NFL Power Rankings for Week 3 (Sept. 18, 2014)

Denver Broncos v Buffalo BillsAre the Buffalo Bills the NFL’s surprise team this year? Few would have guessed this coming into the season since the Bills haven’t made the playoffs in 14 seasons, and haven’t had a winning record in 9 years. But they are certainly looking the part of a changed team after beating Chicago on the road, and walloping Miami 29-10 last week.

Buffalo faces yet another good opponent in San Diego, and this matchup will reveal more about just how much they’ve improved. The Bills have already improved quite a bit in our power rankings as they represent the biggest jump.

1. Denver Broncos (2-0); beat Kansas City 24-17, moves up one spot – Few expected the Broncos to be challenged at home after the way that Kansas City played in Week 1. This was especially the case since the team was missing Jamaal Charles. Nevertheless, give Denver credit for beating a division rival and maintaining their unblemished mark.

2. Seattle Seahawks (1-1); lost to San Diego 30-21, drops one spot – A bit of a disappointment here as Seattle couldn’t seem to cover Antonio Gates as he caught three touchdown passes. Of course, Percy Harvin’s second-quarter fumble didn’t help matters – this was a huge momentum-shifter. But while the defending Super Bowl champs’ bid for perfection may have ended early, a road loss to San Diego is no reason to get alarmed.

3. New England Patriots (1-1); beat Minnesota 30-7, moves up two spots – With the NFC’s elites looking rather mediocre last weekend, we see another AFC team near the top. New England was great on both sides of the ball – intercepting Matt Cassel four times – en route to a blowout. Stevan Ridley showed that he’s not in Bill Belichick’s doghouse by rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown.

darren-sproles-eagles4. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0); beat Indianapolis 30-27, moves up two spots – Nick Foles had yet another poor first-half performance, only to help the team come roaring back in the second half. The Eagles deserve praise for fighting back in what looked like a Colts victory. Darren Sproles was more than impressive out of the backfield, racking up 152 receiving yards on just seven catches.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0); beat Atlanta Falcons 24-10, moves up two spots – The Falcons are a much-improved team, which is why this is a very good victory for Cincinnati – especially without A.J. Green on the field. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have quickly made their case for being the league’s top young backfield. And let us not forget how dominant the defense was against Atlanta.

6. San Francisco 49ers (1-1); lost to Chicago Bears 28-20, drops three spots – How San Francisco lost this one is beyond us. They jumped out to a 17-0 lead and were ahead 20-7 going into the fourth quarter. However, five turnovers, 16 penalties and a big drop near the end doomed San Francisco. Oh yeah…and they also let Jay Cutler throw three touchdowns in the last quarter. We pity the Niners at practice this week with Jim Harbaugh.

7. Green Bay Packers (1-1); beat New York Jets 31-24, moves up one spot – The Packers offense couldn’t have started off any slower, and the defense couldn’t have started any worse. Green Bay finally put two and a half quarters of good football together, capped off by Jordy Nelson’s 80-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. His 209 receiving yards were the third most in a game in Packers’ history.

8. Carolina Panthers (2-0); beat Detroit 24-7, moves up two spots – Against the Giants in Week 1, Detroit’s offense looked unstoppable. Against the Panthers, they looked lost, which is only a testament to how dominant Carolina’s front seven is. Greg Hardy going on the exempt list until at least mid-November really hurts. However, this defense isn’t all about Hardy, as just 21 points allowed and 6 forced turnovers through two games indicate.

9. New Orleans Saints (0-2); lost to Cleveland Browns 26-24, drops five spots – The Saints, who as always came into this season with Super Bowl aspirations, couldn’t have envisioned a worse start to the season. The offense was sluggish in the beginning, and the defense failed to make plays when it mattered. Case in point: the Saints’ pass defense on Andrew Hawkins’ big reception at the end that set up a game-winning field goal.

jay-cutler-bears10. Chicago Bears (1-1); beat San Francisco 28-20, moves up two spots – The Bears played one great quarter of football and took advantage of a San Francisco team that was hellbent on beating itself. So we’re not ready to predict a Super Bowl parade in Chicago just yet. Nevertheless, this was a very good victory for this team, especially stepping up when so many of their defenders went down with injuries.

