Harbaugh vs Harbaugh, Lewis vs Willis, Gore vs Rice, and Ravens D vs Niners D. These will be the story angles that will be beaten to death by the time Thursday’s game kicks off. We do not intend to flog these points here. Jim is better than John, Patrick is better than Ray, Frank is better than Ray, and the 49ers D is better than the Ravens D. End of story. Case closed.
It’s a late game, so the jet lag factor should not be a problem for the 49ers. What could be a problem is WR Torrey Smith. If he goes off like he did against the Bengals, there will be trouble in Niner City. Baltimore has lost three games they should have won, but those games were all on the road. They have not lost at home.
The Ravens have more at stake in this game than the 49ers do. A loss would knock them out of first place in the AFC North and have them again looking up at their hated rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Don’t worry guys, the 49ers will beat the Steelers in two weeks and put you right back up in the driver’s seat!
A Niner loss would reduce their margin for error in the battle for the NFC number two playoff seed to one game. And postpone their clinching of the NFC West division title by another week. Not exactly a do or die situation.
The 49ers are looking for national respect these days, though, and Thursday’s game will definitely give them an opportunity to muscle their way into the Elite Teams room. It will also give them what amounts to a playoff atmosphere experience. They had this exposure two weeks ago at home against the Giants and emerged victorious. This game is on the road, however, and with a very short week. A win here would be quite impressive indeed.
No one would have dared utter the thought as little as three months ago, but the fact is the 49ers have an edge at quarterback. Alex Smith is better than Joe Flacco. Smith reads defenses better, makes fewer mistakes, and completes more passes. Flacco is a lesser version of Terry Bradshaw. A 50% passer who completes an occasional bomb and is supported by a strong defense and a solid running game. The 49ers don’t allow solid running games from anybody, however, putting more pressure on Flacco and possibly leading to some completions to our guys, who have made a habit out of pilfering this year.
The 49ers have an edge on Special Teams, too, and should win the field position battle, like they have all year. Andy Lee and David Akers could very well be the MVPs of this game.
That’s the Outsider book on this contest, but bear in mind that it’s an unsanctioned book and could be a complete fraud. To guard against willful bullshit, we’ve called in FBI forensic math expert Charlie Eppes to run some algorithms on the likelihood of potential red and gold success this Thursday. So far, Charlie has the look of a guy who is missing an important underlying data stream. Hopefully, Skeebette will wander into the room some time between now and Thursday morning and make an innocent observation about turkey basting which will set the lights blinking furiously in Charlie’s brain, leading to an Expert Opinion.
Until such a plot turning moment, however, we stand on our hopeful outcome: 49ers win! They’ve earned our respect.