Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The San Francisco 49ers were the oddsmakers’ pick to win all five of their previous Super Bowl trips. Back in the National Football League championship game for the first time in 18 years, the 49ers are favorites again.
Led by a second-year quarterback and coach, the 49ers are four-point favorites over the Baltimore Ravens in the Feb. 3 Super Bowl in New Orleans, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book. It’s the second time in the past 11 years the National Football Conference champion has been favored over a team from the American Football Conference in the title game.
“The 49ers have been one of the most heavily supported teams all season,” LVH Super Book assistant manager Jeff Sherman said by e-mail. “Even though the Ravens have been the underdog darling as of late, the 49ers are still considered the stronger side power-rating wise.”
The Las Vegas’ oddsmakers favorite has won 33 of the previous 46 Super Bowls, although the New York Giants won last year’s title against the New England Patriots as three-point underdogs. The New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts as 4 1/2-point underdogs in the Super Bowl three years ago.
The Ravens this postseason have become the first team since the playoffs expanded in 1978 to win in the divisional round and conference championship round as underdogs of more than a touchdown in both games. The Ravens were nine-point underdogs when they pulled off a 38-35 double-overtime win in Denver on Jan. 12, and yesterday upset the New England Patriots 28-13 on the road as 7 1/2-point underdogs.
“We knew what we were capable of,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs told reporters after yesterday’s win in Foxboro, Massachusetts. “Unfortunately the bandwagon is full, and we want you all to come in two weeks and bet against us again.”
Over $10 billion was estimated to have been wagered on last year’s Super Bowl worldwide, according to Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com, with less than 1 percent of that bet legally at Nevada sports books.
The 49ers were tied as the third favorites to win the Super Bowl at the start of the season, with 10-1 odds at the LVH Super Book, meaning a winning $100 bet would yield a $1,000 profit. The Ravens were the eighth favorites at 14-1.
San Francisco is the first NFC champion favored by more than a field goal in the Super Bowl since the 2001 St. Louis Rams, who were 14-point favorites against the Patriots and lost 20-17 in the most recent title game at the Louisiana Superdome.
The 49ers made five Super Bowls from 1982 through 1995 and won all of them as the oddsmakers’ favorite. Most recently, they routed the San Diego Chargers 49-26 as record 18 1/2-point favorites following the 1994 season.
The 49ers are seeking to join the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only NFL franchises with six Super Bowl titles.
This year’s game is the first Super Bowl matchup to feature brothers as opposing coaches, with San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh facing Baltimore’s John Harbaugh. Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick are the first coach-quarterback tandem to reach the Super Bowl within their first two NFL seasons. Kaepernick’s nine career starts will be the third fewest for any quarterback to start a Super Bowl.
“He competes like a maniac all the time,” Jim Harbaugh said of Kaepernick, who replaced Alex Smith as the starter during the season. “In practice, in games, it stays the same.”
John Harbaugh and his quarterback, Joe Flacco, are both in their fifth season in Baltimore. Flacco has outplayed Peyton Manning and Brady the past two weeks in getting the Ravens back to the Super Bowl for the second time. Their previous appearance in the NFL’s title game was after the 2000 season, when Baltimore beat the Giants 34-7 as three-point favorites.
The Ravens are the underdogs this time around, though it’s a role they’ve gotten accustomed to this postseason.
“Being an underdog, they don’t expect you to do it and we like to prove them wrong,” Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “That’s just a challenge for us.”
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