11. Arizona Cardinals (2-0); beat New York Giants 25-14, moves up two spots – Playing a terrible Giants team allowed Arizona to survive both their first game without Carson Palmer and a road contest. This team will be relying much more on Andre Ellington now that Jonathan Dwyer has become the latest NFL player embroiled in a domestic abuse case.

12. Indianapolis Colts (0-2); lost to Philadelphia Eagles 30-27, drops three spots – Bad officiating and poor play-calling cost the Colts what should have been a victory. The decision to run the first two downs on Indianapolis’ last drive was baffling. They should get a victory this week in Jacksonville, however, the Colts are still starting off in an 0-2 hole.

13. San Diego Chargers (1-1); beat Seattle Seahawks, moves up two spots – There weren’t may people who called the win over Seattle. As mentioned in the introduction, Gates had an amazing day, helping Philip Rivers to also finish well with 287 yards and three touchdowns. They’ll now head out to Buffalo with plenty of confidence after beating the defending champs.

14. Buffalo Bills (2-0); beat Miami Dolphins 29-10, moves up 12 spots – Like everybody else, we underrated Buffalo coming into the season and thought that their win in Chicago was a fluke. But then they came out and dismantled our darkhorse favorite for the AFC East crown. C.J. Spiller showed just why he’s so dangerous on a 102-yard kickoff return while Sammy Watkins caught 8 passes for 117 yards and a TD.

bernard-pierce-ravens-201415. Baltimore Ravens (1-1); beat Pittsburgh Steelers 26-16, moves up two spots – So much for Bernard Pierce being benched for ineffectiveness as he rushed 22 times for 96 yards. Justin Forsett added eight carries for 56 yards, completing a backfield that could make fans forget Ray Rice.

16. Miami Dolphins (1-1); lost to Buffalo Bills 29-10, drops two spots – After a huge win over New England, Miami followed this up with a dud against the Bills. Their coverage on Spiller’s kickoff return was poor at best. And now they have to contend with Knowshon Moreno’s elbow injury. Hopefully this doesn’t turn into last year’s situation, where the team can’t string together consistent performances.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1); lost to Baltimore Ravens 26-6, drops six spots – A highly disappointing performance on both sides of the ball for Pittsburgh – especially from their lineman. The three turnovers added to the dismal offensive output while the linebackers and safeties got burned several times in coverage. Is this just another 8-8 Steelers team?

18. Atlanta Falcons (1-1); lost to Cincinnati Bengals 24-10, drops two spots – We expect the Falcons to be a player in the NFC South race. But after putting up little fight against Cincinnati, they haven’t shown too much so far. Matt Ryan was under pressure from a strong Bengals front seven all game, leading to 24-for-44 passing, three interceptions and being sacked three times. With no real running threat, Atlanta is a team that will live and die by the pass.

19. Detroit Lions (1-1); lost to Carolina Panthers 24-7, drops one spot – It seemed that nothing was really working for Detroit last Sunday. Their run game was stuffed and Matt Stafford didn’t get many good looks downfield. Give the nasty Carolina defense some credit here, but also consider the Lions’ three turnovers.

alex-smith-kansas-city20. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2); lost to Denver 24-17, drops two spots – We weren’t expecting big things from the Chiefs this season. But their performance against Denver without Jamaal Charles was commendable. After a disastrous three-interception outing in Week 1, Alex Smith turned in a strong, scrappy effort with 255 passing yards and 42 rushing yards. He’ll have to do far more of this with Charles out.

21. New York Jets (1-1); lost to Green Bay 31-24, drops one spot – Even when Geno Smith led the Jets to an early 21-3 lead over Green Bay, many fans probably had a feeling that the Packers would have the last laugh. And that’s exactly what happened as the Packers stormed back from an 18-point deficit to beat the hapless Jets. To add insult to injury, Jeremy Kerley’s game-tying, 37-yard touchdown catch was wiped out because New York called a timeout from the sidelines.

