49ers vs. Ravens: 5 Bold Predictions for Harbaugh Bowl

Bryant West@bswest5Correspondent INovember 21, 2011

49ers vs. Ravens: 5 Bold Predictions for Harbaugh Bowl

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    Thanksgiving is a time for family and family bonding, but Jim and John Harbaugh will be spending it figuring out how to crush each other’s hopes and dreams.

    In the first ever meeting between two NFL head coaching brothers, Jim's 9-1 San Francisco 49ers will head to Baltimore to take on John's 7-3 Ravens in a Thanksgiving matchup hailed as the Harbaugh Bowl.

    So how will this historic Turkey day clash conclude? Let's take a look at five predictions for the Harbaugh Bowl. 

Both Running Games Will Be Stalled

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    San Francisco and Baltimore give up the least and third-least points per game in the NFL, respectively. 

    They're both at their best with their run defense, where San Francisco gives up a league least 73.9 yards a contest and Baltimore ranks fifth with 93.3 a game.

    While Baltimore's Ray Rice and San Francisco's Frank Gore are two of the league's top running backs, they'll find little room to move as both teams pile up in the box.

    If either team can break the other down and get a consistent running game going, then they will likely win the game. But expect both teams to...

Both Teams Will Air It out

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    San Francisco's Alex Smith and Baltimore's Joe Flacco both have their doubters, but while the experts and audience will expect a offensive game built on the ground, don't be surprised to see both quarterbacks air it out.

    When it comes to defending the pass, the Ravens rank above the 49ers. Baltimore is seventh in the league with 211.3 passing yards allowed per game, while the 49ers are 23rd with 249.2 allowed a contest. To San Francisco's credit, they are tied for second in the league with interceptions with 15 on the season.

    While both teams will struggle to run the ball, they'll likely be ready to call on their quarterbacks.

    San Francisco has shown over the past few weeks that they seriously trust Smith, who has 13 touchdowns and four interceptions on the season.

    Meanwhile, Flacco has 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions but continues to have his coaches' full support. After a win in Week 9 against the Steelers, John Harbaugh praised Flacco

    "This is a game for big men. You've got to shine bright in this game if you want to win this game. And nobody shined brighter than Joe Flacco in this game."

    Both teams are expected to run the football, and both Harbaughs will expect the other coach not to expect a pass heavy attack. So both teams will air it out, much to the surprise of both coaches, neither of whom will expect it.

The Defensive Battle Will Bore the National Audience

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    You can equate the Harbaugh bowl to the College Football matchup earlier this season between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama.

    The national audience will happily tune in expecting an exciting football game. A majority will leave after a combination of turkey and defensive domination put them to sleep.

    Titanic defensive matchups are exciting for diehard fans, but for casual viewers, it'll be anything but.

    San Francisco and Baltimore are two teams that win the same way. They win ugly football games and rely on their dominant defense to secure victory.

    As we saw with the conclusion of the LSU/Alabama contest, a national audience hates defensive battles and average offense. Casual fans want to see a shootout, and neither the 49ers nor the Ravens are built for a high scoring affair.

    All those who tune into the NFL Network on Thursday better be expected and excited for a tough and nasty football game, or they may find more interest in their leftovers instead. 

The Handshake Will Go off Fine... Publically at Least

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    Jim and John Harbaugh are two of the most erratic figures in the NFL, as proven by their fantastic postgame quotes and Jim's run in earlier this season with Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

    A lot of attention will go on the final handshake, when for the first time, two brothers will meet at center field as coaches for the opposing side. Add in the reality that both of these coaches could pull something crazy at any second, and that handshake will likely be one of the most anticipated moments.

    But both coaches, no matter the games outcome, will smile, shake, probably hug. The real meeting between these two coaches will come away from the cameras in the locker rooms, where the winner will likely get to give the other a wedgie and a nuggie, and the loser will have to cry uncle.

    Shame for the NFL, because they could probably pay-per-view that and make some serious money.

Baltimore Will Triumph by a Field Goal

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    Two more evenly matched teams you will not find in the NFL.

    Two fantastic defenses will draw this one out, and in the end, the Harbaugh bowl should be decided by the slimiest of margins.

    But when you have an unstoppable object and an unmovable force—in this case, two unmovable forces—you have to bet on the unmovable force with home field advantage.

    San Francisco will have their chances and will keep it close, but I expect a Billy Cundiff kick with the clock winding down to be the difference maker in this one.