The San Francisco 49ers will square off against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13 in a matchup that many have labeled as a possible Super Bowl preview. The 49ers come into this game with a 10-1 record and own the best record in the NFC.
On the other hand, Baltimore is 9-2 and the only team that they trail in the AFC is the New England Patriots. Both teams have displayed their dominance on both sides of the ball, which makes this game interesting to watch.
Considering that, here are the five things to watch in Sunday’s game between the 49ers and Ravens, along with the prediction of who will come out on top.
5. Can the Ravens’ offensive line slow down the 49ers’ pass rush?
Since the beginning of the season, San Francisco’s defense has made a living on being able to get after the quarterback. Before Sunday’s game, the 49ers currently have 44 sacks as an entire defense (most in the NFL).
The duo of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford has terrorized offensive lines for the majority of the year, but Ford is dealing with a hamstring injury that sidelined him in Week 12. Nevertheless, San Francisco still has talented pass rushers in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner to create pressure as well.
It will be interesting to see if Baltimore’s offensive line can handle the NFL’s No. 1 pass-rushing unit. The Ravens’ offensive line has only allowed 22 sacks this season (ninth-fewest in the NFL).
4. Will San Francisco be able to get their rushing attack into a rhythm?
Anyone who follows closely to Kyle Shanahan’s offense, you would know that his offense is predicated on being able to run the ball effectively. There’s no doubt that the offense is more lethal when Tevin Coleman and the other running backs are wearing out the defense.
Despite having the second-best rushing offense in the NFL, San Francisco has struggled to run the ball in the past three weeks. Altogether, the 49ers have averaged only 77.7 rushing yards per game in their last three contests.
At the same time, the Ravens’ run defense has been pretty stout, for the most part, allowing just 87.7 rushing yards per game (third-fewest in the NFL).
3. The 49ers’ front seven vs. the rushing attack of the Ravens
The only team ahead of the 49ers in rushing yards per game is the Ravens. As a matter of fact, Baltimore is averaging a whopping 210.5 rushing yards per game (64.9 yards more than San Francisco).
Provided that, it will be vital for the Niners to be able to hinder the rushing attack of Mark Ingram and Lamar Jackson on Sunday. San Francisco’s defense has been remarkable all year, but its one weakness is stopping the run, boasting the 19th-ranked run defense in the NFL.
If Baltimore is able to establish their running game early and often, San Francisco will be in for a long day.
2. Which version of Jimmy Garoppolo will we see?
While the 49ers have steamrolled their way to having a 10-1 record, many have questioned the play of Jimmy Garoppolo. The 28-year-old quarterback has thrown for 2,731 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions thus far.
In recent weeks, Garoppolo has been able to find his groove under center, albeit with two of his past three games coming against the Arizona Cardinals. Nonetheless, he’ll need to be at his best versus the Ravens in Week 13.
Since Baltimore acquired Marcus Peters in Week 7, they’ve become a very opportunistic defense, forcing 11 turnovers. The last thing Garoppolo can do is turn the ball over often and give the ball back to Jackson and the Ravens’ high-powered offense.
1. Can Lamar Jackson continue his impressive run against the 49ers’ elite defense?
Undoubtedly, the most enticing matchup in this game is Jackson against the spectacular defense of the 49ers. We’ve seen Jackson dominate New England’s historic defense—but can he do the same versus San Francisco?
For the Niners, they’re going to need guys like Bosa and Armstead to set the edge and prevent the Ravens’ quarterback from escaping the pocket. In addition, Jackson can also pick apart the secondary of the 49ers with the improvements he’s made with his arm.
So far, no team has been able to concoct an answer to slowing down Jackson and the Ravens’ offense. The 49ers are going to have to do their best to contain Jackson from creating huge plays on the ground to keep the game close.
Prediction: Ravens 31, 49ers 23
The Ravens have beaten their previous four opponents by a combined score of 162-46. As impressive as that is, the game on Sunday will be a lot closer, but Baltimore will prevail over the 49ers 31-23.