Kickoff: 8:15 p.m., Monday, Levi's Stadium
TV: WMAR Channel 2 (Baltimore), nationally on ABC/ESPN and more. ESPN crew Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Lisa Salters (sideline)
Radio: WBAL 1090 AM & 98 Rock 97.9 FM, Sirius XM Chs. 82 or 226. Ravens crew Gerry Sandusky (play-by-play), Rod Woodson (analyst). Westwood One Sports, Ryan Radtke (play-by-play), Derek Rackley (analyst)
The Ravens lead the all-time series, 5-2, including Baltimore's 34-31 victory in Super Bowl XLVII. They haven't met since 2019,[comma] when the Ravens edged San Francisco, 20-17, on a rainy and windy afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium. Lamar Jackson weathered the tough conditions by relying on the short passing game (14 for 23, 105 yards), rushing for 101 yards, and throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews. Justin Tucker kicked two field goals, including a game-winning 49-yarder as time expired.
With three games remaining, the Ravens have won eight of their last nine and control their destiny in the race for top seed in the AFC. Having already clinched a playoff spot, the Ravens can capture the AFC North if they beat the 49ers and the Browns lose Sunday to the Texans. Next week's game against the Miami Dolphins may go further in determining the AFC's top seed, but staying ahead of the Dolphins (and Chiefs) in the standings would still be huge. San Francisco has clinched the NFC West and leads Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia by one game in the race for best record in the conference. The 49ers have made clinching the No. 1 seed a priority after losing on the road in last year's NFC championship game.
Which 11-3 heavyweight will make a statement?
This matchup has the NFL world buzzing – the No. 1 seed in each conference meeting in a potential Super Bowl preview. The Ravens feel disrespected as underdogs and want to prove they're the best team in the league. The 49ers are riding a six-game winning streak and have been dominant at times, blowing out the Cowboys (42-10) and Eagles (42-19) in earlier statement games. The winner of this "Monday Night Football" matchup on Christmas night will have the NFL's best record with just two weeks left in the regular season.
Which MVP candidate will shine brightest?
The top three favorites to win the Most Valuable Player Award, according to Vegas oddsmakers, will play in this game – Lamar Jackson, Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffery. MVP voters are bound to be influenced by a late-season game of this magnitude, giving all three candidates a golden opportunity to improve their chances. Jackson was the unanimous MVP in 2019, and while he's honored to be in the running again, his focus is on winning a Lombardi Trophy. However, there's nothing wrong with winning both.
How will Baltimore's defense handle its toughest assignment?
The 49ers have four elite playmakers – McCaffery, wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle. San Francisco leads the league with 75 plays of 20 yards or more, and many of those yards have come after the catch. San Francisco uses a ton of pre-snap motion trying to confuse defenders or create favorable matchups. There will be immense pressure on Baltimore's linebackers and defensive backs such as Roquan Smith, Patrick Queen, Marlon Humphrey, Kyle Hamilton, Marcus Williams and Brandon Stephens to gang tackle, cover well, and diagnose plays quickly while not blowing assignments.
Baltimore leads the league in sacks and will try to throw Purdy off his rhythm by pressuring him with a variety of schemes. Over the next two weeks, Baltimore will face the most prolific offense in each conference. San Francisco is second in the NFL in points (30.4 per game) and yards (402.4), while the Dolphins rank No. 1 (31.5 points, 414.4 points). The Ravens believe they have the NFL's best defense, and they'll have a chance to prove it facing high-powered offenses in back-to-back weeks.
Kyle Hamilton vs. George Kittle (and others) will be key to the Ravens' success.
Players to Watch
QB Lamar Jackson
Jackson keeps taking his game to new heights, using his athleticism to extend plays in the pocket more frequently and flourishing in Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken's system. The 49ers are a formidable foe, but Jackson has a 19-1 career record as a starter against the NFC, a 15-4 record in primetime, and a 15-3 record in December. That's a lot of trends pointing up. The matchup between Jackson and the 49ers' talented front seven will be intriguing to watch.
DT Justin Madubuike
Madubuike has tied the NFL record with at least a half-sack in 11 straight games and he can break that record against the 49ers. In addition to bringing pressure up the middle, Madubuike often draws double teams that free up Baltimore's other pass rushers. Purdy (29 TD passes, seven interceptions, 119.0 quarterback rating) isn't easy to rattle but Madubuike isn't easy to block. The Ravens lead the NFL with 50 sacks and the more Madubuike can get to Purdy, the better Baltimore's chances.
S Kyle Hamilton
It helps having versatile defenders against the 49ers and Hamilton's presence as a prowling presence at safety is likely to be a major part of Baltimore's defensive game plan. Whether he's matching up with Kittle, Aiyuk, Samuel, or McCaffery, Hamilton can be used as a Swiss Army Knife and has become one of the NFL's most impactful safeties in only his second season.