Infographic: The Road To This Year’s Super Bowl Matchup

How’d the Ravens and 49ers make it to Sunday’s big game? This colorful piece of data viz recaps all the action.

Super Bowl XLVII is finally upon us. The Baltimore Ravens vs. the San Francisco 49ers. Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh. American viewers vs. the world supply of guacamole. It’s thrilling stuff. But what do you do if you haven’t devoted all your attention to the NFL over the past few months? How do you familiarize yourself with the gridiron glories that carried these two teams to this most momentous occasion? You spend your lunch break with this comprehensive infographic. This is the Road to the Harbowl.


Click to enlarge.

The graphic, created by the folks at Elefint Designs, serves up a concise visual summary of both teams’ seasons, from week one all the way to the recent conference finals. Each game is lined up along a horizontal axis. On top, two columns represent the teams’ final scores, shaded according to the combination of touchdowns and field goals that produced them. On the bottom, two gray columns show the total yardage for the squads at the end of each game, divided between rushing and passing yards.

It’s a deceivingly dense piece of work that packs in a wealth of data. In fact, the only thing keeping it from providing the full flavor of each game is that there’s no sense of when the points were scored. “We played around with that,” says Matthew Scharpnick, Elefint’s chief strategy officer. “The scores we show are in order, but they do not show specific scoring times. That was a trade-off between the amount of data we wanted to show and making the design clean and clear. Design won on that point.”

But in addition to offering a concise visual overview of each contest, the graphic also brings a few larger trends to light. You might note, for example, that the 49ers never won more than two games in a row during the regular season. And that the Ravens suffered through a three-game slump toward the end of theirs. Scharpnick says he noticed a connection between how well San Francisco ran the ball and how likely they were to win. “When I looked into it, I found that SF only lost one game where they had more rushing yards than the other team,” he says.

And even if you couldn’t care less about sussing out the trends underlying the teams’ seasons–even if you just need a talking point or two for your Sunday-night viewing party–the graphic should still prove useful. Just study the thing for a few minutes and extrapolate. Cloak your ignorance in specificity. “I wonder if the 49ers can manage a shutout. They did it against the Jets,” you could interject, or “the Ravens haven’t looked this bad out of the gate since they gave up that safety against the Texans!”

And if you can’t even be bothered with faking it, just remember this: The Ravens are the underdog (both in terms of the football game and the underlying Harbaugh family drama), and Beyoncé should be taking the stage sometime around 8 EST.