After a long year of waiting, we're finally there: Super Bowl weekend. All week, numberFire's been leading up to the big game with all the stats you need to know, so check out what we've dug up.
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Now, on to the numbers!
QB: Why Colin Kaepernick will outplay Joe Flacco
"Despite a smaller sample size - Kaepernick started less than half the games that Flacco did over the regular season - Kaepernick actually gained more value for his team than Flacco did this season. And that's not just on the ground, as Kaepernick outpaced Flacco in passing NEP by 0.99 expected points despite throwing 331 fewer passes. Kaepernick's 0.22 NEP per pass ranked eighth among NFL QBs with at least 200 pass attempts this season. And that's a better average than Tony Romo (0.19), Ben Roethlisberger (0.21), or fellow "rushing" QBs RGIII (0.21) and Cam Newton (0.15)."
RB: Should Bernard Pierce be Baltimore's No. 1 Back?
"Rice, meanwhile, has performed in the playoffs with the rushing effectiveness of Wile E. Coyote. So far these playoffs, Rice has lost the Ravens an average of 0.16 points every time he's rushed the ball. For some soul-crushing context, only five backs with at least 200 carries during the regular season were less efficient - Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, Michael Turner, Mikel LeShoure, and Trent Richardson. And even the "tougher competition" argument is tough to make considering Pierce's numbers and that the rushing defenses they faced ranked No. 5 (New England), No. 7 (Denver), and No. 31 (Indianapolis)."
WR: Short routes has paid big dividends for San Fran
"This tells me that the 49ers are opting for shorter, easier to be completed, but low-upside throws. The result is that Kaepernick's completion rate is sky-high (he completed 14 of 17 throws to Crabtree, Moss, and Vernon Davis against Atlanta), but the yards aren't going to necessarily be there (only 209 yards to those players in that game). Bill Walsh is somewhere in San Francisco jumping for joy while watching Kaepernick work the field in a West Coast-style offense.
So far, it's worked: both receivers have a lower NEP per game average in the playoffs than they did in the regular season, but the Niners gained about nine points over expectation through the air in both games. Those performances were San Francisco's sixth (Atlanta) and seventh (Green Bay) overall most efficient passing performances of the season."
TE: Dennis Pitta as the game's leading pass-catcher
"So during the regular season, Pitta's job on the Ravens was clear: the underneath man and safety valve, similar to Ray Rice's pass-catching role out of the backfield. The Ravens still stretched the field with him occasionally (he had eight 20+ yard catches on the season), but he was used more often as the glue guy underneath. Joe Flacco/Chief Quimby approves.
Despite his high playoff NEP per catch rating, he has still served the same role for Baltimore in the past three games. His catch rate is still over ten percent better than Smith or Boldin in the playoffs, and his long catch is only 24 yards. But of Pitta's ten playoff catches, seven have been for first downs and an additional two have been for touchdowns. That's all he needs to make Chief Quimby happy again."
Behind the Numbers
Who's Better: Randy Moss or Jerry Rice
"Let's go through it one at a time. Jerry Rice has the best year, his 1995 campaign. Jerry is more consistent, covering an entire decade where Moss has a few years lost in the ether after his breakout 2003 season. Jerry also has longer longevity, doing it over a much wider range than Randy, while also keeping up a higher pace; between the two of them, Randy has the top 2 of 3, whereas Jerry has the top 6 of 8."
Why the 2005 Steelers Help Predict Super Bowl XLVII
"But overall, no Super Bowl can top the 2005 match between the Steelers and Seahawks. As mentioned above, the '05 Steelers have a high similarity to the '12 49ers, as they are a 91.7 percent match. But this year's Ravens team is pretty similar to the '05 Seahawks as well, coming in at an 82.9 percent match. Ravens fans have to hope that the similarity isn't too high however, seeing as the Seahawks would only score 10 points in that game against Pittsburgh's tough defense."
Super Bowl Roundtable: the numberFire Experts' NFL Predictions
"Keith: Truth be told, I just spent about 30 minutes watching old Super Bowl commercials. Bud Light and VW ones are always great (Magic Fridge is definitely up there), but my favorites have to be the whole "Five months ago" NFL Network campaign. Pretty upset they stopped running them ("No I didn't draft Drew Brees, what am I, an idiot?")"
Prop-A-Palooza (Premium Only)
Part 1: The Big Ticket Items
"At first glance, this seems like a shoo-in to be Ray Rice, as he led the team in touchdowns with 10. Looking at the players to score first, Torrey Smith and Ray Rice led all Ravens at four this year; before last week against the Patriots, Ray Rice had not been the first Raven to find the end zone since Week 9 against the Browns. In addition, both Vonta Leach and Anthony Allen vultured touchdowns from Rice early in games. Of course, a single season of comparables is not significant enough to make any recommendations, so we dug into our list of game predictors to determine the likely culprit."
Part 2: The Kaepernick Edition
"There's little I can say about Colin Kaepernick that hasn't already been said. He's a phenom, a shooting star from planet Freakathletica, a unique outlier in a league that is moving rapidly towards one where he is positioned to reign. The rise of him, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton point a new league, a league that is forced to not only respect the rushing attack under center, but attempt in vain to figure out a way to stop it."
Part 3: The Flacco Edition
"Hate him or love him - and if you follow our Twitter account, you'd know that I don't exactly love him - Joe Flacco deserves your respect. Even if you ignore his many outlandishly great physical gifts, you still have to pay homage to his knack for winning the road; in fact, he's got six playoff road wins in his career, tying Eli Manning with the most ever."
Part 4: The Miscellaneous Edition
"In my past few articles, I asked you to write in with some props you're looking at, and lo and behold, you delivered. You sent in ones covering everything from coin flips to Gatorade, and today I'll go through two in which we found some serious value for you. You asked, I mathed; let's go!"