Player with the First Touchdown
Frank Gore has the highest odds at 13-2, followed by Ray Rice and Michael Crabtree at 15-2. Those players are the top three offensive players (besides the two quarterbacks) in this game. However, the 49ers tend to rotate their offensive personnel a bit more than the Ravens, and they have not been shy in using less experienced guys like LaMichael James in the playoffs. Still, Ray Rice is the safest bet.
The 49ers' pass defense has been vulnerable to giving up big plays, which gives either starting Ravens receiver an edge. Despite being the most dangerous deep receiver on the field, Torrey Smith (10-1) has worse odds than Anquan Boldin (8-1), but both should be considered dark-horse candidates in this category.
One would think that these two teams would be very disciplined under two quality head coaches, but the 49ers and Ravens rank near the bottom in the NFL in terms of penalties per game. TeamRankings.com lists the Ravens as the second-most penalized team in the league with 7.5 penalties per game, and the 49ers are not far behind with 6.7 per game. With the line at 13.5 penalties, simple math suggests that you should take the over
Joe Flacco's Passing Total
Line: 250 yards
This is a rather tricky bet because of the nature of the Ravens offense, as it is very much predicated on Flacco connecting on deep passes. This leads to very inconsistent passing totals.
The current line for Flacco's passing total is at 250 yards, a total that he has surpassed in every playoff game except for the New England game. Still, in that game, Flacco fell just 10 yards short, and this had much to do with the fact that the Ravens reverted to a run-first approach when they took the lead in the second half.
Against Colin Kaepernick and the dangerous 49ers offense, the Ravens will likely spend much less time with a double-digit lead, and Flacco will be forced to pass more. Also, the 49ers' pass rush has not been the same since Justin Smith suffered a triceps injury in the regular season, which should allow the Ravens the time to connect on some deep passes.
Unlike their meeting in 2011, this figures to be a high-scoring offensive game, which makes it easy to take the over.
Colin Kaepernick's Passing Total
Line: 232.5 yards
The 49ers are reputed as a read-option offense, but they still are able to put up big yardage through the air. The line for Kaepernick's passing total is 232.5, which he has easily surpassed in all of San Francisco's playoff games. The Ravens defense is playing well, and having two weeks to prepare may give them a chance to stop the read-option, but this is an easy number to take the "over" on. Even if Kaepernick has an "off" game, he should still get over the 232.5 mark.
Mentions of "Har-Bowl", "Harbaugh Bowl" or "Super Baugh"
Line: 2.5 times
So far, the media has done a respectable job of keeping the Harbaugh angle in check, but I am not sure if Jim Nantz can resist for much longer. The line here is just 2.5 mentions of "Harbaugh Bowl" or any of its variations-that number can easily be eclipsed before kickoff. This seems like a safe bet to take the over.
Obviously, whoever your pick is for the MVP has a lot to do with who actually wins the game, but in either case, either starting quarterback is your best bet. This should be a high-scoring affair with a lot of great plays by both quarterbacks, who happen to be playing the best football of their lives coming into this game.
If there is to be a non-quarterback MVP, Ray Rice (10-1 odds) would be the favorite, but he is starting to split more time with rookie Bernard Pierce. Frank Gore (7-1) is a terrific player in his own right, but his production is overshadowed by Colin Kaepernick's (7-4) running ability, and the 49ers have used more of a by-committee approach for their running backs lately.
Ray Lewis (7-1) winning MVP would certainly make a great story, but to be frank, he is simply not a dynamic enough player at this point in his career to make that type of impact. My bet would be on the Ravens winning the game with Joe Flacco (11-4) as the game's MVP.
Line: 17.5 yards
Ray Rice is a great back, and he may very well have a big day against a 49ers defense that has fallen off in the latter part of the season.However, while the 49ers defense is not the same with an injured Justin Smith, their linebackers are one of the best collective units in the game. Rice will get past the defensive line plenty of times, but there is no way that he is going to break many-if any-big runs against the likes of NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. The line for Ray Rice's biggest run is set at 17.5 yards, which is not enough for me to bet against the 49ers linebackers. I'll take the under.
Ray Lewis Tackles
Line: 11.5 tackles
Yes, the 2001 version of Ray Lewis was by far a more dominant player than the banged-up 2013 version, but he still only recorded 5.5 tackles in his first Super Bowl appearance. That is a fine number by most standards, but Lewis is notorious for getting insane tackle numbers by jumping on the pile after the play is over, which leads to statisticians giving him the benefit of the doubt because of his reputation. Of the nine games that he played in this season (including playoffs), Lewis recorded at least 10 tackles in all but two, including a whopping 17 tackles against the Broncos in the divisional round. One has to figure that he will be even more fired up for the biggest (and last) game of his life and will try to be in the middle of as many plays as possible.
Colin Kaepernick Rushing Yards
Line: 50.5 yards
So far, no one in the playoffs has been able to slow down the 49ers rushing attack, thanks to some innovative work by the coaching staff in their use of the Pistol formation and read-option concepts.
However, with two weeks to prepare, I have a hard time betting against Ray Lewis and the Ravens' ability to finally figure out this "gimmick" offense. After all, Lewis' ability to diagnose plays before the ball is snapped is one of the few reasons why the Ravens still have him on the roster. Kaepernick may have some success running the ball, but given the attention that the 49ers running game will surely receive in the Super Bowl, 50.5 yards is a bit much. I'll take the under.
If you are putting anything more than a friendly wager on this, that's your mistake, but here is the best advice I can give you in three words:
Tails. Never. Fails