OWINGS MILLS — NFL fans are getting an entertaining gift on Christmas night with a prime-time matchup featuring the league’s top two teams.
The Ravens will travel to the San Francisco to play the 49ers in what some pundits are saying is a Super Bowl preview.
Both teams hold the No. 1 seed for the postseason in their respective conference.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh knows a huge challenge awaits on the West Coast.
“We’re excited about where we’re at, and then now we’re getting pointed toward the next one, which is going to be [against] an even better team in probably an even tougher environment out there on Christmas night,” Harbaugh said. “You talk about Advent – this is the season, for sure. I’m proud of the guys in terms of how they’ve handled the December football part of it and how they’ve carried themselves, how focused they’ve been [and] how humble they’ve been, giving glory where it belongs, so we appreciate that, but we’re focused on the task at hand.”
Statistically, the Ravens and 49ers are the top teams in the NFL and are closely matched.
The Ravens rank No. 1, allowing 16.1 points per game, followed closely by San Francisco at 16.7.
The 49ers rank second, amassing 402.6 offensive yards per game, and the Ravens are ranked fifth with 374.1. San Francisco averages 30.4 points per game, and Baltimore scores 27.4 per game.
Both teams also have NFL MVP candidates with their quarterbacks.
The Ravens’ Lamar Jackson has thrown for 3,105 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also leads all quarterbacks with 741 yards rushing with another five scores.
Sam Francisco’s Brock Purdy is second in the league with 3,795 yards passing with 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
When asked about the potential MVP race, Harbaugh was dismissive.
“I could care less about any of that, and the beautiful thing is Lamar couldn’t care less either,” Harbaugh said. “What we care about is the game on [Monday]. That’s one thing for sure. We’re trying to be 1-0 this week. This is the most important week of the season to us just like all the last weeks have been when they’ve come up. It’s a singular focus that our guys have that I love, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
The Ravens have the top rushing attack in the NFL with 163.8 yards per game, more than 20 yards ahead of the second-place Lions (140.9)
However, the 49ers have the top running back, Christian McCaffrey, who leads the NFL with 1,292 yards rushing with 13 touchdowns.
It should be quite a battle on Christmas night.
The Ravens are 5-point underdogs, according to BetMGM Sportsbook.
“They play winning football, and [I have] a lot of respect for them,” Harbaugh said about San Francisco. “I have a lot of respect for the coaches and the players. There’s just nothing about how they’re built that you couldn’t respect, so we understand that. What I’m looking to see is how we respond to that challenge, because we’re going to go into there [as] big underdogs, traveling all the way across the country [on] Christmas day [and] Advent.
“We’ll be looking forward to it. It will be a big challenge for us.”