22. Dallas Cowboys (0-1); beat Tennessee 26-10, moves up six spots – Maybe Dallas isn’t going to be so bad this year. DeMarco Murray powered his way to 167 yards and a TD on just 29 carries. With such a balanced offense, Tony Romo was better able to manage the game and, most importantly, avoid throwing any interceptions.

23. St. Louis (1-1); beat Tampa Bay 19-17, moves up one spot – All bets were off on Austin Davis leading the Rams to a victory on the road. However, in his first-ever start, Davis turned in a decent game by completing 22-of-29 passes for 235 yards. Most importantly, he didn’t throw any interceptions and got the team in position for a TD and four field goals.

24. Houston Texans (2-0); beat Oakland 30-14, moves up one spot – If you’ll remember, the Texas started 2-0 last year, only to lose the next 14 games. Somehow, though, we feel that this year is different. This is especially the case if Arian Foster stays healthy, as he rushed for 138 yards and a score on 28 carries. But there needs to be some victories over teams besides the Skins and Raiders before they move up.

25. Tennessee Titans (1-1); lost to Dallas Cowboys 26-10, drops four spots – Tennessee’s run defense, which held up so well against the Chiefs, was absolutely obliterated by Dallas. The Boys rushed for over 200 yards, with Murray leading the way during his 167-yard effort. Meanwhile, the Titans rushed just 13 times total, which pretty much tells you everything about why Tennessee was dominated at home.

26. Minnesota Vikings (1-1); lost to New England 30-7, drops three spots – Losing Adrian Peterson to a child abuse case comes at a very bad time for the Vikings. Now opposing defenses can virtually ignore the run game, or force Matt Cassel to beat them…it doesn’t really matter.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2); lost to St. Louis 19-17, drops five spots – In most cases, having a rusher like Bobby Rainey go for 144 yards on just 22 carries is a recipe for victory. But that wasn’t the case for Tampa Bay as they found a way to lose this one. It seems like they’re going to find a lot of ways to lose in 2014.

28. Cleveland Browns (1-1); beat New Orleans 26-24, moves up one spot – The defense played very well against the Saints’ dynamic offense, not allowing Drew Brees many opportunities. Plus the rookie backfield of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell continues to carry the load, as evidenced by their combined 30 carries and 122 yards. We don’t foresee the playoffs this year, however, Cleveland has refused to roll over for superior opponents.

29. Washington Redskins (1-1); beat Jacksonville Jaguars 41-10, moves up two spots – Maybe it’s that they played the Jacksonville Jaguars, maybe it’s Kirk Cousins finally taking over the quarterback reigns (or a lot of both), but Washington looked pretty good in this blowout. Cousins threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns while Alfred Morris rushed for 85 yards and another pair of scores.

30. New York Giants (0-2); lost to Arizona 25-14, drops three spots – It seems like a really long time ago when Eli Manning won those two Super Bowls. The Giants blew a golden opportunity to get their first win at home against Drew Stanton and the Cardinals. Is a Tom Coughlin-led revival in the cards this season, or just another non-playoff year?

31. Oakland Raiders (0-2); lost to Houston Texans 30-14, moves up one spot – More than anything, this year just seems like an opportunity to season Derek Carr, who passed for 263 yards and a TD, and rushed for another 58 yards. Of course, as his two interceptions indicate, the rookie will make plenty of mistakes.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2); lost to Washington Redskins 41-10, drops one spot – This isn’t all Chad Henne’s fault because the O-line is playing terribly (also see Toby Gerhart’s 2.0 YPC). But Jacksonville might as well give the superior Blake Bortles an opportunity soon because this season is already getting out of hand.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 1 (Sept. 4th, 2014)

seattle-seahawks-packers-2014With the preseason officially out of the way, the 2014 NFL regular season is set to kick off tonight. The Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Seattle is the favorite here, but the way that the Packers can score, there’s no telling how this game will go.

