Three Teams Trending Down in the NFL

Kaepernick
Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick's fumble on this play sent the 49ers to 4-4 on the season.

What we know about the National Football League is that this isn’t the same NFL many of us remember from 10 to 20 to 30 years ago. Teams can go from looking like the greatest teams in the history of the league one week to the worst team ever allowed on a football field.

While there are certainly teams trending upwards right now, there are also teams heading in the wrong direction. Here’s a look at a few of those teams.

San Francisco (4-4) – The 49ers hit rock bottom this past Sunday with yet another home loss this time to St. Louis. It wasn’t even that they lost but moreso in how they lost. With essentially three shots to beat the Rams from the goal line, San Francisco failed to give the ball to their workhorse Frank Gore even once.

Eventually, Colin Kaepernick mishandled a snap and James Laurinaitis came up with the ball to preserve the Rams’ 13-10 victory. 49ers’ legend Jerry Rice said this week that thinks “Jim Harbaugh will not be coaching this team next year.” Rice is not alone in his thinking. It’s no secret that Harbaugh and the general manager don’t exactly get along.

It doesn’t help calm things down either with Harbaugh’s alma mater Michigan potentially looking to hire him as their next head coach. The team expects to get pass rusher Aldon Smith back from suspension as early as next week and he will help but he won’t do much for an offense that is suddenly struggling to find its’ way.

Rivers
It was not a good day in Miami for Philip Rivers and the Chargers.

San Diego (5-4) – Remember about a month ago when the San Diego Chargers had already racked up a win over defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle? There was much talk that the Chargers were prepared to take on the Denver Broncos for AFC West supremacy. There was also a great deal of discussion about the potential MVP-candidacy of quarterback Philip Rivers.

Things change quickly in life and the NFL is no different. The ‘Bolts have suffered three straight defeats and their most recent one has the potential to bury them for the remainder of the season. After divisional losses to Denver and Kansas City, the Chargers were steam-rolled by the Miami Dolphins 37-0. So bad was it, that Rivers was actually pulled from the game in the second half.

With so many teams above .500 in the AFC, the Chargers cannot afford to fall back any further.

Dallas (6-3) – The Cowboys opened the season with a frustrating home loss to San Francisco. They then reeled off six straight wins behind a powerful offensive line and the running of DeMarco Murray. Signaling just how important he is to the Cowboys, Tony Romo went down against the Washington Redskins with a back injury.

Although he returned to the game, he was obviously not the same QB and the Cowboys lost. This past Sunday Romo was forced to sit because of the injury and in his place was Brandon Weeden who struggled from the start as Dallas lost to the best team in football right now the Arizona Cardinals.

Romo has flown with the team to London for their game against Jacksonville but I don’t believe he will play. With their bye week coming after this game, Jerry Jones knows Romo’s health is of paramount concern. Should Romo continue to struggle with his health then I see the Cowboys continuing their slide.

 

Trends to Consider if You’re Wagering the NFC Championship Game

Smith
Smith
Will Aldon Smith be a difference-maker in the NFC Title game?

On Tuesday, I ran through a series of trends and numbers that you’ll want to consider if you’re going to wager on the AFC Championship game between New England and Denver. Today I do the same for the NFC.

The Teams

The San Francisco 49ers are making their 15th appearance in the NFC Title game which is the current record. Overall, they are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers of the AFC. By contrast, the Seattle Seahawks are making just their second NFC Title game appearance.

To be fair, they did reach the AFC Title game when they were members of that conference but lost to Miami. The 49ers are an impressive 6-2 on the road in NFC Title games while the Seahawks are 1-0 at home. The Seahawks have also won six straight playoff games at home after starting 0-2.

This game features two of the top three scoring defenses in the NFL. This has occurred eight times previously with the winner going on to win the Super Bowl.

Kaepernick and Wilson
Will rushing yards or passing yards be the bigger difference between Kaepernick and Wilson on Sunday?

The Quarterbacks

Colin Kaepernick is 4-1 in the postseason with his only loss coming in Super Bowl XLVII. That record also includes a very good 3-0 record on the road. His completion percentage in those five playoff games is just 57.9% with his high being 76% in last year’s NFC Championship game win over Atlanta which was on the road. Keep in mind too that one third of Kaepernick’s career interceptions have come against Seattle.

Russell Wilson has more career starts but less playoff experience. His postseason record stands at 2-1 with a win at home and a win at Washington last year. His loss came against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. Wilson’s postseason completion percentage is right at 60% with a high of 66.6% coming in the loss to the Falcons.

Kaepernick and Wilson had almost the exact same rushing yards total this season. Kaepernick rushed for 524 while Wilson was just 15 yards better at 539. The rushing similarities don’t stop there. Kaepernick carried the ball 92 times while Wilson had four more at 96. Kaepernick did have a four to one advantage in rushing touchdowns however.

