Super Bowl XLVII: The Pick Against the Spread

Anthony BrancatoCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2013

Which Harbaugh will win?
Which Harbaugh will win?Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 1-1.  Postseason totals: 5-4-1, Pct. .550.  Best Bets: 1-2, Pct. .333.

Point spread (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selection with point spread in bold.


One thing—well two, actually—will definitely happen at Super Bowl XLVII.

A head coach named Harbaugh will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy when it is all said and done—as if you didn't know.

But the other one you probably didn't know about: The winning quarterback will be of Italian heritage.  That's because Colin Kaepernick is adopted, and the surname of his birth mother is Russo.

So barring a catastrophic injury in practice to either Kaepernick or Joe Flacco between now and Sunday, one of them will join Joe Montana as the second Italian-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.  The other will become the fourth to lose one, after Daryle Lamonica, Vince Ferragamo and Dan Marino.

But enough on how the same thing is going to happen either way.  Now for the differences.

Let's start with the fact the 49ers played a regular-season game at the Super Bowl hosting site this year, while the Ravens didn't. 

Not counting the two years in which both teams did so, six of the eight teams since 1989 that have had this angle in their favor have won the Super Bowl. 






(Two of the winners, however, neglected to cover the spread: The Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX and the Rams four years later).

Another historical trend pointing in San Francisco's direction centers around the fact that the NFC won the inter-conference season series by 14 games, 39 victories to 25 (the NFC's second largest victory margin of all time, having won it 27-12-1 in 1970—the first post-merger year). 

Six times since 1979 has one conference won the inter-conference series by more than 10 games, and the team from the superior conference has gone 5-1, both ways. 

(In 1999 the AFC won 38 inter-conference games to the NFC's 22, and while the Titans lost Super Bowl XXXIV to the Rams, they did cover.  Five years later the situation was the reverse: The AFC won it 44-20, and while the Patriots defeated the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, New England didn't cover).

Ah, but the Ravens have the "surface advantage," in that they play their home games on artificial turf while the 49ers play theirs on natural grass, and Sunday's game is on artificial turf.


The only problem is that this "advantage" does not exist.  Far from it in fact: Dating back to 1979, the 11 teams that have had the "surface advantage" in the Super Bowl are 3-8 straight up and 1-10 against the spread!



Next on the list is the "When You're Hot, You're Hot" Theory—which can apply to a city (or media market) just as easily as to an individual or team.


Not only have the San Francisco Giants already won the World Series, but the NBA's Golden State Warriors are almost certainly headed for their second playoff appearance in the last 19 years (!).  And as of this writing, the San Jose Sharks are one of just two remaining unbeaten teams in the NHL.


(True, Baltimore has only two chances to be hot, as the city lacks an NBA or an NHL franchise—but theories of this sort don't have to be fair).

Finally, haven't the 49ers "retired" one future Hall Of Fame player with a loss in this postseason (Tony Gonzalez) and now have the opportunity to inflict the same fate on another one (Ray Lewis)?

There is the chance, one would suppose, that the 49ers could win the game but not cover the spread.  Another possibility is that who is covered depends on when one actually got in on the game.  That has already happened twice in this postseason (don't remind me).

But the latter would require either a four-point San Francisco win, meaning Baltimore covers, or a five-point 49er victory, which would make it a push against the consensus opening line (which has since moved to 3 1/2 just about everywhere).

However, that will not occur because the final score for Super Bowl XLVII will be:

San Francisco 28, Baltimore 21 (+5)