The same could be said of who’ll be accepting the Lombardi Trophy this year. Again, many people like the Seahawks, however, the 49ers, Broncos, Packers Patriots, Saints and others will all have something to say about this. So who’s our pick for the NFL’s best team as of now? You can see for yourself in our first NFL power rankings of 2014.

1. Seattle Seahawks – Yeah, this isn’t exactly original. But what reason do we have to doubt the champs since they return all of their key starters? QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch will once again be heading up the offense while shutdown-corner Richard Sherman is said to be more focused than ever. He’s going to need this focus since Seattle will have the unenviable target on their backs all season.

2. Denver Broncos – The Broncos may have been humiliated in last year’s Super Bowl, but they figure to be better on both sides of the ball. First off, the pass rush will be nastier with both LB Von Miller and DE DeMarcus Ware coming after the quarterback. And Montee Ball’s ascension provides an upgrade over last year’s starting running back, Knowshon Moreno.

colin-kaepernick3. San Francisco 49ers – LB Aldon Smith’s 9-game suspension is a big blow to the 49ers’ regular season. However, the rest of the San Francisco team is more than solid. And if Colin Kaepernick keeps up his strong play from last year – where he threw for 10 TD’s and one interception over the final six regular season games – the Niners will be completely fine without Smith.

4. New England Patriots – The offense will be even less reliant on Tom Brady this season with a talented group of ball carriers. Shane Vereen headlines the group with his dual abilities, while rookie James White, Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley add lots of depth.

5. New Orleans Saints – It will be strange not seeing Darren Sproles catching passes out of the backfield this year. But that could leave Pierre Thomas with an even bigger role. Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks got a lot of press this offseason. If he’s as good as the hype, then Drew Brees will have no trouble finding him.

6. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers missed seven games last year and Green Bay still made the postseason. Plus, Eddie Lacy got a chance to shine in his rookie season. Together, this pair forms one of the toughest QB-RB tandems in the league. Even in the opener against Seattle’s tough defense tonight, these two should work well off of each other.

nick-foles-eagles7. Philadelphia Eagles – It’s almost impossible to see Nick Foles duplicating 27 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions for a second straight year. But even though we expect this ratio to change, it’s hard to see him not being great once again in the weak NFC East. If receiver Jeremy Maclin can stay healthy, this has the potential to be the league’s best offense.

8. Cincinnati Bengals – You have to like Cincinnati’s chances of improving this year with Geno Atkins back. The All-Pro defensive tackle missed seven games last season and the defense was still stout. QB Andy Dalton got a big offseason deal. Will he prove that he’s worth it this year?

9. Indianapolis Colts – Much is made about the unsettled backfield in Indy, but having Andrew Luck under center guarantees the offense of remaining dangerous. Signing LB D’Qwell Jackson and DE Arthur Jones will bring much-needed help to a defense that gave up 125.1 rushing yards per game in 2013.

10. Chicago Bears – The Bears offense should have no trouble scoring points in their second year under coach Marc Trestman. But the defense will determine how far this team goes. Signing defensive ends Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young definitely helps, as does getting linebackers D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs back from injury. But the results certainly didn’t show up in the third preseason game, when starters play the majority of snaps.

ryan-shazier-steelers11. Pittsburgh Steelers – Pittsburgh might finally have their traditional power running game back with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount heading up the backfield. Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier will bring some nice explosiveness to a defensive unit that had aged far too much last season.

12. Carolina Panthers – Last year was a breakthrough season for the Panthers. But can they repeat that performance, or possibly do better? Every receiver from last season’s roster is gone, meaning Cam Newton will be meshing with a completely new unit. So far, rookie Kelvin Benjamin is looking like a pretty reliable target for Newton.

13. San Diego Chargers – San Diego was one of three AFC West teams that made the playoffs in 2013. The offense again looks capable of leading the Chargers back to the postseason – especially with rookie sensation Keenan Allen coming off a surprise 1,046-yard year. The defense is the only thing that could hold this team back from more success.

