Yahoo Sports NFL senior writers Terez Paylor, Kimberley A. Martin and Charles Robinson select games this week that will leave us buzzing heading into Monday.
San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson is firmly in the mix to be MVP and his brilliance gives the Ravens a legitimate Super Bowl ceiling. This game against the 49ers will tell us a hell of a lot about how ready he is to do just that.
At 10-1, the 49ers boast one of the league's nastiest defenses, one that ranks second in the NFL in DVOA vs. the pass. The good news for Baltimore is that the run game is its offensive specialty, and San Francisco is in the middle of the pack there at 16th in DVOA.
Still, the 49ers are outstanding defensively overall, and when you pair that with a well-schemed offense that knows exactly what it wants to do on a play-to-play basis, you see why the 49ers have been difficult to beat.
This one will be a football nerd's dream to review on the all-22 tape.
49ers at Ravens
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We’re about to find out when Lamar Jackson takes on the 49ers’ stout defensive front.
The 22-year-old is the only quarterback in NFL history to amass at least 2,000 passing yards and 800 rushing yards through the first 11 games of a season.
And though much has been made about Jackson’s impeccable speed (he’s on pace to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record of 1,039 yards for a QB), he has shown this season that his arm can be just as deadly as his legs. He twice has posted a perfect passer rating (158.3) and currently leads the league with 30 touchdowns (24 passing and six rushing).
The Ravens’ top-ranked offense is averaging 35.1 points per contest and coming off a 45-6 beatdown of the Rams on “Monday Night Football.” But their high-octane offense will have to contend with a San Francisco squad that’s been just as impressive on defense.
The 49ers are proudly embracing the underdog label while their sights remain firmly set on the Super Bowl. Their defense leads the NFL with an eye-popping 44 sacks and are holding opponents to an average of 4.29 yards per play in 2019 — the lowest in the NFL — and the fewest net yards passing per game (136.9) in 37 years.
The 49ers are also riding the momentum of a prime-time blowout: their 37-8 victory over the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. The 49ers defense rattled Aaron Rodgers from the start, while Kyle Shanahan out-schooled former pupil Matt LaFleur.
But will Shanahan & Co. be able to ground the Lamar Jackson Show?
49ers at Ravens
The game of the week could very well be a Super Bowl preview, not to mention a Super Bowl XLVII rematch of sorts.
I don’t want to fall into the predictability of picking a Lamar Jackson game every week, but I’ll be glued to this one to see how he handles arguably the best defensive front seven in the NFL.
Whoever wins this one could step into the league’s No. 1 spot for Super Bowl favorites. And there’s an enticing side note, too. San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is building his résumé for head coaching interviews. If he can shut down Jackson, you can bet he’ll vault to the top of some candidate lists.
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