The Over/Under

After opening at 40.5, the over/under for the NFC Title game has slipped to 39 points. Unlike the AFC Title game, points are liable to be at a premium on Sunday. The Seahawks have beaten San Francisco 29-3 and 41-13 in the teams’ last two meetings in Seattle. The first would have come under today’s O/U number while the game from last year in Seattle would have been over the O/U number.

Ironically, the 49ers have scored 23 points in both of their postseason wins while the Seahawks have scored 23 in their one playoff victory. Assuming both stay on that pace, the over/under would clearly be an ‘over’ selection.

In San Francisco’s case, the total has gone under in four of their last five meetings when playing Seattle. The total has also gone under in four of the Niners’ last six road games.

For Seattle, the total has gone under in four of their last five games at home and has gone the way of the under in all of the Seahawks’ last five games.

Because these two teams both allow less than 20 points per game I’m going to push for the under here.

The Coaches

Jim Harbaugh is in his third year with the 49ers and has a playoff record of 5-2 over that span. Pete Carroll has been in Seattle for four seasons and he has a playoff record of 4-4. Keep in mind he was 1-2 when he coached the New England Patriots in the 1990’s.

Harbaugh does have three road playoff victories in the last two seasons whereas Carroll is unbeaten at home in the playoffs.

The Road May Be a Friendly Place for Both Visiting Teams Today

Harbaugh
Harbaugh
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and his quarterback Colin Kaepernick face another tough road test in Carolina.

The Divisional Round of the National Football League playoffs is often the best weekend of the playoffs in terms of great games and upsets and I think today will do nothing to deter that notion.

San Francisco (-3) at Carolina – In the divisional playoffs in the Super Bowl Era, when a visiting team is favored, they have lost four of five times. Possibly a negative omen for the 49ers? San Francisco will have much less to worry about in terms of weather as they did last week in defeating Green Bay on a field goal as time expired.

They will however, have to deal with a Panthers’ team that has had a week off and has the confidence of a 10-9 win at Candlestick Park several weeks ago. Carolina has had the Niners’ number recently winning the last four times the two have faced off. Despite having a rowdy crowd on hand today, the playoff experience rides with San Francisco.

I believe the Panthers will do a much better job containing Colin Kaepernick than the Packers did but does that mean more room for Frank Gore and for the passing game? Since Michael Crabtree returned, Kaepernick has been a significantly better passer and this will also make Anquan Boldin more of a target as well.

Cam Newton’s favorite target Steve Smith has been limited in practice all week so his status is uncertain. Tight end Greg Olsen is ready to go and will be a serious factor in the Panthers’ attack. DeAngelo Williams will be the first option but Newton will have to pass in order to keep seven and eight defenders out of the box.

The Niners are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games at Carolina while the Panthers are 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven home games. Things seem to point in favor of the Panthers but I’m taking the experience of San Francisco to cover.

Woodhead
I expect Woodhead to play a huge role today against Denver.

San Diego (+9) at Denver – I honestly have a hard time believing this line considering the two games these teams already played this season. One was a seven-point Broncos’ win in San Diego and the other was a Chargers victory in Denver. Denver jumped out to a double-digit lead in their first meeting but this was also the game where the Chargers got after Peyton Manning and sent him off with a twisted ankle.

San Diego appears to be peaking at the right time offensively with a running game featuring Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. Both have picked things up in recent weeks and Woodhead continues to be a huge factor out of the backfield. If Philip Rivers throws less than 20 times as he did last week in Cincinnati than that will mean another Bolts’ victory.

For Denver, this is the start of what the Broncos hope is a shot at redemption. Last year in this round they were stunned in overtime by the Baltimore Ravens who went on to the win the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning, for all of his regular season success, is just 9-11 in his playoff career. Among those numbers is a big number eight. That’s how many times he has been one and done in the playoffs.

I think the Broncos will rely more on the running game than some imagine in this game. Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball will see more carries than usual in an attempt to keep pressure off of Manning and allow the play-action passing game to flourish.

San Diego is 8-17 straight up in their last 25 games on the road in Denver. The Broncos are 1-6-3 against the spread at home against San Diego and I think that’s a big factor considering the spread today. The Broncos will miss Von Miller and will struggle to keep Manning upright. I love the Chargers getting the nine.

Jim Harbaugh Whining Yet Again

Harbaugh
Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh is whining again and I can't say surprised.

San Francisco 49ers’ Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is known to National Football League fans as a very good football coach. He is also known as a total whiner and looks like a toddler throwing a temper-tantrum on the sideline nearly every week. Just when I thought the NFL was ready to turn a corner with the recently settled lawsuit pertaining to head injuries, I was wrong.

Coach Harbaugh was obviously upset about the comments this week by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews. The all-pro player was asked on ESPN’s Mike and Mike about playing against teams that run the read option in terms of how to stop it. His answer was straight out of previous decades of pro football and did not even create the slightest reaction from either Mike Greenberg or Mike Golic. The following were Matthews’ comments…

Matthews
Matthews' comments could have come from any defensive player.

