Unlike years past, the contest between the Ravens and 49ers promises to exceed the entertainment value viewers have generally found only in million-dollar-per-minute commercials.
Indeed, most prognosticators are forecasting a close game with the 49ers favored by three and half points. So what does recent Super Bowl history tell us about the underdog Ravens’ chances at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy?
If past is prologue, then the Ravens are facing an uphill battle. According to Vegas Insider, the favorite has won six of the last ten Super Bowls (not necessarily by the point spread). Additionally, throughout the Super Bowl’s history, the NFC and the favorites maintain a slight edge over the AFC and underdogs.
I still like the Ravens’ chances. As I’ve stated in previous posts, these types of statistics are more probabilistic than deterministic. Furthermore, they are lagging indicators and therefore have limited value in predicting the future.
This game, therefore, will come down to execution. And in a contest between two extremely well balanced teams the Ravens’ success will be defined by their run defense and the play of the offensive line. On the defensive side of the ball the key question is, can the Ravens limit the ground game of Kaepernick and Gore? This will be especially important on those 3rd and middle yardage situations. If the Ravens front seven can keep these play makers hemmed up, and put the game on Kaepernick’s arm, their chances of victory will increase significantly. Offensively, the key will be maintaining the outstanding protection the line has demonstrated throughout the playoffs. The addition of Bryant McKinney has had a significant impact, and I would also expect to see a lot of Flacco connections to Rice out of the backfield since the 49ers will likely work overtime to avoid the fate of Champ Bailey.
Super Bowl history also tells us that sixty percent of the last ten championships were decided by seven or fewer points. I expect this trend will continue Sunday night with a close one between Baltimore and San Francisco. If that is the case, it would be a sweet send off for Ray Lewis if the most photographed, most talked about, and most valuable rookie’s name ends in Tucker.
Regardless of the outcome enjoy the moment. It is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of the entire Ravens organization (including the fans) that the men in purple and black will represent the AFC in New Orleans. There is a game to play, and it is almost here. As T-Sizzle is fond of saying on his facebook page, “2 more sleeps.”