No one has been able to figure out how to stop the Baltimore Ravens’ offense lately. And now this team is on a seven-game winning streak, most of which has demonstrated sheer dominance. Now, in the wake of going out West and scoring a 45-6 win over last year’s NFC Super Bowl participant, the Ravens will play host to the team that is tops in that conference this season. The San Francisco 49ers come to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday at 1 PM ET for what some people think is a preview of the next the Super Bowl game, not to mention a rematch of a previous Super Bowl game (not as significant, of course).
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In these last five games, no one has gotten to within two touchdowns of Baltimore, and they have defeated four contenders along the way including the Rams, in devastating fashion at the Coliseum less Monday night. It would sound like a broken record to say that Lamar Jackson is playing at an MVP level, but there are some people we can say that about on the San Francisco side as well. Well, almost; the Niners have been able to put together a pretty balanced package of components on the way to their 10-1 record (6-4-1 ATS). Like the Ravens (9-2 SU, 7-4 ATS), they run the ball more than 50% of the time, and arguably they have the better pure passer in this matchup in Jimmy Garoppolo, who has only lost two games that he has started and finished in a San Francisco uniform.
In terms of the respective ground games, Baltimore has the one that chews up more territory (5.7 yards a clip), while San Francisco averages just 4.3 yards an attempt, but might be able to do more with its backs. And tight ends will figure very prominently here; three of Baltimore’s top five receivers play the position, while San Francisco has the sensational George Kittle, who leads the team in receptions and yardage.
In the NFL betting odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, the Ravens are laying points at home:
Baltimore Ravens -5.5
San Francisco 49ers +5.5
Over 45 points -110
Under 45 points -110
If you look at the run numbers, San Francisco doesn’t seem to be such a formidable team to run against. They are, in fact, giving up 4.7 yards per carry, but in the end whatever the opponent has done has translated into just a 27.5% success rate on third down. San Francisco’s secondary is allowing just 9.4 yards per reception, and they are relentless when it comes to going after the quarterback, as they have racked up 44 sacks. Jackson has been incredibly elusive, and is very difficult to deal with designed runs, as he averages over 6-1/2 yards a clip. A lot of people are talking about the speed in the 49ers defense and how it might prove a match for the second-year former Heisman Trophy winner. Will it?
As for the OTHER Heisman Trophy winner in the Baltimore backfield, is also going to be a handful for San Francisco, as Mark Ingram is just below five yards a carry and has provided the perfect complement for Jackson. With the Ravens, the mid-range passing game has been a key, and the running of Ingram has provided something of a deception that sometimes allows Jackson to get loose.
Statistically, this San Francisco defense is the best in the NFL at defending opposing tight ends. That’s a big feather in their camp. And it might offset the absence of Dee Ford, who is one of their top pass rushers. No, San Francisco has not seen this kind of offense yet this season, but ironically, they used to employ it. That’s right; when Greg Roman was the offensive coordinator for Jim Harbaugh, he re-designed San Francisco’s attack on the fly to accommodate Colin Kaepernick, who led them to a Super Bowl. Now Roman works under brother John Harbaugh.
The early report on weather conditions is that we’re going to see some wind and rain. That actually points both of these teams to doing what they would do anyway, as they are 1-2 in the NFL in running play frequency. I’m not sure we can determine who is going to be better and stopping the run here, although I’m going to give an edge at the tight end spot the terrific Kittle, who is a game-changer.
And with their depth in the backfield, I’m not sure that San Francisco is at much of a disadvantage in that respect. What I like about the Niners is that they probably have a better collection of wide receivers, not to mention a secondary that has limited opposing quarterbacks to a 72.7 rating. And San Francisco has shown the ability to play through so many injuries, especially those on the offensive line. I would not sell them short for a moment. So yes, I’m willing to take the points, considering that Baltimore has become the “public” team here with their series of impressive victories, giving us some value. Let’s not forget that the Niners have lost only once, and in overtime at that.
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