While the Baltimore Ravens are looking for their eighth-straight win of the season, the San Francisco 49ers hope to protect the top spot in the NFC ahead of the Week 13 contest. This marquee matchup holds significant divisional implications for both teams as we near the final stretch of the regular season.
This week, we are joined by 49ers radio color analyst Tim Ryan to discuss several pressing topics ahead of Sunday's must-see showdown. Ryan is a former defensive tackle who also served as an NFL analyst for Fox television. A San Jose native, Ryan has covered the 49ers since January 2014.
Here are this week's Four Downs:
1. Position group under the most pressure vs. Ravens:
@KeianaMartinTV: Defensive line
There's so much you can say about Baltimore's talented offense spearheaded by quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have built their offense around the second-year dual-threat quarterback, who registered a whopping 17 touchdowns in the red zone this season without a single turnover. In Baltimore's last three games, the Ravens have punted just two times, in which backup quarterback Robert Griffin III was under center for each of those drives. Jackson will be San Francisco's toughest challenge to date. First, I'll look to San Francisco's top-ranked d-line, who leads the league with 44 sacks, to find a way to contain Baltimore's explosive QB.
Here's the slogan for this week's game: "The Hot Boyzz versus Hot Wheels." That's really what it comes down to and can the 49ers solve the riddle. It's Baltimore's game with all the quarterback runs and all the stuff that they do. You can always completely load the box with extra defenders. But it's going to be a challenge on those young outside linebackers. Looking at all the eye candy that the Ravens are displaying, if they get you to take one false step, then Lamar Jackson's got you. His abilities are ridiculous. If he stays healthy, he'll break Mike Vick's single-season rushing yards by a quarterback record. That's not even going to be close. He runs like a running back.
So you've got to count him in the box as a run defender, but he's also a good passer with 24 passing touchdowns. It's going to be a major challenge. Look at young guys, both rookies Azeez Al-Shaair and Dre Greenlaw on the road, in a hostile venue, with that type of talent and scheme coming out. Because Baltimore is not a finesse quarterback-run offense. It's downhill power game with big offensive line-nasty mentality and a lot of tight ends. So it's going to be a challenge for the "Hot Boyzz."
2. Ravens player not named Lamar Jackson 49ers must watch for:
@KeianaMartinTV: Marcus Peters
Peters was a perfect fit in Baltimore after being traded from the Los Angeles Rams earlier this season, and he has nearly doubled his production since. Since joining the Ravens in Week 7, Peters has tallied 26 total tackles, three interceptions, five passes defended and two touchdowns. This will be the 49ers second time seeing Peters this season, who hauled in an interception in the end zone during the 49ers Week 6 meeting with the Rams. He's coming off of a big performance against his former team in Week 12. He'll surely be eager for an encore performance against his former division foe.
@TimRyan99: Mark Ingram
Ingram is a Heisman Trophy winner. His credentials speak for themselves. He's got the mentality that goes right along with what Baltimore always wants to do - they want to bully you. They want to push you around - a typical AFC North team, especially in their own backyard. Anytime you're playing a game like this, it's go bully the bully - be more physical than them. That's going to be the biggest challenge. But Ingram displays all of that. And if you go back and look at him, his last five seasons, he's upwards 4.7 – 5.1 yards a carry, which was the best among active running backs that have been in the league as long as him. So he's a problem. If you're going to try to stop him, it's like pick your poison. Do you want to load up on the inside run or do you want to try to deal with the quarterback. So he's the guy. It's 1A (Jackson) and 1B (Ingram).
3. Which 49ers will play a big role vs. Ravens?
San Francisco's ground game has seen a dip in production over the past several weeks. The 49ers second ranked rushing offense has managed just 334 yards on the ground over their last four games (83.5 yards per game average), and hasn't had an 100-yard rusher since Coleman in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers. They'll have another challenge against the Ravens who have been stout against the run, giving up a mere 87.3 yards on the ground. San Francisco's leading rusher, Matt Breida, is expected to make his return after missing two games with an aggravated ankle. Given Sunday's conditions, the 49ers will look to Breida, Coleman and Co. to jump start their faltering rushing attack against Baltimore's third-ranked rushing defense.
I think the safeties are going to have to be great with everything the Ravens present to you - their running options and then they go to play action pass off of that with tight end Mark Andrews, who's having a breakout season in Year 2. The guy's a problem in yards and touchdowns. He's gotten into the end zone in three of the last four weeks. I look at both safeties and they're interchangeable. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh rock and rolls with the safeties a lot. So sometimes, it will be Ward in the box. Sometimes it'll be Tartt down there. It's going to be a challenge for the players in between the numbers because of play action and everything Baltimore presents to you.
4. Bold prediction
@KeianaMartinTV: 49ers force (minimum) two turnovers
It's going to be a wet battle on Sunday as the forecast calls for 100 percent rain at the time of kickoff. It may not necessarily be the slip and slide battle that we saw at FedEx Field in Week 7, but it could be remotely close. With that being said, both offenses may rely heavily on production on the ground, which could be bad news for San Francisco, who has struggled defending the run this season. But it could also play into their advantage by forcing the ball out of Baltimore's hands. The 49ers are averaging 1.9 forced fumbles per game and 2.7 over their last three contests, both tied for second-best in the league. If San Francisco's defenders can generate takeaways, and capitalize with points on the board, it could put San Francisco in a great position against this talented Baltimore team.
He's one of my boys, and my boys have shown up this season, with the exception of the Seattle game when it looked like he was off to a big start. Bourne is going to get in the end zone this week. He has gotten into the end zone in four of the 49ers last five games. Nobody will be counting on him, and you'll see him run an in cut for a touchdown. And that's my bold prediction.