Super Bowl Point Spread: Why Taking the Under Is the Best Option This Year

Justin OnslowContributor IIJanuary 28, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20:  Running back Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball as he is hit by inside linebacker Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens played some impressive offensive football to secure a spot in the NFL’s biggest game, but the Super Bowl won’t be decided by huge point totals this year.

San Francisco is a 3.5-point favorite to win on Sunday, and Bet365 has the over/under for the contest at 47 combined points. While it’s possible for a team with a dynamic offense to score 47 points on its own, that’s not going to happen in Super Bowl XLVII. These teams are too talented defensively to allow much scoring on the game’s biggest stage.

We’ll take a look at both teams' defenses, and break down why taking the under is the best choice this year.


Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens employ a 3-4 defensive front with three talented defensive linemen setting the tone in the trenches. Haloti Ngata and Ma’ake Kemoeatu weigh a combined 685 pounds, and Pernell McPhee anchors the left side of the line at 280 pounds. Even Baltimore’s backups are massive, as Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones each weigh well over 300 pounds.

The basic principle of the 3-4 front is gap control at the line of scrimmage. Defensive linemen in two-gap systems have control of two of the gaps between opposing offensive linemen, and use their size and strength to tie up blockers and free up linebackers to make plays. As big and dominant as Baltimore’s defensive line is, even San Francisco’s talented offensive line will have its hands full.

At the next level, the Ravens field one of the best linebacking corps in the league. Ray Lewis is set to retire after the season, but he has one more big game left to prove he is one of the best to ever play the game.

Lewis is flanked by Courtney Upshaw to his left and Josh Bynes to his right. Each is a young, physical and aggressive linebacker who is proving to be the new face of Baltimore’s linebacking corp. Paul Kruger and Terrell Suggs line up the outside and wreak havoc on opposing offensive tackles. Kruger led the Ravens with nine sacks in the regular season and he’ll look to tally more against the 49ers.

Baltimore has a big-time playmaker at every level of its defense, and in the defensive secondary, that playmaker is Ed Reed. Reed is one of the best ball-hawking safeties in the NFL, and he leads a Ravens defensive backfield that intercepted 13 passes and held opposing quarterbacks to an average passer rating of 80.6 during the regular season.

While the Ravens didn’t put up the stout defensive statistics they have been known for in recent years, none of the statistics or standings will matter when Baltimore and San Francisco face off on February 3.

Stopping Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and the rest of the 49ers offense won’t be an easy task, but Baltimore has had two weeks to study film and prepare a game plan. San Francisco’s offense isn’t as experienced as the Ravens defense, and experience is a major factor on the game’s biggest stage.

The 49ers will score some points on Sunday. Just don’t expect to see the offensive outpouring San Francisco fans were accustomed to seeing late in the season.


San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers defense is like Baltimore’s in a lot of ways. San Francisco employs a 3-4 front that is led by some talented defensive linemen, a trio of the best linebackers in the league and two safeties that fly all over the football field.

The success of the 49ers defense starts up front in the trenches. At 330 pounds, nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga anchors a defensive line that has been dominant this season. Defensive ends Ray McDonald and Justin Smith occupy blockers and control gaps between opposing guards and tackles for San Francisco’s linebackers to make plays.

Justin Smith is one of the keys to San Francisco’s defense, and the success of linebacker Aldon Smith is partially dependent on how well Justin Smith can tie up blockers on the left side of the opponent’s offensive line. When Justin Smith was injured late in the season, Aldon Smith’s sack production plummeted, due in large part to the 49ers' inability to control the line in front of him.

Aldon Smith joins NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks in arguably the most fierce and aggressive linebacking corps in the NFL. Willis and Bowman had incredible production in the middle of the defense this season, and Smith nearly set the NFL record for sacks in a single season.

Veteran safety Donte Whitner and hard-hitters Dashon Goldson and Carlos Rogers set the tone for San Francisco’s secondary. Of all the defensive backfields in the NFL, San Francisco’s might be the most rugged. With the 49ers safeties patrolling the middle of the field and helping in run support, San Francisco fields one of the best defensive units in the NFL at stopping the run.

Keeping Ray Rice contained and limiting his effectiveness are keys to San Francisco’s defense in the Super Bowl. Baltimore’s offense is predicated on hard-nosed running and vertical play-action passing. If Rice can’t get much going on the ground, Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense will be in for a long night.

Flacco has been impressive in the playoffs, but he had some issues with decision-making and downfield accuracy during the regular season. The 49ers secondary must blanket Baltimore’s receivers and give its linebackers enough time to beat blockers and get to Flacco in the backfield.

Baltimore has scored at least 24 points in each of its playoff games this year, but the Ravens haven’t yet faced a defense as stout as San Francisco’s. Both yards and points will come at a premium when the two face off on February 3.