“One of the things that the referees have told us is that when these quarterbacks carry out the fakes, they lose their right as a quarterback, a pocket-passing quarterback, the protection of a quarterback,” Matthews said. “So with that, you do have to take your shots on the quarterback, and obviously they’re too important to their offense.

“If that means they pull them out of that type of offense and make them run a traditional, drop-back, pocket-style offense, I think that’s exactly what we’re going for. So you want to put hits as early and often on the quarterback and make them uncomfortable.”

What Matthews said is no different than the late Raiders’ coach and owner Al Davis used to tell his team. “The other team’s quarterback must go down.” I don’t recall opposing coaches whining about that statement. The difference between the two ideas that Davis’ comments were in general and Matthews’ were in regard to a specific offensive play.

Harbaugh took Matthews’ comments as if he were stating that Niners’ QB Colin Kaepernick was the one being targeted and then when on to compare what was said to Bounty Gate.

According to the rules on hitting a quarterback, if he should be part of such a play where he is carrying out a fake, and this what QBs who run the read-option do, they are allowed to be hit. Pretty plain and simple as far as I’m concerned.

Packers’ Head Coach Mike McCarthy added, “The reality is, the quarterback is part of the option,” McCarthy said. “There’s three options obviously: the quarterback, the dive and the pitch. The ability to go tackle that player is obviously within the rules.”

That’s it right there in a nice, tidy nutshell but just watch. I can almost guarantee that one of the Packers will get nailed for unnecessary roughness for hitting Kaepernick. The league, despite settling its’ concussion lawsuit with former players, will continue to the defense out of the game and make it more and more simple for the offense to score points and score them at will.

In some ways what Harbaugh is doing is no different than an NBA coach talking about his guys getting pounded on by a more aggressive team in the hopes that the officials hear it and then act on it. No one is accusing Harbaugh of being stupid here, but on the heels of the concussion settlement, this just sounds like typical whining.

If the NFL begins to eliminate hitting the quarterback on the read-option then the defense may as well not bother showing up for games. At this point, what more could the league take away from them?

Another sad commentary on the direction of this once proud league.

 

Early NFL MVP Candidates

Rodgers
Rodgers
Rodgers should benefit from an improved running game and put up big numbers.

Believe it or not it’s just a matter of hours before some National Football League teams open training camp in preparation for the 2013 season. Unlike college football, every team in professional football enters the season with aspirations of playing for a championship regardless of how they fared last year.

Last season, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was the MVP despite coming off an ACL tear just nine months prior. Peterson’s 2,000 yard season was one of the best in the history of the game and now comes the hard part for Peterson. Can he top last season?

There are any number of candidates to choose from so I’m going to break the favorites listed as such by our friends at Bovada. I’m going to tell you why they could win it and why they might not.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, 13-2 Why He Wins? Rodgers will have Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson as well as tight end Jermichael Finley to throw to and the running game will be better with rookies Eddy Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. Why He Doesn’t? The offensive line lacks improvement and Rodgers runs for his life for a second-straight season.

1. Peyton Manning, Denver, 13-2 Why He Wins? Because he’s Peyton Manning! He actually has a solid receiving corps that got better with Wes Welker joining the team. I expect the schedule to offer plenty of opportunities for Manning to have big numbers. Why He Doesn’t? If the running game slips, Manning will not be as effective. He isn’t 26 anymore either and the injury concern is always there.

Brees
Brees will have big numbers but his defense could cost him a shot at the MVP.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 10-1 Why He Wins? I have no doubts that Brees and Head Coach Sean Payton will treat this season as a form of ‘revenge’ tour after “BountyGate.” Brees has a mutlitude of weapons and a nice runing game as well. Why He Doesn’t?  If the Saints’ defense doesn’t improve, Brees could be forced to throw more than he wants to and that means turnovers.

3. Tom Brady, New England, 10-1 Why He Wins? Brady has proven that he works well with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and even despite the issues with Gronk and Aaron Hernandez, Brady will still elevate the play of others around him. Why He Doesn’t? Last seasons’ running game was a surprise. If that doesn’t return, Brady will not be able to pass this team to victory as he has in the past.

5. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco, 12-1 Why He Wins? Kaepernick has really good talent around him and with Anquan Boldin, he has a veteran target who will make him look even better. Throw in the running game and Vernon Davis and Kaepernick could have an amazing season. Why He Doesn’t? Many teams this offseason spent countless hours working to stop the spread option. That, along with the Niners being the hunted may have an impact on his play.

6. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, 15-1 Why He Wins? Because he’ll have the sentimental vote that’s why. Can you imagine if he rushes for another 1,800 plus yards? On a rebuilt knee? Peterson thinks he can eclipse 2,000 again. Why He Can’t? The schedule for one thing. The Vikes play the AFC North where all four teams are solid against the run and no back has ever rushed for 2,000 in consecutive seasons.

