In what could be a late-season Super Bowl preview, the class of both the AFC and NFC will clash this Sunday, so get your popcorn ready. The San Francisco 49ers take their talents to Baltimore to square off with the Ravens in a game that’s sure to have some excitement. Baltimore is 9-2 headed into Sunday, while the Niners are 10-1, in a matchup that should’ve definitely been scheduled for primetime.
Since losing back-to-back games in Weeks 3 and 4 to the Chiefs and Browns, Baltimore has won seven straight, most in extravagant fashion. The 49ers’ only loss was in an overtime game three weeks ago against the division rival Seahawks. In a matchup that features the top two scoring teams in the league, be prepared for some fireworks. The Ravens are favored by 5.5 in the contest, with the over/under set at 45.5.
Just Don’t Lose
Jimmy Garoppolo came into the season with a few question marks around him. While he was 7-2 as an NFL starter, the sample size was too small to put your finger on. Now that Garoppolo has started a few more games, much remains the same. The Niners haven’t needed him to air it out 50 times a game or get outside and run it. With their strong defense and run game, head coach Kyle Shanahan just needs Garoppolo to continue to not lose games for them, rather than win them all on his own.
San Francisco is ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards per game, coincidentally, right behind Baltimore, which is ranked first. The 49ers’ defense also ranks second in the NFL in points allowed per game, just a few points behind the NFL-leading Patriots. However, in this matchup, stopping the run is key, and the Niners only rank 19th in the league in rushing yards per game, giving up an average of 111.1. While that number drops about 10 yards per game on the road, they’re going to have to play tough to stop the best rushing attack in the NFL.
A New Breed
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is showing the league new ways to win this season, and it’s been impressive to watch, to say the least. Jackson is the only quarterback ranked within the top 31 rushers in the league, as he comes in ninth, running for 876 yards on the season already. Ravens running back Mark Ingram isn’t far behind, as he ranks 12th in the league in rushing yards with 778. The Ravens’ rushing attack averages 65 yards more per game than the team ranked second in rushing yards, the 49ers, at 210 and 145 per game, respectively.
The Ravens defense seems to have been born again with the addition of Marcus Peters. Their much-improved secondary has only allowed 153 passing yards per game over the last three contests, which is second in the league to, guess who, the Niners, who’ve only given up 133 over their last three. The Ravens also only give up 87.7 yards per game on the ground, good for third in the NFL.
This game really is must-see TV for football fans and is set up to be one for the ages. If the 49ers want to pull off the win here, they need Garoppolo to be more than a game manager; they need him to air it out a bit. The Niners must mix pass-run well to keep the Ravens on their toes.
For the Ravens to win, they just need to continue to play like they have all year, running it down the Niners’ throats and stopping the run. In my opinion, the Niners hold them back a bit on Sunday, at least enough to cover the 5.5. The pick is the 49ers to keep it close and cover the spread.