14. Baltimore Ravens – Gary Kubiak has been brought in as offensive coordinator to shore up the mess here. The key will be figuring out how to use Bernard Pierce and an aging Ray Rice in tandem. A lot is riding on how linebacker C.J. Mosley and end Timmy Jernigan carry this historically good defense, which has never allowed 4.0 yards per rush in franchise history.

15. Arizona Cardinals – The running game should be a lot more explosive with Andre Ellington stepping into a featured role. But the line needs to do a much better job of protecting Carson Palmer, who was sacked a career-high 41 times. Also, the defense will definitely miss Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington from last season’s 10-6 team.

ryan-tannehill16. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill is developing into a star quarterback. However, the new offensive line needs to ensure that this continues. The combination of Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno should guarantee that the running game is better this time around.

17. Kansas City Chiefs – It’s hard to see the Chiefs duplicating last year’s performance, where they benefited from one of the league’s weakest schedules. The defense should once again be good, and Jamaal Charles showed that he’s a bonafide star when healthy. But a lack of explosion in the receiving corp coupled with Alex Smith’s weak arm will limit the offense.

18. Detroit Lions – There are plenty of weapons on this team with QB Matthew Stafford, wideouts Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, TE Eric Ebron, and running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Switching to defense, Ziggy Ansah and Ndamukong Suh need to put lots of pressure on opposing quarterbacks to keep a weak secondary from being exposed.

19. Atlanta Falcons – Many are picking the Falcons to far exceed the dismal 4-12 record from their last campaign. But we think that a few more regular season games are in order before predicting a return to NFC South dominance. Regardless, Atlanta should be much better with offensive line additions and a healthy Roddy White and Julio Jones.

20. St. Louis Rams – The Sam Bradford loss hurts, there’s no way around that. But tailback Zac Stacy still gives this offense one weapon that opposing defenses will have trouble dealing with. Unfortunately, playing in the league’s toughest division, the NFC West, will ensure that St. Louis doesn’t make the playoffs.

geno-smith-jets21. New York Jets – The situation under center isn’t as dire this season, with Geno Smith looking more polished in the preseason. And even if he fails, at least they have Michael Vick to fall back on. The secondary is much more of a concern because Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson are the only truly experienced cornerbacks on the roster.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Everything from the Doug Martin injury to the Josh Freeman situation was a disaster for this team. But now they start fresh with Martin back and Josh McCown under center. Acquiring guard Logan Mankins in a trade with the Patriots was definitely a smart move for this team because their offensive line is unstable.

23. New York Giants – You wouldn’t think that the offense would be as bad as it was in 2013, when Eli Manning threw nine more interceptions than touchdowns. But under new offensive coordinator Bob McAdoo, the team looks atrocious. Let’s hope in this case that the preseason really doesn’t mean anything.

24. Tennessee Titans – The passing game could really click this year with Jake Locker throwing to playmakers like Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. But it’s a little unsettling that heralded rookie Bishop Sankey hasn’t been able to take the starting job away from plodding veteran Shonn Greene. Once Sankey breaks out, this team will start experiencing success.

dez-bryant25. Dallas Cowboys – Dallas is saved from being the worst team by an offense that features Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray. But their defense is even worse from a year ago, when they allowed the third-most yards in NFL history. The losses of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee spell doom for the Boys.

26. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Cassel better hope that he can continue playing as strongly as he did in the preseason. Otherwise the Teddy Bridgewater era will be ushered in sooner, rather than later. Regardless of what happens at QB, though, Adrian Peterson looks to have yet another strong year running the ball.

27. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney looked pretty explosive in preseason games and should have a long career of terrorizing opposing passers. As for the Texans’ own quarterback situation, Ryan Fitzpatrick starts with the reigns. But with Ryan Mallet coming over in a trade, should we expect a future QB battle?

