Super Bowl Preview? San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens

If you spent Monday night traveling to see family or at the grocery grabbing a turkey, stuffing and potatoes, you missed quite an impressive football game from the Baltimore Ravens, the 49ers’ opponent Sunday in what looks like their toughest test of the season.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson continued to cement himself as the MVP front runner by tossing five touchdown passes in a 45-6 dismantling of the Los Angeles Rams on the road. He was named offensive player of the week by the league.

It came eight days after the Ravens (9-2) beat the Houston Texans at home, 41-7. Baltimore became the first team in history to beat winning teams by more than 34 points in back-to-back weeks, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Jackson enters the week tied with Seahawks star Russell Wilson for the NFL lead with 24 touchdown passes, and he’s on pace to set a new single-season record for quarterbacks with 1,280 rushing yards. He’s the only quarterback in history to have at least 2,000 passing yards and 800 on the ground during the first 11 games of a season.

So, yes, the talk of him as a transcendent star in just his second NFL season is absolutely warranted.

And if Baltimore’s offense looks familiar to 49ers fans, that’s because coordinator Greg Roman is pulling the strings, as he did for Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick earlier this decade under former head coach Jim Harbaugh the brother of Ravens head coach, John.

Roman has the Ravens going against the grain with a run-centric offense as most of the league is more heavily geared toward the pass. Baltimore leads the NFL in rushes per game (37), yards on the ground (210.5) and yards per run (5.7) thanks to the versatility Jackson gives the offense with his legs.

“They do some real cool stuff, stuff that’s real interesting,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. “I know Greg’s always been creative with that stuff and the tools he has with it along with the tight ends that they have and how physical they are, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how it’s going to look.”

RAVENS HAVE MORE THAN JACKSON

Jackson won’t be the only challenge facing the San Francisco (10-1), the current No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC.

It will mark just the third 10 a.m. start on the West Coast this season. The last early body-clock start was Oct. 20 in Washington in a rain-soaked game against one of the worst teams in the league. The sloppy 9-0 victory is the only time the 49ers failed to score a touchdown. Speaking of rain, early forecasts for Sunday are calling for a 90 percent chance of showers at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Back to Monday night’s shellacking, the Rams had no answers trying to defend Jackson on the ground or through the air. By completing 15 of 20, he had as many touchdown passes as incompletions and beat L.A.’s longtime defensive coordinator Wade Phillips against both zone and man-to-man coverages.

Jackson has the NFL’s third-best passer rating at 111.4 and his yards per attempt (8.1) ranks seventh, just a sliver above the more traditional passing quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo.

“It’s tough,” Rams cornerback Troy Hill said of Jackson, according to the Los Angeles Times. “He’s elusive. He’s a different player back there. When you think about it and look at it, if you do play man and have your back to the ball, then he’s got the ability to take off and run and make you pay that way. When you play zone, he’s throwing the ball and finding the zones. They’re making it easy on him to find the reads.”

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SOURCE: The Sacramento Bee, Chris Biderman