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April 18, 2014

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Vegas sports books favor 49ers over Ravens by 4 points in Super Bowl

Harbaugh Bowl’ could help state post record handle in two weeks

Image

AP Photos/Mark Humphrey, Matt Slocum

This combination image made of Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, photos shows San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, left, in Atlanta and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh in Foxborough, Mass., during their NFL conference championship games. Get ready for the Brother Bowl — it’ll be Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh when Big Bro John’s Baltimore Ravens (13-6) play Little Bro Jim’s San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1) in the Super Bowl at New Orleans in two weeks.

Updated Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013 | 9:07 p.m.

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with the team after the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, in Atlanta. The 49ers won 28-24 to advance to Super Bowl XLVII.

Older brother is the underdog in the biggest clash of all.

Las Vegas sports books initially posted the San Francisco 49ers, coached by 49-year old Jim Harbaugh, anywhere from a 4.5- to 5-point favorite over 50-year old John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens after the two teams Sunday earned spots in Super Bowl XLVII.

“We decided five would be the right number to open up with but we took a very fair bet on the Ravens, so we went down to 4.5,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, William Hill sports books spokesman and legendary local bookmaker.

That was the trend all around town with early action on Baltimore forcing books to readjust the line from 5 all the way down to plus-4. The over/under for the so-called “Harbaugh Bowl”, scheduled for Feb. 3 in New Orleans, is listed anywhere from 48 to 49.5 depending on the book.

Significant immediate money isn’t the only factor on the Ravens side. Three of the last five NFL champions were underdogs in the Super Bowl, including last year’s New York Giants, which were plus-2.5 before their 21-17 victory against the New England Patriots.

Besides, the Ravens overcame much larger spreads to reach their second Super Bowl in franchise history. They went to Denver in last week’s divisional round and downed the Broncos 38-35 in double overtime as 9.5-point underdogs.

Baltimore opened at the same plus-9.5 mark for the AFC Championship Game at New England, but obliterated the number with a 28-13 victory Sunday.

“The Ravens are a team I did not expect to be in this position,” Red Rock Resort sports book director Jason McCormick said earlier this week. “But they’ve rallied around Ray Lewis’ retirement and they have some offensive weapons that came alive.”

Overall, the Ravens went 4-4 against the spread as underdogs this season and 9-9-1 versus the number in total.

The 49ers went 8-6-1 against the spread as favorites at 10-7-1 overall. The push came Sunday when they came back from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Falcons 28-24 as 4-point favorites in Atlanta.

“I think the most important team to get in the Super Bowl as far as Nevada was concerned was San Francisco,” Vaccaro said. “Because now, a California team is relevant and people from there will be here in droves, especially up North. We’ll have to see what happens. There are a lot of variables, but we should do a big handle.”

The state booked $93.89 million worth of wagers on last year’s Super Bowl, the second-most of all-time. Sports book officials thought a Patriots vs. 49ers Super Bowl would be the matchup that best gave Nevada a chance to break the $94.45 million record, which was established in 2006 when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks.

But this matchup was a close second.

“As much as Baltimore probably isn’t as sexy as the Ravens, Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh could get played up and get the same level of attention,” McCormick said.

At 6-to-1, San Francisco was one of three co-favorites to win the Super Bowl — the Patriots and the Packers were the other two —at William Hill the day the regular season kicked off. Baltimore was in the middle of the pack at 17-to-1.

The Ravens got through a late-season swoon that saw them lose three straight in early December by returning to their roots as a dominant defensive team. They’ve been undoubtedly aided by the return of future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who will retire at the end of the season, for the last two games.

Quarterback Joe Flacco, additionally, has shined through the playoffs, throwing for eight touchdowns and no interceptions with an average of 284 passing yards per game.

But the fifth-year pro will play second billing when it comes to quarterback because of San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick. Vaccaro said William Hill was overwhelmed with bettors gambling on Kaepernick’s proposition wagers and could barely put enough up to match the demand this weekend.

The UNR graduate has put up 496 passing yards and 202 rushing yards in two playoff games.

Between the Harbaughs, Kaepernick and Lewis, there will be no shortage of angles to drive Super Bowl interest — especially in Las Vegas.

“I think maybe these storylines can overcome the marquee that comes with the Patriots,” Vaccaro said.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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