Thanksgiving Football Schedule: Which Game Will Leave Fans Licking Their Chops?

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2011

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 20:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates his second touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 31-24. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

Thanksgiving games usually get knocked for not being very good matchups, but this year's games completely blow Sunday's lineup out of the water.

All three games are must-see TV, but if you can only watch one, you won't want to the historic Harbaugh bowl between the 49ers and Ravens.

Jim and John Harbaugh square off in the first battle between sibling head coaches in the history of the league. Just as the coaching styles of the brothers are eerily similar, so are the teams they are leading into battle.

Ray Lewis is banged up, but it's hard to see him missing a chance to jump into a defensive struggle like this one. For maybe the first time in his career, Lewis won't be the best linebacker on the field.

Patrick Willis is an absolute animal and serious Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He's forced four fumbles, has two fumble recoveries, an interception and two sacks. He's the heart and soul of the 49ers' defense, but oddly enough, it's the guy next to Willis that is most responsible for the unexpected improvement of the 49ers' defense.

Nobody on the 49ers is having a better season than NaVorro Bowman. He's not a household name, but his 95 tackles are third in the NFL and having two middle linebackers who can run and make plays sideline to sideline gives the 49ers a huge edge.

They haven't allowed a touchdown all season long, but Ray Rice will be looking to change all of that. In this classic defensive spectacle, Rice and Frank Gore are going to be instrumental in the battle for field position.

Alex Smith has had a spectacular season of clean football, throwing only four picks on the entire year. How will he fair throwing against Ed Reed and the Ravens' secondary with Terrell Suggs tormenting him off the edge?

Joe Staley and the 49ers' offensive line have taken huge strides this season and the Ravens' front seven will be a great measuring stick for them. Haloti Ngata and Sizzle can take over a game. Will the 49ers be able to hold their own in the trenches?

This game will come down to defense and coaching, two areas both of these teams are elite. It will be interesting to see who can put together the best game plan on the shortened week.

This physical showdown is littered with playoff implications. Packers defending their undefeated streak may have some thinking the Packers versus Lions is the game to watch on Thanksgiving, but the 49ers versus Ravens could be a Super Bowl preview and will undoubtedly steal the show.

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