Thu, Dec 12, 2019

When the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers meet on Sunday, we could easily be watching a preview of Super Bowl LIV.

Entering Week 13, these two teams are arguably the hottest in all of football. The 49ers (10-1) are fresh off a prime-time shellacking of the Green Bay Packers and are tied with only the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots for best record in the NFL. The Ravens (9-2), meanwhile, possess the MVP frontrunner in Lamar Jackson, who single-handedly tore apart the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on Monday night and have now won seven straight to all but lock up the AFC North.

When the Ravens and Niners clash in Baltimore at 1 p.m. ET, we could also be watching one of the most unusual games, at least statistically speaking, of the entire 2019 season.

For starters, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the 49ers are the first 10-1 team in more than a decade — 12 years, to be exact — to enter Week 13 as an underdog. The consensus among oddsmakers has the Ravens favored by six points, and yet we haven’t seen a 10-1 team without a point-spread advantage since 2007, when the Green Bay Packers took on the Dallas Cowboys, who were also 10-1 at the time. (Green Bay went on to lose by 10, failing to cover the spread.)

Now, is it that big of a deal that a 10-1 team isn’t favored against a 9-2 team? Not necessarily. The 2015 Thanksgiving Day matchup between the Cowboys and Carolina Panthers, who were 10-0 but opened as underdogs to a 3-7 Dallas team, was probably even more of an anomaly. We all know both the Ravens and 49ers are capable of winning this weekend. It’s also not every year the NFL sports a 10-1 team to begin with. But the fact the Niners also enter Week 13 with one of the most highly touted defenses in recent history makes their six-point underdog status all the more notable.

Check out these other crazy numbers in advance of this week’s anticipated matchup:

  • As NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero noted this week, defensive coordinator Robert Selah has San Fran allowing just 136.9 passing yards per game, which is the fewest yards allowed by any team since 1980. NFL Research indicates the Miami Dolphins once actually allowed fewer yards, but that came during a lockout-shortened season, and even that was back in 1982.
  • The Ravens may be favored by six, but when you consider what they’ve done in recent weeks, six points almost seems absurdly low as a projected advantage. The Niners may have a strong “D,” but in Baltimore’s last five games, Lamar Jackson and Co. have outscored opponents — including playoff contenders like the Patriots, Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks — 202 points to 62. That’s a difference of 20 touchdowns, or an average of 28 points per game.
  • The 49ers are unbeaten on the road (5-0) this season, but both they and the Ravens have the same record against the spread (6-4-1). San Fran is 3-2 in away games ATS, while Baltimore is 2-3 at home ATS. Something’s got to give.
  • While San Francisco easily has the top pass defense in the NFL, the 49ers are actually quite vulnerable against the run, allowing an average of 111.1 yards per game on the ground — 19th in the league. Any idea where the Ravens happen to rank in rushing offense? No. 1, and by a country mile. So if Selah’s unit has you convinced the Niners are going to spoil Baltimore’s return home and upset the oddsmakers, you might want to think again.

The Ravens and 49ers kick off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on FOX.

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