Other Guys to Consider… Matt Ryan, Atlanta 15-1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit, 20-1. Both guys will put up big numbers.

Guys I’m Not Touching… Robert Griffin III, Washington, 18-1. Health is a major concern. Matthew Stafford, Detroit, 25-1. Until he can be more efficient with the ball, the turnovers will kill his chances despite monster yards.

Who Wins? I think Brees makes a strong run at it, but I have to go with Rodgers who will benefit from a more diverse offensive attack and put up huge and efficient numbers.

Super Bowl Sunday Betting Tips

Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday. Finally.

After a story-rich season that provided surprise after surprise, the NFL finally reaches its marquee game. It’s taken 22 weeks to get here, but now the 75,000– I would say fans but let’s face it, the corporate numbers eliminates the use of that particular term – in attendance and the millions of TV viewers get the chance to hear Alicia Keys belt out the national anthem, Beyonce shake her rump at halftime whilst lip-syncing (possibly), and those $4 million commercials.

Oh and there’s also the small matter of the game between Baltimore and San Francisco.

Welcome to Super Bowl XLVII: the event, the spectacle, the game nobody can pick.

It’s been a long time since a Super Bowl winner was this hard to pick. Ordinarily, there’s a decisive advantage for one team. That team might not live up to that advantage, but there’s an advantage nonetheless. But this year…

Trying to separate the Niners (the team of the stats) and the Ravens (the team of destiny) has been a nightmare. Numbers (they never lie, you know?) favor San Francisco, but Baltimore has been on a crusade to upset everybody this postseason.  Then there’s history. Three of the last five Super Bowls have gone to the underdog. It’s becoming common place to expect the unexpected.

So, who do you pick?

If you’ve waited this long to pick your side, fear not. You’re not the only one. For now, let’s see what Casino Review can conjure up for you.

 

Opening Lines

Two weeks ago, the line opened with San Francisco as the favorite, with the spread at 5. The total opened at 49.

 

Current Lines

Sunday morning sees the spread at four with most bookies, although Bet Online has it at 3.5. The total is 47.5 with most online sites, although Bovada has it at 48.

 

Betting Straight Up

Statistically speaking, San Francisco (11-4-1, 2-0 postseason) has a slight advantage when it comes to the numbers.

Offensively, the Niners compiled more total yards this season, including a whopping 155.7 rushing yards per game (4th in the league). Towards the end of the season – the part where Colin Kaepernick took over quarterbacking duties – the Niners really started putting numbers up.

Baltimore (10-6, 3-0 postseason) was no offensive slouch though. The Ravens outranked the Niners in passing yards and points per game, although the one tenth of a point difference proved these sides would need a well-oiled crowbar to separate them.

These trends have continued during the postseason, although San Francisco has scored 6½ more than the Ravens.

Defensively, San Francisco was a juggernaut. The side limited teams to just 17.1 points per game, second to only Seattle in the regular season. It was the sort of defense we’ve come to expect of Baltimore, only this year’s Baltimore side was middle of the pack when it came to defense. Until this postseason.

Baltimore has allowed just 19 points per game in its three playoff games, while San Francisco has allowed 27.5. It appears that the feared Baltimore defense (and Ray Lewis) turned up at just the right time.

Historically speaking, San Francisco has been to five Super Bowls and won all five. That includes Super Bowl XXIV (Jan. 28, 1990), a game in which the Niners defeated Denver 55-10 at the Super Dome in New Orleans, making for the most lopsided in Super Bowl history.

Baltimore has made one Super Bowl appearance, defeating the New York Giants 34-7 at Super Bowl XXXV (Jan. 28, 2001). One team’s undefeated Super Bowl streak is coming to an end tonight.

Baltimore currently owns a three-game winning streak over San Francisco, with the average game score coming out at 19-6. Some would argue that Baltimore hasn’t faced the 49ers side currently on show, and in terms of the Kaepernick offense, that’s true, but remember: the Ravens took down the Niners last season (Nov. 24, 2011) 16-6. Add to that the fact that San Francisco has only beaten Baltimore once (Nov. 17, 1996; a team that included Steve Young and Jerry Rice) and you have an historical advantage for Baltimore.

Want the waters to get even murkier?

Consider that the NFC representative has the superior record (23-19 since 1970 merger) in the Super Bowl, has won three straight, and is 18-5 when beginning the game as favorite, you surely have to come down in favor of the Niners, right?

But then again, the underdog has won four of the last five Super Bowl games and eight of the last 11. Add to that, the AFC has gone 9-6 in the Super Bowl since snapping a 13-game losing streak in 1998 and things suddenly look to be favorable to Baltimore.

See what we mean by impossible to pick?

And all of this without considering those unfathomable anomalies: will Ray Lewis win a Super Bowl in his final season? Will Colin Kaepernick finish off a fairy tale story? Will an injury play a part? Which Harbaugh brother has the advantage? Or any number of other factors that could impact the game.

