San Francisco has basically already won the NFC West, but is still fighting Green Bay for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Here are five things Baltimore should focus on to remain unbeaten at home this season.
Ravens fans have mercilessly trashed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on talk radio whenever he's abandoned the running game in favor of a pass-happy offense. Admittedly, this approach has probably hurt the team more often than not.
But against a 49ers defense that ranks first in the league in rushing, allowing only an absurd 73.9 rushing yards per game, leaning too heavily on the run early on could result in the Ravens having to play from behind for most of the game.
Considering that the Niners are only 23rd in the league in pass defense, allowing 249.2 yards per game, building a game plan around the pass might be the safest option for this team—at least for this week.
Frank Gore's been the engine driving the 49ers offense all season long. No matter what anyone says about Alex Smith's development, the stats confirm what anyone who's watched a game has seen: Smith is a game manager who's made some big plays that have been set up by Gore's consistently workmanlike efforts running the ball.
Gore has been limited in practice with a hurt knee. The most surefire way for the Ravens D to disrupt San Francisco's offensive rhythm is to make sure that knee causes him trouble early on through hard, legal hits. The defense needs to bring their "Pittsburgh week" intensity to wreak havoc with this offense.
The Ravens' pass defense has looked much better than expected all season and Chuck Pagano shouldn't hesitate to let Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb play a lot of man-to-man coverage on Thursday.
The Niners passing offense has been efficient, but not explosive; they rank 28th in the league in plays of 40 yards or more and 24th in plays of 20 yards or more. Concentrating on rushing the passer and stopping the vaunted running attack rather than dropping lots of defensive backs into coverage seems like the most efficient way to operate on defense.
Smith has turned into the biggest secret weapon in the NFL this year. He's seemingly developed great chemistry with Joe Flacco on deep routes and has beaten defenses by simply outrunning their fastest defensive backs. Add in that the weakest point of the Niners' weak pass defense is their deep coverage, where they've allowed eight plays of 40 yards or more (28th in the league), and it's not hard to see that Torrey Smith should be Flacco's best friend on Thursday.
This one doesn't involve any statistics, but anyone who's played in or attended a game at M&T Bank Stadium knows how excited the crowd gets when the defense is making big plays. The noise level can rise to the point that it affects the opposing offense's performance by creating false starts and general confusion.
The crowd is going to be even more riled up on Thursday with all of the hype surrounding this game. If the defense makes some big plays early to get one or two three-and-outs, the crowd noise could get loud enough to discourage the Niners' offense and affect their productivity.