San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens Preview & Prediction
Throw out the first 10 games. Throw out the tests that were the Eagles, Lions and Giants. Even throw out the 9-1 record because the San Francisco 49ers were never going to get the full respect until their Week 12 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. It will be the team's biggest test and measuring bar on Thanksgiving day on one of the biggest regular season stages of the entire year.
The 49ers/Ravens matchup is an equal test for both teams, but more so for San Francisco because of the fact that many still believe this team is unproven. Their final few games, which include playing the Ravens and Steelers, should resolve that.
How will the 49ers fair on a national stage? How will Alex Smith "manage" the relentless Baltimore defense?
From the looks of it now, Smith and the 49ers will probably handle it extremely well, that is if Jim Harbaugh is on the sidelines, and reports are he will be.
The Ravens defense has drawn a lot of comparisons to the Detroit Lions, and the 49ers had no problem moving the ball then.
Maybe one of the best reasons to bet the 49ers on Thursday is the fact that Ray Lewis is not playing. He is the defensive genius behind switching up coverages and making it an overall hassle for opposing quarterbacks. Smith will be glad to not see him while under center.
The Ravens will supply several ideas and schemes against the 49ers on Thursday, but it still comes down to the fact that this team is run on its rushing attack, smash-mouth defense, and the occasional offensive breakout game.
It is almost identical to San Francisco.
With that said, Smith will have to handle being blitzed on a regular basis, which is something he was used to against the Lions.
The name of the game on Thanksgiving is about the same as it was against Detroit: short, quick passes and not turning the ball over.
Frank Gore and Ray Rice are powerful backs with potential to break into the secondary, but I doubt we will see much of that on Thursday, with the 49ers and Ravens boasting top five defenses against the run. We can expect around 80-100 yards rushing for each of them.
In the end, the running back that can overcome that relentless opposing defense may see his team win this game. Throw in the aspect of Smith and Flacco simply managing games better than the other, and we could see a very competitive and close game in Baltimore on Thursday.
With both quarterbacks capable of cooperating on offense and not turning the ball over, the game could come down to the defense in the trenches and how the opposing running backs overcome that.
Points will be put up by the running backs, and whatever points the quarterbacks put up is just gravy for their team.
Whatever running back is able to break the opposing defense could see his team's chances of winning this game get really high.
Smith showed against the Lions that he can handle blitzes and aggressive defensive teams, which is what the Ravens will use to try to overwhelm him on Thursday.
He should see a slew of quick slants and passes out of the backfield from Harbaugh's play-calling against Baltimore, as should be expected.
If Smith and Harbaugh do not get too crazy downfield, we should see San Francisco escape Baltimore and the Harbowl with a win on Thanksgiving day.
49ers win 24-20
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