Baltimore Ravens' head coach John Harbaugh discusses the strengths of the 49ers.
49ers run offense versus Ravens run defense: San Francisco is second in the league in rushing behind the Ravens, averaging 145.6 yards. The 49ers rely mostly on speed, misdirection and counters, but they can power up with tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. The 49ers also have a strong and versatile fullback in former Raven Kyle Juszczyk, who also doubles as a tight end and H-back. Halfback Matt Breida is the speed performer and has rushed for 542 yards on 109 carries this season, and Tevin Coleman has 448 yards on 115 attempts. The Ravens are third in rushing defense allowing only 87.7 yards, and the key has been nose guard Brandon Williams. Fellow tackle Michael Pierce was also having a strong season but an ankle injury has forced him to miss the last two games. Newly signed free agent Domata Peko Sr. has done well as Pierce’s replacement. The Ravens do a good job of keeping offensive linemen off inside linebackers Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor, especially on first-down situations. Because the Ravens usually have led in most games, they don’t stay in base defense long but that might change against a quality team like San Francisco. The 49ers won’t abandon the run easily and the Ravens inside linebackers are known more for speed than power.
Both teams are looking to secure home field advantage in the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. The 49ers (10-1) are tied with the New England Patriots for having the best record in the NFL, and they have a half-game lead over the New Orleans Saints (10-2) in the NFC race. Seattle is also right behind the 49ers at 9-2. The Ravens (9-2) want to overtake the Patriots to possibly host all of their playoff games. The Ravens beat New England, 37-20, earlier in the season.
Sunday’s game will feature two of the top young tight ends in the NFL. The 49ers’ George Kittle, a third-round pick in the 2017 draft, has 52 receptions for 670 yards and three touchdowns this season. Kittle has registered 20 receptions on third-down situations, tied for fourth in the NFL among all players. He is effective anywhere on the field but especially inside the red zone. The Ravens’ Mark Andrews is in his second season and leads the team in receptions with 50 for 643 yards and six touchdowns. Andrews is averaging 12.9 yards a catch and has become quarterback Lamar Jackson’s favorite target. The two have connected on a lot of back shoulder fades this season.