Football and Thanksgiving go hand in hand and what better way to celebrate the two than watching the San Francisco 49ers travel to the east coast to take on the Baltimore Ravens.
This turkey day battle features two of the elite teams in the NFL and is sure to be one of the best games of the season.
The timing could not be better.
Keep reading to find out all about this exciting game that is perfect to kick back, relax and enjoy after a great dinner with family and friends.
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
When: Thursday, Nov. 24 at 8:20 p.m. EDT
Watch: NFL Network
Who Will Win?
Listen: KNBR 680/1050 AM – San Francisco, WBAL 1090 AM - Baltimore
Betting Line: Baltimore -3
What's At Stake?
These are two of the premier teams in the NFL and they will be squaring off on Thanksgiving night for an epic game.
Both of these teams are playoff-bound, but the Ravens aren’t exactly out of the woods yet.
At 7-3 with a better head-to-head winning percentage, Baltimore currently owns the No. 1 seed in the AFC. However, the 7-3 Pittsburgh Steelers and 6-4 Cincinnati Bengals are breathing down their necks.
You also can never discount the New England Patriots, who have one of the easiest schedules in football, as well as the feisty Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders, who will be giving their all these next few weeks.
Baltimore could potentially go from the No. 1 seed to out of the playoffs in just a few short weeks if they get unlucky and lose key games. This matchup is huge for them and it would do them good to escape with a victory.
49ers Injury Report (via CBSSports.com)
RB Frank Gore – PRB (Knee, Ankle) – Gore had 24 carries in just two-and-a-half quarters of action. He racked up 88 yards and did well in his limited snaps. How will his injuries hold up on such a short week of rest?
I expect him to play because the team will need him against the stingy Ravens’ defense. Monitor his status over the next few days to see if he suffers any setbacks or limitations.
Ravens Injury Report (via CBSSports.com)
LB Ray Lewis – QST (Toe) – Lewis missed a game for the first time since 2007 when he sat out against the Bengals on Sunday.
Will Ray Lewis Play?
Initial reports have him missing up to four weeks, but Lewis is one of the toughest players to ever suit up in this league.
He could be active for Thursday, so monitor his status closely.
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit' Em and Sleeper
Start ‘Em: Torrey Smith
This guy has emerged as a legitimate deep threat and stud WR in the Ravens offense.
The 49ers defense is the best at the league in hindering the run game, so Baltimore will have to take some deep shots.
Smith will be the beneficiary of these Joe Flacco throws.
The Niners rank No. 23 in the league in passing yards allowed and will have to spend more time covering Anquan Boldin, which will give the rookie receiver more space to work with.
Sit ‘Em: Kendall Hunter
Hunter was supposed to be a breakout stud last week with Gore dealing with injury, but that never came to fruition.
Even though the starter played less than three quarters, Hunter never emerged as a threat behind him and only finished the day with 11 rushes for 27 yards.
Against a tough Ravens defense, the 49ers backup RB has very limited fantasy value.
Sleeper: Michael Crabtree
The 49er passing game isn’t great, but it’s getting the job done. Crabtree could be the beneficiary of a touchdown throw from Alex Smith this week and fantasy owners would be very thankful for that.
While the Ravens passing defense is tough, they occasionally give up a score or two to opposing WRs and QBs. Crabtree is the best option to catch one of these on Thursday.
What They're Saying
The San Francisco Chronicle noted that the 49ers made a very good switch on the fly after losing FB Bruce Miller to a head injury.
Coach Jim Harbaugh decided to convert TE Justin Peelle into a blocker and receiver out of the backfield, even though he hadn’t played the position in years.
"[Running backs coach Tom Rathman] was telling me how to play it on the sidelines," Peelle said. "It's hard, you've got to get your steps right, you can't go too early. We got guys who can do it a lot better than me."
He did a solid enough job at his new position and didn't make any mistakes.
Edward Lee of The Baltimore Sun caught up with Dannell Ellerbe and asked what it was like to fill in for Ray Lewis at LB.
“It’s kind of hard to replace the best,” said Ellerbe, who made his first start since Sept. 26, 2010 against the Cleveland Browns. “All you can do is go out there and play your game and let it speak for itself.”
“Coming off the injury, I felt like I played good. I made a couple plays out there. It just felt good to get my legs up under me and get out there on the field and be with my boys.”
He did a decent job, but Ellerbe certainly was not the player the Ravens are used to having anchor the middle of the toughest defense in the NFL.
49ers Player to Watch: Alex Smith
How will Smith handle the pressure of the Baltimore defense?
He has done well so far this season against some pretty decent defensive units, but has yet to face a group as dominant as the Ravens.
The former No. 1-overall pick is finally living up to his high selection seven years ago, so we will see on Thursday if he can continue his solid campaign.
Ravens Player to Watch: Torrey Smith
As I discussed earlier, Smith is having a beastly, breakout season and is helping the Ravens passing game become much more dangerous.
With Ray Rice pounding the rock and constantly a threat to score on the ground, the rookie WR is doing damage to the opposition’s secondary.
Let’s see how he does this week against the 49ers.
Key Matchup: Ravens pass rush vs. 49ers offensive line.
The 49ers have been doing well keeping Smith protected and giving him time to make good reads and throws.
Baltimore has the ability to create complete chaos on the line and in the backfield, forcing turnovers and bad throws out of QBs.
If the line can hold the pass rush back, Smith will be able to manage this game just fine, but if he is under pressure and forced to rush throws, it will get ugly.
Baltimore 21 – 49ers 18