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Ravens vs. 49ers potential X factors: Unheralded 4-time Pro Bowler could be key to success

This interconference clash of titans could be decided by contributions from a handful of players.

Baltimore Ravens v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens will be heading back to California to play their second straight primetime game in a Week 16 interconference showdown with the San Francisco 49ers. The Christmas night edition of Monday Night Football between the top two teams in the league who many believe will be the last ones standing come February. The Ravens are entering this primetime matchup between AFC division leaders on Sunday Night Football as underdogs to win their fifth game in a row.

In almost every game, there is a play or two made that helped swing momentum into a team’s favor or extend their lead. There are a handful of select players who either aren’t being talked about as much or are primed to have a big day.

Below are some of those individuals who could prove to be deciding factors in the final outcome in Week 16.

OLB Odafe Oweh

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

The third-year pro continued to prove that sacks aren’t everything with his highly efficient and disruptive performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. In addition to logging three solo tackles he tied defensive tackle Justin Madubuike for the team lead in pressures with six and finished as the highest-graded Ravens player on either side of the ball with an overall of 89.5. He’ll have a tall task when rushing off the blindside going up against 49ers’ All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams but could really wreak havoc lining up on the left side rushing against right tackle Colton McKivitz.

FB Patrick Ricard

Baltimore Ravens v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The four-time Pro Bowler played a season-high 37 offensive snaps in last week’s win, most of which came in the second half when they took over the game by racking up 204 of their 251 rushing yards. Ricard will be even more integral to the Ravens’ success against the 49ers this week and could set a new season high in snaps played for the second week in a row since running the ball well and chewing up clock is going to be essential to limiting their opponent’s offensive possessions. The seventh-year veteran is a devastating blocker both in the run and pass game who is capable of imposing his will in a dominating fashion on defenders from any level, even those who outweigh him.

DT Travis Jones

Baltimore Ravens v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The second-year defensive lineman didn’t register a stat in the box score sheet last week but he continues to be consistently disruptive during the second half of the season. Although his consecutive games with at least half a sack streak got snapped, he tied Broderick Washington for the second-most pressures among Ravens defensive linemen in the game with two. He also helped the run defense bounce back from an uneven start and made it much tougher for the Jaguars to move the ball by blowing up plays in the backfield. The 2022 third-rounder will need to do more of the same this week against a 49ers rushing attack that ranks top three in the league and is especially dangerous between the tackles.

RB Justice Hill

NFL: DEC 17 Ravens at Jaguars Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The fifth-year veteran will be assuming a larger role in the offense moving forward starting this week following the devastating season-ending injury suffered by standout undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell. Sixth-year veteran Gus Edwards will still likely get the bulk of the touches and carries, especially in this matchup with the Ravens needing to stay on the field and limit San Francisco’s offensive possessions. However, Hill will continue being the preferred option to have on the field on passing downs due to his prowess in pass protection but he is also a talented runner who can offer a nice blend of attributes that make him a solid every-down back. While he doesn’t have Mitchell’s elite breakaway speed, Hill can still get to the edge and explode upfield with good burst and acceleration to slash defenses for chunk gains, runs tough between the tackles, and is a good pass catcher out the backfield.

DB Geno Stone

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

The four-year pro has been the Ravens’ best ball hawk this season with a team-leading six interceptions which is still the second-most in the league. Even though he hasn’t picked off a pass since Week 9 and only has one pass deflection in the last five games, Stone is overdue to make a difference-making play on the ball at some point and could prove vital in helping the Ravens steal a possession with a timely turnover at a crucial juncture in the game. His presence in the backend alongside seventh-year veteran and fellow ball hawk Marcus Williams is essential in freeing up second-year breakout Kyle Hamilton to shine where he came to impact the game most which is in the hybrid nickel role.

WR Rashod Bateman

Baltimore Ravens v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The third-year wideout has been coming on strong as of late although he doesn’t have the gaudy stats to support it. Although he has just eight receptions on 17 targets for 94 receiving yards and one touchdown during the Ravens’ four-game win streak dating back to Week 11, Bateman has come up with several crucial catches on early or pivotal scoring drives for the offense. While his numbers don’t reflect how well he has been playing recently, there are several instances of missed opportunities where he has gotten open deep downfield and either wasn’t thrown the ball or wasn’t given a shot to make a play on a throwaway in his direction. This could be the week that he could finally break or at least keep making unheralded contributions as a strong possession receiver with a knack for moving the chains and an ability to make bigger plays if given the chance.