28. Buffalo Bills – The Bills had one of the NFL’s most-underrated defenses last season after holding quarterbacks to the second-lowest rating (behind Seattle). But much like Houston, Buffalo needs to worry about their own passer since E.J. Manuel has shown little progression in his second year. It’s no coincidence that the Bills recently signed Kyle Orton to a two-year, $11 million contract, making him the league’s highest-paid backup.

robert-griffin-knee29. Washington Redskins – This preseason was highlighted by Joe Theismann’s comments that Kirk Cousins (4 TD’s, 1 INT) was badly outplaying Robert Griffin III (0 TD’s, 2 INT’s). It doesn’t matter, though, because coach Jay Gruden has handed Griffin the ball. He’ll now hope to get back to his rookie success, rather than last season’s debacle.

30. Cleveland Browns – Brian Hoyer didn’t look overly sharp while winning the starting job over Johnny Manziel. But he does boast a 3-0 career record as a starter. It’s almost impossible to see this mark remaining intact with Cleveland traveling to Pittsburgh, especially since the suspended WR Josh Gordon won’t be available this game – or any game in 2014 for that matter.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jacksonville didn’t win a game until Week 10; then they went 4-4 after that point. We certainly don’t think that this indicates a .500 or better Jaguars club this season. But rookie Blake Bortles should take over at QB soon and start a new and better era in Jacksonville football.

32. Oakland Raiders – Oakland has been in rebuilding mode for over a decade. This season doesn’t look to be any different, with a quarterback controversy already due to Matt Schaub’s poor performance. The Raiders wanted Derek Carr to hold the clipboard for his first season, however, this doesn’t seem so likely now.

Last Chance to bet on the 2013 Super Bowl

As many of you may now, Super Bowl XLVII is set to kick off in just a few hours at 6:30 PM (EST). This being said, there’s not a whole lot of time left to place bets if you’re interested in doing so. But GTbets.eu is still offering lines on the game, which means you still have some time to get action on the 2013 Super Bowl.

For those just looking to place a wager on whether the Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers will win, we thoroughly discussed the matter right here. Our general consensus was that the 49ers will come out on top and a money line wager should be directed towards them.

However, the point spread, which currently has San Francisco favored at -4, is a different story. The Ravens have won two straight games where they were an underdog and should keep this contest close as well. So we think that they have a strong shot to cover the +4 spread bet they’re carrying. In regard to some of the 2013 Super Bowl prop bets, we’ve listed a few of these below along with advice on each one.

First Sack of the Game
Ravens (+110)
49ers (-140)
Advice: The Ravens D-line and linebacking core haven’t been the fearsome pass rushers that they were in past years (37 total sacks in 2013). But San Francisco only tallied one more sack than this in the regular season and they’ve been comparatively quiet during the postseason (2 sacks). However, we like the -140 money line here and think the Niners are the best pick.

First Turnover of the Game will be
Interception (-130)
Fumble
(even)
Both of these teams have made their way to Super Bowl XLVII by not making mistakes. But when it comes to this prop bet, we think that the first turnover will probably be a fumble. Niners QB Colin Kaepernick has thrown just one INT in his two playoff games and has excellent protection upfront. And Ravens signal caller Joe Flacco has yet to throw an interception in his three postseason contests. So based on the 0.20 interceptions per game average between these two, expect a fumble before a pick.

First Rushing TD
BAL RB Bernard Pierce (8:1 odds)
SF QB Colin Kaepernick (5:1 odds)
SF RB Frank Gore (2:1 odds)
SF RB LaMichael James (7:1 odds)
BAL RB Ray Rice (3:1 odds)
Field – a.k.a. All Others (10:1 odds)
No Rushing Touchdowns (15:2 odds)

San Francisco has put up seven rushing touchdowns in two games this postseason, and they’re the Super Bowl favorites. This being said, we definitely like them to hit pay dirt on the ground first against a softer-than-usual Baltimore defense. The only question we have here is if Gore or Kaepernick will be running into the end zone first. Seeing as how the latter has two rushing TD’s in the playoffs and offers a 5:1 payout, we like the Kaepernick bet over Gore, who’s scored three rushing TD’s, but only offers a 2:1 payout.