So your pick essentially becomes a tossup. Which brings us to…

Take: BALTIMORE – There’s just something about this team that draws you to it. Huge underdog wins against Denver and New England, as well as experience, gives the Ravens a slight edge. An almost indecipherable edge in all fairness, but this just seems like the Ravens’ year now. It certainly didn’t earlier in the year.

 

Betting Against the Spread

Picking Baltimore means we’re automatically taking the side to cover the spread. But if you still inching towards San Francisco, here’re the numbers you need to know.

San Francisco was 9-7-0 against the spread during the regular season. The Niners covered the spread in both playoff games also.

Baltimore recorded a 6-9-1 tally against the spread during the regular season, but the Ravens have gone on to cover the spread in all three postseason games, including two as the underdog.

Historically, the favorite is 26-18-0 against the spread. On only six occasions has the favorite won the game and failed to cover. The favorite is 5-3-1 ATS when the Super Bowl is played in New Orleans. Those are advantages that favor San Francisco, and well worth considering if you’re going to take the Niners straight up.

In this instance, we’re taking Baltimore to be the 14th underdog to cover and win outright.

Take: BALTIMORE – By default.

 

Betting the Total

The total is a really bitch to predict. Consider this; the total has gone over in 22 Super Bowls and under in 23. The more keen-eyed of you will realize that only equates to 45 of the 46 Super Bowl games. Well, there was no total in the first Super Bowl.

During the regular season, San Francisco was 10-6-0 in favor of the total going over. The total has also gone over in both games involving the 49ers this postseason. All told, San Francisco has seen the total go over 66.7 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, Baltimore was 8-7-1 in favor of the over during the regular season. This postseason has seen two Ravens games (vs. Indianapolis, at New England) go under, with one (at Denver) going over. All told, the Ravens have seen the total go over 47.4 percent of the time, the same as it has gone under.

Take: UNDER – Both teams may have favored the over this season but the two defenses take the field in New Orleans can shut a game down. The two previous playoff rounds have seen the total go over in all games, which suggests the under is about to rear its ugly head. There’s a historical presence here also: six of the nine Super Bowl games played in the Big Easy have seen the total go under. Meanwhile, six of the last eight Super Bowls have also seen the total go under. Smart bettors should be thinking knockdown, drag out affair, not offensive spectacle.

 

So there you have it. Now all that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy the final football game of the season.

Kaepernick Could Become Most Bet-On Player in Super Bowl History

Colin Kaepernick has certainly earned his share of fans during the San Francisco 49ers’ recent postseason run and then some, as the first-year starter has dazzled spectators with record-setting games and more controlled performances. Unsurprisingly, he’s been a hit with bettors this season too, as his popularity with folks and prop betting is beginning to border on incredible territory.

According to Las Vegas insider Jimmy Vaccaro of William Hill, via ESPN.com, Kaepernick could become the most bet-on player in Super Bowl history next weekend if his popularity among bettors continues to grow.

“We put 10 props on him last week and generated more than $100,000 in bets,” Vaccaro said. “To put that in perspective, a good prop is when you can draw $2,500 to $5,000 in bets.”

Kaepernick is doing good business for sportsbooks

That number is likely to increase by a significant margin, as Vaccaro says William Hill plans to put 20 props on Kaepernick for the Super Bowl, including bets like: What Kaepernick throw first a touchdown or interception? Will Kaepernick have 100 yards rushing and 300 yards passing?

Bovada.lv already has 19 props on Kaepernick in many of the same categories and has him listed as the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl MVP award at 8/5.

“But I’ve never seen interest on prop bets like I’ve seen with Kaepernick,” Vaccaro said. “We think we can do $300,000 in Kaepernick prop bets alone, and that’s a conservative estimate. No one has ever come close to that number.”

Vaccaro says the most bet-on player for the Super Bowl since the props were invented after Super Bowl XX was Peyton Manning, but it looks like those records will be shattered in a week’s time.

Kaepernick’s popularity is obviously mostly derived from his amazing skill on the field, but experts think it also has to do with the fact that he played college ball at the University of Nevada in Reno, which is of course, a prolific gambling town.

With so many sportsbooks offering a variety of props on Kaepernick and other star players, you’ll want to get in on the action before we have to wait a whole year for football and football prop bets to return. And why not be a part of sports gaming history by putting a bet on a Kaepernick prop?

Kaepernick Favorite to Win Super Bowl MVP

Having replaced Alex Smith as San Francisco's starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick is now favorite to win the Super Bowl MVP award.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the bookmakers’ favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award at Super Bowl XLVII.

Bookmakers have given the second-year triggerman odds of 7/4 to lift the Pete Rozelle Trophy following the game, which takes place at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans, La., on Feb 3.

Kaepernick is closely followed by his Baltimore counterpart, Joe Flacco, who has been assigned 5/2 odds of being named MVP.

