If you're picking Sunday's Super Bowl winner based on which team is more undervalued, go with the Baltimore Ravens.
So says Matthew Robinson, analyst at quant manager Analytic Investors and author of an annual NFL Alphas study, which reflects the performance of National Football League teams relative to their expected value over the 2012-2013 season.
For this year's Super Bowl, Mr. Robinson's analysis favors the Ravens, currently four-point underdogs vs. the San Francisco 49ers, to beat the spread. The 49ers' alpha of 23.1% is likely leading bettors to overestimate their probability of victory vs. the 2.3% alpha of the Ravens.
The analysis doesn't mean the Ravens will be the outright winner of the Super Bowl, but that bettors are overestimating the 49ers' probability of victory.
“Despite an admittedly uninspiring regular season, the Baltimore Ravens have had an inspirational postseason run and are the epitome of our season-reversal strategy,” Mr. Robinson said in a report on the study. “Do the 49ers have a weapon strong enough to stand up against the swan song of Ray Lewis and the Ravens? We think not.”
This analysis has correctly picked the undervalued team to beat the spread eight out of the last nine seasons, including a stretch of seven in a row before the New York Giants beat Mr. Robinson's pick, the New England Patriots, 21-17 in last year's Super Bowl.
So far this postseason, Mr. Robinson's analysis has correctly predicted which team was undervalued in seven of 10 playoff games.
The annual NFL Alphas study looks to determine which NFL teams provided the best return on investment. This year, the highest alpha belonged to the Indianapolis Colts, leading all 32 teams at 59.2%. Last season, the Colts had the lowest alpha, at -57.4%.
Along with Indianapolis, eight other NFL teams had alphas better than the S&P 500 total return of 16% in 2012: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver, Minnesota, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.