Nate Tice, Yahoo Sports
Finding an answer or two against 49ers’ 21 personnel will be the priority. The Ravens mix their coverages and their personnel between trotting out four defensive backs (base) or five defensive backs (nickel, sometimes with three safeties) when teams use 21 or 12 personnel (i.e. only two wide receivers on the field).
The Ravens’ defense is more than capable handling the run out of base personnel, holding run games to a sub-30% success rate. But against the pass? Eesh. They rank in the bottom 10, advanced metrics-wise, defending the pass when they use that base personnel, which is a little dicey going against this particular 49ers unit!
On the other hand, when the Ravens defend with five or more defensive backs, and especially against the same two wide receiver looks? One of the best defenses in football. And the best, in terms of success rate, defending the pass (although on a small sample size).
What mix of personnel and coverages the Ravens decide to use will be the crux of this side of the ball., because it will then determine how the 49ers go about their attack. So, keep an eye out for the Ravens defenders moving with the 49ers players, it can be an indicator of what’s to come.
So what is to come? I think it’s going to be a big McCaffrey day. The Ravens prefer to play two-high coverages on first and second down, which typically leads to more running the ball and simply more McCaffrey — his combined targets plus designed rushes per snap rate is 47.9% against zone, but drops to 36.5% against man coverage. And the Ravens’ run defense can be susceptible to chunks on the ground, especially against a Shanahan run game that can use the Ravens’ recent matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, where running back Kyren Williams ran for 114 yards under Sean McVay’s game planning, as a part of the blueprint.
Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun
If the Ravens are to maintain a handle on these four potential All-Pros when they visit the 49ers Christmas night, second-year safety Kyle Hamilton will have to be their all-purpose counter.
“He’s one guy that if you cloned 11 of him, he could play every single position,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “He’ll be big for this game, whether it’s guarding Kittle, guarding Deebo, making tackles on McCaffrey, getting to the quarterback on pressures — I think it’ll be a really big game for him just based off the things he can do and the way this team attacks you.”
NFL Stats noted Wednesday that he’s the only player in the league with at least 10 passes defended and at least 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, a snapshot of his varied impact.
“It’s an opportunity for everybody on our defense to really showcase what we’re about against a great offense,” Hamilton said. “Props to those guys over there. There’s playmakers all over the field and a solid front line. I think we’re just the guys to go handle it.”
The 49ers average the most yards per play, 6.8, and the Ravens allow the least, 4.4. So there won’t be any lack of belief on either side.
Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive
“Those guys definitely have a lot of weapons, but so do we. I feel like I like our team against any team,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said. “That’s my confidence each and every week. I have the utmost respect for my guys and I know the way we prepare, so I’m betting on us.”
The truth is the Ravens don’t need to win to prove they’re Super Bowl contenders, and a victory guarantees nothing next month. However, winning a test like this should end any talk about what this team can’t do the rest of the way, and it would also ratchet up the pressure to make a deep January run.
Jackson against a San Francisco front seven with multiple Pro Bowl selections.
Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk facing Smith, Hamilton, Justin Madubuike, and Marlon Humphrey.
The MVP award still up for grabs with Purdy, Jackson, and McCaffrey regarded by many as the top three candidates entering Week 16.
It doesn’t get much better than this in the regular season, which is why many will have February on their minds watching the league’s two best teams go at it. According to the NFL, Monday will mark only the third regular-season December — or later — matchup between teams with the best outright record in each conference since the 1970 merger.
Matt Verderame, Sports Illustrated
Baltimore Ravens (11–3) vs. San Francisco 49ers (11–3)
Key matchup: 49ers’ pass-catchers vs. Ravens’ tacklers
San Francisco is phenomenal in a slew of offensive categories, and yards after the catch is one of them. The 49ers rank fourth with 1,860 after the catch yards.
However, Baltimore’s defense has been stingy in this regard. The Ravens have only surrendered 1,407 yards after catch, checking in ninth.
Marcus Mosher, PFF
Bosa is putting together another really strong season, grading out as the No. 2 edge defender in all football. But he’ll have a tough assignment in Week 16 against Moses, one of the best and most consistent right tackles in the league. Slowing down Bosa will be priority No. 1 for the Ravens on Monday Night Football.
There aren’t many holes in the defense of the 49ers, but the slot position is one that the Ravens are expected to attack at a high rate. Flowers caught just one pass for seven yards in Week 15 but look for the Ravens to get him more involved this week.
Favorite bet: 49ers -5.5
This could be a Super Bowl preview on Monday Night Football, but no team is playing better in the NFL than the San Franciso 49ers. They are healthy and at home, which is all you need to know to pick them here. Don’t be surprised if the 49ers win by double-digits against the top team in the AFC.
Vic Tafur, The Athletic
Man, the NFL is taking out the NBA’s kneecaps with this Christmas matchup. Jackson will have his work cut out for him. The 49ers have recorded three or more sacks in seven consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. The Ravens have allowed three or more sacks in all three of their losses this season. They are 5-3 when allowing three or more sacks and 6-0 when allowing two or fewer. The Ravens cornerbacks are also not very good, and their run defense is good, not great.
The pick: 49ers