The fact that the two quarterbacks are favorites to win the award is hardly surprising. In the 46 previous Super Bowl games, 25 have seen the quarterback named the star player. That’s 54 percent of the time.

The previous three games, and five of the last six, have seen the quarterback pick up the award. Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning won the accolade following last year’s game in Indianapolis.

In those 25 instances, all 25 have come from the winning side. In fact, only one player has ever been named MVP on a losing side; linebacker Chuck Howley’s Dallas Cowboys lost to the Baltimore Colts at Super Bowl V in 1971, the first game following the AFL-NFL merger.

With San Francisco currently a four-point favorite, Kaepernick therefore is the leading candidate for the roll.

As an aside, Alex Smith, San Francisco’s starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, has been given odds of 100/1 to win the award. An early injury to Kaepernick could see the “game manager” come into the game and steal the award. That might just be worth a small wager.

No. 3 on the list is Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis. Having returned from injury in time for the postseason, Lewis has led his side to three straight playoff victories, two of which came with the Ravens lengthy underdogs. It would be somewhat fitting for Lewis to win the accolade ahead of his impending retirement, particularly after what he has meant to this Baltimore side.

History might not favor Lewis though. Defensive players have only won the award seven times, although the Dallas pairing of Harvey Martin and Randy White shared the award following Super Bowl XII in 1978, meaning eight players have been named MVP. That’s just 15 percent of all recipients.

On top of that, only two linebackers have ever won the award. Firstly, the aforementioned Chuck Howley in Super Bowl V and secondly, wait for it, Ray Lewis himself in Super Bowl XXXV. Were he to be named MVP, Lewis would be the first defensive player to be named Super Bowl MVP more than once.

Odds of Lewis lifting the Pete Rozelle Trophy currently stand at 6/1.

The next two spots on bookmakers’ lists are taken up by running backs Frank Gore (17/2) and Ray Rice (12/1) respectively.

Gore was the focus of San Francisco’s offense last season, but this year the emergence of Kaepernick as a running threat has loosened the load for the long-time Niner. Rice was the league’s standout running back last season, but Baltimore’s regular season woes saw the former Rutgers man limited in what he could do this season. Whilst neither had their best season, both could break out in the last remaining game of the season, something history is well aware of.

A running back has won the Super Bowl MVP award on a total of seven occasions. That’s 15 percent of the time. That puts the position second to only the quarterback. However, the last running back to win the award was Denver’s Terrell Davis in Super Bowl XXXII following the 1997 season.

Not only is 15 years a long time but we also live in the age of the quarterback, which makes either running back less of an appealing option.

San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree (16/1) is the favored wide receiver heading in to the game, although Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin (18/1) and Torrey Smith (20/1) are not that far behind.

Wide receiver is the third most prosperous position in regards to Super Bowl MVP voting. A wide receiver has taken home the award on six occasions, or 13 percent of the time. The last player to achieve the feat was Santonio Holmes, who in 2009 joined his Pittsburgh teammate Heinz Ward (2006) as a recipient of the award.

Outside of the three main skill positions things look a little bleaker.

Ravens free safety Ed Reed is considered 33/1 to win the award. A safety has won the award twice in history (four percent of the time); Jake Scott (Miami) in 1973 and Dexter Jackson (Tampa Bay) in 2003.

San Francisco’s Vernon Davis is the highest rated tight end (22/1) but in order for him to win the award, he’d need to make history as no tight end has ever been named Super Bowl MVP.

Likewise, no kicker has ever been awarded the accolade, which is bad news for San Francisco’s David Akers (66/1) and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker (75/1).

Other positions to have historically won the award are defensive end (twice), cornerback (once), and kick returner (once).

 

Odds to Win Super Bowl XLVII MVP

Conference Championship NFL Betting Tips

Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens will look to score an upset for the second straight week, as they travel to New England to face the Patriots.

So here we are. It’s game day in the NFL and by the time Sunday rolls into Monday we’ll know the two teams going to New Orleans in two weeks to battle for the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Whilst this weekend won’t feature a Denver Broncos side many expected to win it all just one week ago,  nor will it feature a big do-over matchup between Green  Bay and Seattle – whose Week 3 matchup still sits on the NFL’s results page like an ugly blot – it will feature two very intriguing matchups. That’s two matchups that look easy to pick on the surface, but root around and you’ll find it’s anything but.

Read on to find out how Casino Review will be betting this week, and then take our picks straight to your bookie.

 

San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons

3:00 PM ET

The ongoing indifference to Atlanta (14-3, 8-1 home) has continued this week with bettors and experts alike shirking the Falcons in favor of a more popular side. The Falcons won an opening postseason game for the first time in four attempts last week, knocking off a fan-favorite Seattle side.

San Francisco (12-4-1, 5-3 road) provided an offensive display to rival any that came before it, handing the Green Bay Packers a heavy defeat, with quarterback Colin Kaepernick winning his first ever playoff start. The Niners will look to replicate that result and head to the Super Bowl for the first time since the end of the 1994 season.

