The San Francisco 49ers look to do what few teams have been able to this season when they face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. San Francisco, the NFL’s best defense this season in terms of yards per game allowed, will try to slow down Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is running rampant over nearly every foe.
Jackson is the main reason why the Ravens are 9-2 and in first place in the AFC North by three games entering this weekend. Baltimore is also just a game behind New England for the top spot in the AFC. San Francisco knows a little something about being in first place as well, sitting atop the NFC West at 10-1. But the 49ers are the hunted in their scenario, leading Seattle by a game in the division race and sitting just a half-game ahead of New Orleans for the top spot in the NFC after the Saints won on Thanksgiving night.
The moneyline for this contest has the San Francisco 49ers +215 and the Baltimore Ravens -255. Baltimore is favored by 5.5 points at home, while the over/under has been set at 45.5.
Trying To Stay Ahead
San Francisco has lost just one game all season but still has two teams breathing down its neck in the race for home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs. The 49ers have rebounded well from their lone setback, an overtime loss to Seattle in Week 10, by beating Arizona and Green Bay the past two weeks. San Francisco’s defense has been the story of the team this season, with the 49ers leading the league in sacks with 44 and allowing just 14.8 points per game. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa has been great, recording eight sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss, while fellow defensive end Arik Armstead leads the team with 10 sacks to go with 12.5 tackles for loss.
Offensively, the 49ers have been dealing with injuries yet continue to play well. Running back Matt Breida is questionable for this game, but the 49ers still have Tevin Coleman (448 yards, six touchdowns) and Raheem Mostert (393 yards, two TDs) to power the running game. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been solid, throwing for 2,731 yards and 20 touchdowns, but he’s also thrown 10 interceptions and been sacked 22 times. He’ll be looking for tight end George Kittle (team-high 63 catches, 670 yards, three TDs) in this one as he tries to avoid the Baltimore pressure.
Jackson has been outstanding in his first full season as the Ravens’ starter under center, leading the team in both rushing and passing. Jackson’s ability to run the ball is what helps power the top rushing attack in the league, as he has 876 yards and six touchdowns, while running back Mark Ingram has added 778 yards and nine scores. But just when defenses creep up to stop the run, Jackson drops back to pass, as he’s thrown for 2,427 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has a pair of dangerous receivers in tight end Mark Andrews (50 catches, 643 yards, six touchdowns) and wide receiver Marquise Brown (35 catches, 519 yards, six scores).
All of the attention on Jackson and the high-powered offense has taken a little heat off the Ravens’ defense, which has been very good but not quite up to the standards set during Ray Lewis’ time with the team. Baltimore allows 322.7 yards and 18.4 points per game, though the Ravens have been better since acquiring cornerback Marcus Peters from the Rams earlier this season. Linebacker Matthew Judon has been the team’s best pass-rusher, recording seven sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.
Ravens Win Shootout
This one has the makings of a heavyweight fight, with haymakers being thrown on both sides. The 49ers are able to score both on the ground and through the air, as can Jackson and the Ravens. The forecast of rain and upper 40s for temperatures could make this all about the running games, and with Jackson and Ingram, Baltimore has the better ground attack. I’m taking Baltimore -5.5 to win this one by a touchdown.