Ending their current four-game losing streak will be in the focus for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6 as they return home to host the Baltimore Ravens. Both clubs enter the contest with a 1-4 record. Both sides are hungry to get back into the win column.
The trio of 49ers.com writers returns with four topics to preview the matchup. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section of this post.
1st Down: What is the underrated storyline of the week?
@Joe_Fann: The health of both teams
Both clubs will have names to watch as the inactives list comes out on Sunday morning. For the Ravens, it will be wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (back), linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin) and running back Justin Forsett (ankle). For San Francisco, it will be Vernon Davis (knee), Joe Staley (knee) and Pierre Garçon (foot). All six are crucial pieces for their team and have the ability to make a significant impact if active on Sunday.
@TylerEmerick: Colin Kaepernick under center
Last week against the New York Giants, Kaepernick frequently took snaps under center. This coming after he spent the vast majority of the first four games in shotgun formation. The adjustment certainly seemed to produce positive results, as Kaepernick turned in his most complete outing of the year and the offense scored a season-high 27 points. Against the Ravens, expect to see much of the same with the 49ers using play-action, bootlegs and screen passes to keep the defense on its heels.
@TaylorPrice: Is Jarryd Hayne the 49ers starting RB?
Hyde is banged up. Reggie Bush is doubtful to play due to a lingering calf injury. Mike Davis has been active twice this season. So is the Australian rookie your starting running back on Sunday? Or does Hayne serve as the primary backup and carry the ball more than his career-high four rushes against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1? Hayne converted a key 3rd-and-1 last week in New York, so he's shown he can be counted on in the clutch.
2nd Down: The best 1-on-1 matchup will be...
@Joe_Fann: Torrey Smith vs. Jimmy Smith
The former teammates will likely see a lot of each other in Week 6. Torrey serves as the 49ers top perimeter receiver and downfield threat while Jimmy is the Ravens No. 1 cornerback. Torrey indicated that he knew how to get under Jimmy's skin but told the media that was "top-secret information." What makes the matchup more fun is that both players were taken by the Ravens in the 2011 draft – Jimmy in the first round and Torrey in the second.
@TylerEmerick: Hayne vs. Sam Koch
In recent weeks, Hayne hasn't gotten many opportunities to impact the game on special teams. But when he has had the ball kicked to him with room to run, the Australian has not disappointed. On his only return of the game versus the Giants, Hayne picked up 16 yards with a few nifty moves. Hayne's average of 10.3 yards per return ranks 12th in the NFL. This week, Hayne will face Ravens punter San Koch, who has had 14 punts returned against him this season – tied for sixth-most in the NFL. Opportunity could be knocking.
@TaylorPrice: Aaron Lynch vs. Rick Wagner
Lynch is San Francisco's top pass-rusher at the moment. Wagner, Baltimore's right tackle, is a third-year pro with 22 starts under his belt. The advantage should go to Lynch who has consistently applied pressure all season for Eric Mangini's defense. Lynch recorded five quarterback hits against Eli Manning last week and was oh-so close to recording his fourth sack of the year. Lynch could very well add to the stat sheet on Sunday.
3rd Down: The best quote of the week is... @Joe_Fann: "We're at the point in the season where you have to execute and hit the open jumper." - Geep Chryst
The 49ers offensive coordinator said this in response to a question about Kaepernick's mechanics. Chryst explained that the time for tweaking a throwing motion is in the offseason. Now that the 49ers are in the heart of their 2015 season, it's about executing and translating work on the practice field into production on Sunday's. San Francisco's offense will look to build on their 27-point performance last week against the Giants this Sunday. @TylerEmerick: "I'm not going to lack in confidence. I have confidence in what I'm able to do on this field and what I'm able to do to help this team win." - Kaepernick
That's what you want to hear from your franchise quarterback. Even when times are tough – the team's has lost four straight – Kaepernick has shown an ability to handle the spotlight. His bounce-back performance against the Giants proved that. And from the sound of this quote, Kaepernick is not worried about being able to repeat the two-touchdown, zero-turnover effort in Week 6. @TaylorPrice: "I think if things were sour, then maybe I'd feel different, but I don't feel any different at all." - Torrey Smith
He might not be saying it, but we can all gather that this game has a unique meaning to No. 82. How could it not? He's facing the team that drafted him in 2011 and decided not to re-sign him in free agency. Smith produced 30 touchdowns for the Ravens in four seasons. He has one score with the 49ers. Another touchdown against his former club would certainly be considered as a career highlight.
4th Down: The 49ers absolutely must stop... @Joe_Fann: Dumervil
Obviously there is a huge caveat here that the star linebacker is active against the 49ers. If Dumervil is able to go, he could be a huge headache for San Francisco's offensive line. The pass-rush specialist recorded sacks in two consecutive games before leaving Week 5 with a groin strain. Dumervil is coming off of a 2014 season in which he logged 17 sacks and earned himself both Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. The linebacker's importance to the Ravens defense is even greater with Terrell Suggs lost for the year after tearing his Achilles.
@TylerEmerick: Kamar Aiken
Officially, Smith Sr. is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. But on Friday, the veteran wide receiver told reporters that his expectations of playing are "very low." If true, the Ravens would be without, by far, their most experienced and productive pass-catcher. The 15th-year wideout leads the team with 47 targets, 29 receptions and 373 receiving yards. Aiken would be the next player in line to step up as Baltimore's go-to weapon. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver has caught 15 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown this year.
@TaylorPrice: Joe Flacco
Baltimore's quarterback rating is 4.1 points below his career average of 84.6. A banged up receiving corps and the possibility of being without his starting running back, Forsett, isn't looking too great for Flacco either. So it's with that in mind that the 49ers be aware of Flacco's big-arm and big-play potential. Should the pass-rushers not get to the signal-caller and effect the timing of his throws, Flacco could be a very dangerous player on Sunday.