The Sunday GPS, Week XIII: Why 49ers-Ravens is more than a game
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
SAN FRANCISCO @ BALTIMORE, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Ravens by 5-1/2
The weather: Rain, high of 49
The story: Consider this The Clash of the Titans ... and maybe, just maybe, a Super Bowl Preview. The 49ers are the best team in the NFC. The Ravens, at least according to safety Earl Thomas, the Ravens are the best team in the AFC. In fact, he all but guaranteed this week that they reach the Super Bowl, and we've heard that before. Jalen Ramsey, then with Jacksonville, said the same thing two years ago and regretted it. The Ravens lead the league in scoring and total offense. The 49ers lead the league in total defense and fewest points allowed. Something has to give, and make it the weather. Rain is forecast, with the Ravens practicing this week with wet footballs. They might want to work on their pass protection, too. San Francisco leads the league with 44 sacks.
Something to consider: The Ravens won their last five games by an average … an average … of 28 points each, outscoring opponents 202-62. They outscored their last two 135-26, producing 41 or more points in all three.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL-OF-FRAMING
CLEVELAND @ PITTSBURGH, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Browns by 2
The weather: Rain, high of 55
The story: Neither one of these teams is going to the playoffs, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of the game. Because it’s Myles Garrett, Part II. Yeah, I know he’s not here (he’s suspended the rest of the season), but tell that to anyone with a Terrible Towel. For them, this is where the Steelers – or they – get to respond to what happened in Cleveland two weeks ago. That was a beatdown – literally and figuratively – and it hasn’t been forgotten. Guaranteed, the Steelers aren’t as amped as their fans. Expect a physical game … on the field and in the stands.
Something to consider: Over their last nine games, the Steelers rank first in takeaways (26) and quarterback hits (71) and are tied for first in interceptions (14).
OAKLAND @ KANSAS CITY, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Chiefs by 10
The weather: Mostly cloudy, windy, high of 36
The story: Consider this a must-win for Oakland. Hard as it is to fathom, with a victory the Raiders could jump Kansas City in the AFC West and move into a tie for first. But get real, people: If you believe in history, there’s a better chance of Mideast peace than a Raiders’ upset. Andy Reid is 17-3 following byes and 11-2 in his career vs. Oakland. Furthermore, he's 6-0 vs. Oakland in K.C. Then there’s Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr. He’s 0-5 at Arrowhead, with three touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion percentage of 55.4. Bad, huh? So’s this: The Raiders average just over 12 points in those games. Now the clincher: The Raiders just got waxed … by the New York Jets. Check, please.
Something to consider: Since 2015, Kansas City is 24-3 vs. AFC West opponents. No team has a better division record in that span.
NEW ENGLAND @ HOUSTON, 8:20 p.m. (EST)
The line: Patriots by 3
The weather: Sunny, high of 67 (retractable roof)
The story: So Tom Brady shows up on the injury report a second consecutive week with an elbow injury. A concern? Nope. By Friday, he was removed from the list. But that doesn’t mean the Patriots don’t have issues beyond Brady and a sputtering offense … because they do. Seventeen players showed up on this week’s injury report at “questionable,” including Julian Edelman (shoulder), Stephon Gilmore (illness) and Jamie Collins (illness), and, yes, that could be a problem. So can this: The Patriots are on to their fourth kicker this season, with Kai Forbath taking over for the injured Nick Folk. Considering that New England no longer blows out opponents, that a big deal.
Something to consider: Houston’s Bill O’Brien is 0-5 against his former boss, Bill Belichick.
OUR BEST BETS
(Picks are made against the spread only)
RON BORGES – Green Bay (--6-1/2). Somebody has to pay for the egg Aaron Rodgers laid last week, and who is more capable of helping him erase that memory than the New Jersey Midgets?
CLARK JUDGE – Green Bay (--6-1/2). No Even Engram. No Golden Tate. No Jabrill Peppers. No chance for G-Men.
RICK GOSSELIN – Pittsburgh (+2-1/2). Pittsburgh an underdog at home? Against an arch-rival? That’s an insult to the past and present history of the Steelers’ defense.
THE WEEKEND OMG
The 49ers are the first 10-1 underdog since 2007 when the Green Bay Packers were favored over the 10-1 Dallas Cowboys.
THE WEEKEND OMG, PART DEUX
Jets’ safety Jamal Adams has as many sacks (6-1/2) as Pro Bowl pass rushers Khalil Mack or Cameron Heyward and more than Pro Bowlers Von Miller or DeMarcus Lawrence.
THE WEEKEND OMG III
The Saints’ Taysom Hill has four receiving touchdowns, which is more than Odell Beckham Jr. and Davante Adams COMBINED (3).
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
JIMMY GAROPPOLO, QB, San Francisco. He’s 5-0 in December.
LARRY FITZGERALD, WR, Arizona. He has more catches (185) vs. the Rams than any other player has vs. any opponent.
T.J. WATT, LB, Pittsburgh. He’s registered at least half-a-sack in eight consecutive games.
LAMAR JACKSON, QB, Baltimore. In his last three games he has 12 TDs, no interceptions and a passer rating of 147.8.
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY, RB, Carolina. He has eight touchdowns (6 rushing, 2 receiving) in five home games this season.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
1. In 13 of the past 15 seasons a team with a sub-.500 record through 11 games has made the playoffs.
2. Sunday’s Baltimore-San Francisco game marks the third time since 1970 that a team averaging 35 or more points a game (Baltimore) and a team allowing an average of 15 points or fewer (49ers) meet in Week 13 or later.
3. This is the first time in 18 years that three NFC teams are 9-2 or better through the first 11 games.
4. The 49ers have four or more sacks in seven of their 11 games.
5. Since Week 8 the Ravens (71.3) and Cleveland (73.2) hold opposing quarterbacks to the lowest passer ratings.
6. Only one of Philadelphia’s remaining opponents has a winning record (Dallas at 6-5). The others (the Giants twice, Washington and the Dolphins) each are 2-9.
7. The NFC holds a 25-23 edge in inter-conference games this season.
8. Baltimore is 15-3 with Lamar Jackson as a starter. The 49ers are 16-3 with Jimmy Garoppolo.
9. The Eagles’ Jake Elliott is the only kicker (minimum 10 attempts) not to miss a field-goal try this season. He’s 14 of 14.
10. Since entering the league in 2016, the Titans’ Derrick Henry has four games with 150 or more yards rushing and two or more TDs – the most of anyone in the NFL.
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