Lost in the haze of the Atlanta bashing that has gone on this season is the advantage the historical Falcons take into the game.

Atlanta won the only postseason meeting between the two sides, a 20-18 affair in Jan. 1999. The Falcons went to the Super Bowl that year. Atlanta also owns a 19-18-1 advantage in the head-to-head series when playing in the Georgia city. Granted, one game is not much of an advantage, but this far into the season, any advantage is sought out regardless of how slim it might be.

The Falcons have won two straight against the Niners in Atlanta, with San Francisco’s last win coming on Oct. 14, 2001.

Whilst Atlanta has gone 1-1 in conference championship games, San Francisco has con 5-7. Granted, all five wins have preceded a Super Bowl victory, but that’s still a losing record. Additionally, the Niners are 1-3 in conference championship games played on the road. Only a 1989 win over Chicago saw the side victorious. The win in Chicago was actually the Niners’ last road playoff win; the team has gone 0-5 since.

In the regular season the Falcons had higher averages in points scored, total yards, and passing yards than the Niners. Yes, San Francisco’s bully defense ranked higher, but Atlanta was still excellent when it came to preventing teams scoring, allowing just 18.7 points per game, good enough for fifth in the league.

So, those people that thing Atlanta is out of this one before it even starts might want to reconsider.

Now, will Atlanta win?

The Falcons will be up against a San Francisco side that has been on fire of late. The team has won two straight and four of the last five, and the move at quarterback – with Kaepernick replacing Alex Smith – has sparked a more offensive-minded team; an offensive-minded team that happens to be a beast defensively. Well, except last week, and that’s where San Francisco might come unstuck.

We all know the Packers can score, but Atlanta was right behind Green Bay in points scored this season, so the Niners should beware.

Atlanta however has not fared well against dual threat quarterbacks, with Cam Newton and Russell Wilson having solid outings against the Falcons this side. Injury may have been the only thing stopping Robert Griffin III from having a big day also.

Odds: San Francisco opened as a three-point favorite on the road this weekend, but bettors like the Niners and that number has risen to five. The over/under has risen also, increasing from 47½ at opening to 49½ on game day.

Take: SAN FRANCISCO – The Niners came so close to a Super Bowl appearance last year, and this year, the team is better. More versatile than the 2011 side, expect the Niners to give Atlanta a heavy dose of the running game, something the Falcons were not great against this season. While The Falcons showed a rare glimpse of a running game last weekend, expect the Niners to quash any such attempt this week. This game is likely to be close, but take the Niners to cover the spread by the end of the game, with the total going over.

 

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

6:30 PM ET

In a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game, Baltimore (12-6, 5-4 road) makes the trip north to New England (13-4, 7-2 home).

The Patriots made short work of the Texans last week, covering a 10-point spread. Bettors pounded that action, with the hapless Houston side entering the game more like a victim than a contender. Whilst the spread has risen to an identical number, bettors are less sure that New England can handle the Ravens in a similar manner.

Baltimore may have crawled to the end of the regular season with four losses from five, but a revitalized side that features Ray Lewis has taken care of business this postseason. Last week’s shock upset in Denver has many wondering if this Ravens side is destined for a Super Bowl win. Of course, destiny plays no part in sports betting.

During this postseason, Baltimore has improved on most of its offensive stats, including points scored, total yards, passing yards, and rushing yards. Believe it or not, the Ravens average more offensive yards per game than the Patriots this postseason.

But the Ravens will be up against history.

New England is 7-1 in conference championship games. That one loss came against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 21, 2007.

Conversely, Baltimore is 1-2 in conference championship games, defeating Oakland on the way to Super Bowl XXXV, and losing to Pittsburgh and New England.

New England is 4-0 in conference games played at home.

Both sides have scored one victory against the other in the postseason.

Odds: New England opened as 7½-point favorites, but that number has risen to 10. The over/under is 52, up from 51 at opening.

Take: NEW ENGLAND – Whilst there is undeniably an urge to go with Baltimore in this one, at the end of the day, New England should get out alive. The Ravens defeated the Patriots 31-30 on Sep. 23, but this New England side has found form since then. Take the Ravens to cover the spread, as they have done in both postseason games against the Patriots. Take the total to go over, as has been the trend for both these sides this season.

NFL Divisional Playoffs: Saturday Betting Tips

Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers will be on upset alert on Saturday as the veteran Green Bay Packers - a team that has had San Francisco's number over the years - arrives at Candlestick Park.

The NFL reaches the divisional round of the playoffs on Saturday, with eight teams looking to advance to the conference championship round. Four of those teams will be in action Saturday.

With last week’s four wildcard fixtures all going with the bookies’ favorites, bettors will be looking for an underdog team to emerge from the pack this weekend. If an underdog is to run out winners, it’ll have to do so on the road as all four home sides are favored heading into play.

Casino Review takes a look at Saturday’s fixtures, starting with the No. 1 ranked team in the AFC.

