On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers picked up their eighth-straight win and secured their first winning record overall since 2002. Sitting at 9-1 atop the NFC West (2-0 in the division), they've all-but secured their playoff bid, but don't have much time to celebrate, as they've got a quick turnaround with a Thanksgiving Day game against the Baltimore Ravens. In a move that just about everybody saw coming, but is still funny nonetheless, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Ravens coach John Harbaugh will square off for the first time in their professional careers on a day generally reserved for family and togetherness.
You're going to hear and read the phrase "Harbowl" several hundred times over the next three days, and we promise that's the last time we'll be saying it (which is, of course, a lie). But that really is, in essence, what this is. More than that, it's a meeting between two of the NFL's best teams, despite the fact that the Ravens have slipped up multiple times against bad teams this season. Fortunately for them, but perhaps unfortunately for San Francisco, Baltimore has generally played extremely well against top tier competition.
Yes - the 49ers are indeed top tier competition. Does it feel as weird to read it as it does to write it?
Alex Smith has been gaining confidence in recent weeks, despite missing a few crucial passes on Sunday against the Cardinals. The running game with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter has stalled out over the last two weeks, but again, the 49ers have shown that Smith can take the game over if need be ... perhaps the team's biggest doubt through the first half of the season. Everything regarding Smith has been doubted of late, but so far, he's proving many folks wrong, including die-hard fans.
The Ravens are coming off a win over the rival Cincinnati Bengals, passing them up in the AFC North division. Baltimore continues to struggle outside of the division, but they already beat the Steelers twice and just made more strides by overcoming an early Cincinnati lead. Joe Flacco isn't perfect, but he's led plenty of comebacks, and Torrey Smith has proven to be explosive. Their defense is among the best and, really, they're probably the most well-rounded team the 49ers have played/will play this year.
On the injury front, Ray Lewis just missed the game against Cincinnati and there's no word yet on if he'll be ready to go by Thursday. For the 49ers, they saw starting fullback Bruce Miller go down with a head injury against the Cardinals, but there's no update. If it's a concussion, then it's unlikely Miller would be able to play, meaning Moran Norris would probably be active and Justin Peelle would take some snaps at fullback.
The game is set for 5:20 p.m. pacific on Nov. 24, and will be on the NFL Network.