If you aren’t already in a turkey-induced coma by 8 p.m. Eastern on Thursday night then you no doubt will be tuning into the Harbaugh Bowl (or Har-bowl) when John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens host Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers in the Thanksgiving nightcap (if you are wondering, the brothers won’t be having Thanksgiving dinner together).
John, 49, is 15 months older than Jim, who turns 48 on Dec. 23. They are the first brothers to be NFL head coaches, and Jim Harbaugh is a pretty sure bet to win NFL Coach of the Year honors with the 49ers at 9-1 and about to clinch the NFC West. San Francisco can clinch with a win and a Seahawks loss to Washington on Sunday.
It’s possible that this could be a Super Bowl preview, although most everyone presumes the Packers will represent the NFC. But considering the relative ease of the San Francisco 49ers schedule, one slip by the Pack could give the Niners the top seed in the conference.
The Ravens (7-3) also are in the mix for the top seed in their conference and would appear in good shape to get it with only one game after this one vs. a team currently with a winning record.
49ers at Ravens Betting Storylines
Both teams enter the short week off big wins.
The Ravens, playing without star linebacker Ray Lewis, beat the Bengals 31-24 in Baltimore on Sunday to improve to 5-0 at home; Baltimore has won seven in a row at home, the second-longest streak in the league behind Green Bay.
The Ravens had been under-using RB Ray Rice the past few games, but he got 20 carries vs. Cincy and rushed for 104 yards and two scores. He also caught five passes for 43 yards. Rice has rushed for more than 100 yards in game 11 times in his career and the Ravens have won nine of those contests.
That Ravens defense did pick off three Andy Dalton passes, but it clearly missed Lewis (toe injury), allowing 483 yards to Cincinnati and needing a goalline stand in the final minute. It was the first time in 58 regular-season games the team took the field without the future Hall of Famer.
As of this writing, Lewis is ‘iffy’ for this one as he missed practice Monday. Dannell Ellerbe filled in for Lewis and was injured Sunday, but he should be ready for the Niners. Baltimore is 4-1 in its past five games without an injured Lewis, who hadn’t missed a game since 2007.
The Niners have won eight games in a row and continue to be the only team unbeaten against the spread this season. They had little trouble with Arizona on Sunday, winning 23-7 behind 267 yards passing and two scores from Alex Smith.
Frank Gore started despite a right knee injury that knocked him out of a win over the New York Giants a week earlier, finishing with 88 yards rushing. He needs 61 more to pass Joe Perry (7,344) for San Francisco's career rushing mark.
The 49ers' time of possession (44 minutes, 16 seconds) was their third highest since the stat was first tracked in 1981. The excellent San Francisco defense forced five turnovers and the top-rated rush defense held Arizona to 80 yards on the ground.
The 49ers haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher or a rushing touchdown this season. Sunday’s victory guaranteed the Niners’ first winning season since 2002.
San Francisco lost fullback Bruce Miller and offensive tackle Anthony Davis to injuries in the Cardinals’ win. Alex Boone would get his first career start if Davis (sprained ankle) can’t play, although Davis tweeted he was fine afterward. Miller might have a concussion and thus would seem likely to sit with the short week. If Miller is unable to play, veteran Moran Norris will likely be used as the primary fullback.
49ers at Ravens Betting Odds and Trends
Baltimore has opened as a 3.5-point favorite with the total at 38.5 on NFL odds. The Niners are taking about 65 percent of the early action.
The Ravens are 5-4-1 ATS this season and 3-1-1 at home. The Niners are 9-0-1 ATS this season and 4-0 on road.
San Francisco is 5-5 on the ‘over/under’ with Ravens at 8-2. The ‘over’ is 4-1 in the Ravens’ past five home games. Total has gone ‘under’ in four of Niners’ past six road games.
49ers at Ravens Betting Predictions
It used to be easy money when a west coast team traveled to the east coast, with the eastern team almost always winning and usually in a big way. However, the Niners have already won four games in the eastern time zone this season.
According to reports, this is the first time since 16-game seasons began that a team will have to travel three time zones to play a Thursday night game four days after a Sunday contest.
The last time these teams played was in 2007 and the final score was 9-7 Baltimore. As good defensively as both teams are, it wouldn’t shock me to see a similar score Thursday night. The 49ers rank first in fewest points allowed, the Ravens are third.
I think Baltimore wins 21-13, so obviously give the points and take the ‘under’.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.