 

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

4:30 PM ET

After a humiliating 34-17 defeat at home to the Broncos in Week 15, Baltimore (11-6, 4-4 road) will look to make a better showing of itself in this weekend’s divisional opener.

Denver (13-3, 7-1 home) meanwhile will look to extend an 11-game win streak – its’ longest since John Elway was slinging the ball on the way to Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII – and move to within one game of this year’s Super Bowl. At 11/4 to lift the Lombardi trophy, odds makers certainly expect the Broncos to do just that.

The return of Ray Lewis last weekend certainly helped the Baltimore defense, which limited Indianapolis to just nine points. Whether that defense can handle Peyton Manning’s high-scoring offense remains to be seen.

At 30.1 points per game, Manning and the Broncos are second to New England in scoring this season. The Broncos are fourth in the league in total yards (397.9 YPG), something the Ravens can only dream of.

Baltimore has spluttered on offense this season, ranking mid table in most major offensive categories. A defense that has been littered with injuries has not been its usual savior either. Denver however has one of the very best defenses in the league, ranking in the league’s top four in opponents points, yards, passing yards, and rushing yards.

Baltimore faces added pressure from the location of this matchup. The Ravens, like so many other sides, have struggled in the Mile High City, recording a 1-3 record. It has been more than 11 years since the side won in Denver.

The Ravens will look to history for a booster though. As well as being 6-4 all-time against the Broncos, the Ravens won the only previous playoff meeting between these sides, a 21-3 win on Dec. 31, 2000. That season saw the Ravens win the Super Bowl.

The Ravens could get an assist from the weather also. With game time temperatures expected to be in the 20s, the Maryland side will hope that Manning continues his struggles in cold weather during the playoffs, where he is 0-3 in games with a -40 degree temperature. You can guarantee that Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh has been quick to point out Peyton Manning’s 9-10 record in the postseason to his team.

Odds: Denver is an overwhelming favorite in this one. The spread opened at 9½ and has subsequently risen to 10. The total opened at 44½, but has bumped up a point to 45½.

Take: DENVER – Harbaugh can point out all of the deficiencies he likes but the simple truth is this is a Broncos side that doesn’t look like it can lose. With a 7-1 home record, the Broncos are winning games in the Mile High City by an average of 16 points. Manning looks rejuvenated and has a terrific supporting cast, whilst Baltimore barely looks to have it all together. That loss in December gives few people faith in the Ravens either. Denver (11-4-1 ATS) is the best team in the league at covering the spread, and even though 10 points is a sizeable amount, take the Broncos to cover. So far this postseason, the total has gone under in every game. This may be your best chance to take the over with the free-scoring Broncos.

 

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

8:00 PM ET

Whilst much of the talk this week has focused on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers returning to Northern California and San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick making his first playoff start against the team he used to root for, something else has fallen by the wayside; this is the return of one of the best playoff rivalries in football.

The Packers and Niners met during four consecutive playoff runs between 1996 and 1999. Green Bay won the first three, including a 35-14 victory in 1997 on the way to winning Super Bowl XXXI. The two sides met again in 2002, with the Packers recording a fourth win in five meetings.

Now, the 2012 versions of these teams will look to put this rivalry back on the map.

Green Bay (12-5, 4-4 road) secured a relatively easy win over Minnesota last weekend, but there’ll be no such cakewalks this weekend. San Francisco (11-4-1, 6-1-1 home) has played tough all season, is well-rested, and comes into this game with bragging rights; the Niners defeated Green Bay 30-22 on opening day.

Much has changed for both sides since that late September meeting. Green Bay has found some stability, and has won 10 of its last 12. San Francisco is fielding a different quarterback, one that the Packers will not be able to get to as easy as Alex Smith.

The Packers – 34-27-1 all-time against the Niners – will be confident that San Francisco is there for the taking. The Niners struggled somewhat down the stretch, narrowly hanging onto the NFC West crown after outlasting a resurgent Seattle side. The Packers also have the motivation to make it to the NFC Championship Game, and a potential rematch against those very Seahawks. Retribution, and real refs, will be on the mind if that showdown takes place.

The Packers’ offense – which ranks fifth in the league in scoring – will square-off against a tough San Francisco defense, which gave up just 17.1 points per game this season. Only Seattle gave up fewer. The Niners also rank in the top four in total yards, passing yards, and rushing yards allowed.

Odds: San Francisco is a three-point favorite at home, a number that has remained constant since opening. The total stands at 45.

Take: GREEN BAY – Whilst many have had San Francisco earmarked as NFC champions for much of the season, Green Bay has the pedigree, not to mention experience, to win this won. The Packers had won 13 of their last 14 meetings with the Niners before this season’s loss, and that veteran defense will be only too happy to take its chances against an inexperienced Kaepernick. In addition to the upset win, take the total to go over. San Francisco has taken the total over 10 times this season, and Green Bay certainly has the firepower to add to those chances.