The seventh and final NFL game of Week 16 that will air in a national broadcast window across Amazon Prime Video, NBC, Peacock, NFL Network, CBS, Fox and ABC, Ravens-49ers in San Francisco will close out Christmas night.
Since the Ravens and 49ers are both leading their respective conferences at 11-3 and have looked dominant for much of the season aside from a few slip-ups, some pundits are projecting that Baltimore-San Fran will be a preview of Super Bowl LVIII, which would be a rematch of Super Bowl XLVII. (The Ravens won “The Harbaugh Bowl” in New Orleans 34-31 with Joe Flacco at quarterback.)
There are plenty of reasons that Ravens-49ers, in which San Fran has been installed as a five-point favorite, is being touted as a Super Bowl LVIII preview. Consider:
- When the two franchises meet on Monday Night Football, it will mark the third regular-season matchup between teams with the best outright record in each conference in December or later since the 1970 merger. The Giants and Dallas, who are both NFC teams and had the best records in the NFL at the time, met in January of ’94 when the Cowboys defeated the G-Men en route to victory in Super Bowl XXVIII.
- Baltimore (163.8) leads the NFL in rushing yards per game while San Francisco’s defense (89.4) has allowed the third-fewest ground yards per contest in 2023. In last week’s win over the Jaguars, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson recorded 97 yards on 12 carries. His 54 career games of 50 or more rushing yards are tied with Michael Vick (54) for the most by a quarterback in NFL history. If he goes over 50 vs. the Niners, Jackson will have the record.
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- Niners quarterback Brock Purdy leads the NFL in both touchdown passes (29) and passer rating (119.0), and ranks second with 3,795 passing yards. Purdy has six games with a passer rating of 130 or higher this season, tied for the most such games in a season in NFL history. If his passer rating is 130 or better against the Ravens, Purdy will have the record.
- San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey has 499 receptions in 89 NFL games and can surpass Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk (112 games) as the fastest running back to reach 500 career catches all-time with a single catch against Baltimore on Monday night.
- The Ravens have won eight out of their last nine games and have the fourth-ranked offense (27.4p/g) and the NFL’s best defense (16.1p/g) in the NFL. Baltimore, which has led all 14 of its games at the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter, would be on a nine-game winning streak were it not for a two-point loss to the Browns. The 49ers are on a six-game winning streak and have the third-ranked offense (30.4p/g) and the second-ranked defense (16.7p/g) in the league.
Despite all of the above, Jackson, who has the NFL’s best-winning percentage (.857, 6-1) for a quarterback in road games this season, threw shade on the notion that Monday night’s Christmas finale is a preview of the final game of the pro football season in February. “The Super Bowl is in February, we’re in December right now,” he said. “We got to focus on Monday night, I’m not worried about what people saying…It’s going to be a very entertaining game.”
But will Ravens-49ers be a Super Bowl preview? We’ll have to wait until February to find out.