There are lots of other Super Bowl prop bets at GTbets.eu, so make sure to visit their site and make a wager before the game kicks off at 6:30 PM.

Baltimore has been an Extremely Popular Super Bowl Bet

Pretty much everybody doubted the Baltimore Ravens’ ability to make Super Bowl XLVII – let alone get past the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. However, things have completely changed since people are not only believing in Baltimore now, but also betting on them at sportsbooks.

According to the Los Angeles Times, two-thirds of sports bettors have wagered on the Ravens to beat the point spread. Because of this, the original line of +5 has now fallen to +3 1/2. In a year where NFL playoff favorites have went 8-2 in covering the spread, Baltimore represents the two favorites’ losses.

That said, it’s no wonder why the Ravens are drawing such heavy action. R.J. Bell of Pregame.com discussed this with the LA Times by saying, This is kind of a surprise – 65% of the bets so far have been on the underdog Ravens. That’s very unusual in the NFL.”

While people may be wagering on the underdog, San Francisco is still expected to take home the Lombardi Trophy on February 3rd. But this game certainly won’t be a blowout…at least in our opinion. That said, you can check out our take on the 2013 Super Bowl as well as a final score prediction below.

San Francisco Team Strengths – We’ll start with the first and most obvious factor here: Colin Kaepernick. The second year QB has ignited the 49ers since taking over the starting job. Despite being just a second year player, he’s been especially good in the playoffs after throwing for 496 yards and three TD’s, while adding another 202 yards and two TD’s on the ground. He’s also been sacked just once in the last five games, which should prove difficult for a Ravens pass rush that’s fallen off from greatness.

Another big plus for 49ers is their rushing attack, which features Kaepernick and Frank Gore, who’s rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns in two playoff games. Considering how Baltimore is giving up 128.3 RYPG during the postseason, we can expect to see San Francisco rush for plenty of first downs.

San Francisco also sports a pretty solid pass rush, led by Aldon Smith and his 19.5 sacks. Expect Ahmad Brooks (6.5 sacks) to apply some pressure in this contest too. One more big strength that the Niners have is their offensive line, which should give Kaepernick plenty of time to throw in his first Super Bowl.

Baltimore Team Strengths – Much of the offensive focus right now is on quarterback Joe Flacco, and deservedly so. Following a solid campaign in which he threw for 3,817 yards, 22 TD’s and 10 INT’s, Flacco has stepped it up a notch in the playoffs. In three postseason outings, the Delaware product has accumulated 853 passing yards, 8 TD’s and no interceptions.

Running back Ray Rice figures to play a huge role in Super Bowl XLVII. He’s a true dual threat as evidenced by the 1,143 rushing yards and 61 catches he had in the regular season. Rice will by far be the toughest dual threat RB that San Francisco has faced this year. When he checks out of the game, the 49ers won’t get much of a break because the backup, Bernard Pierce, is averaging 56.3 RYPG and 6.3 yards per carry in the playoffs.

Kicker Justin Tucker has been pretty clutch throughout the season; he’s made both field goals in the playoffs, and was 30-for-33 in the regular season.

Keep an eye on WR Torrey Smith (855RYDS, 8TD) during the Super Bowl since he figures to be this game’s only true deep threat. Also don’t forget about the emotional boost that franchise linebacker Ray Lewis will provide to his teammates in his final game.

Super Bowl XLVII Prediction: San Francisco 31 – Baltimore 27

The strengths seem to be split pretty evenly among these teams. The Flacco-Kaepernick duel should be quite fun to watch, Frank Gore vs. Ray Rice will be close, and both defenses are pretty solid all-around. However, we think that the offensive line of the 49ers will hold up pretty well against the Ravens’ D-line. Also, look for San Francisco to put more pressure on Flacco than he’s seen in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Protecting Flacco against Indianapolis, New England and Denver was nothing compared to what the Niners will bring.