The San Francisco 49ers travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens on Thanksgiving in a game billed as Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh. Jim and John Harbaugh will be squaring off in the first ever battle of head coach brothers and naturally this has gotten the bulk of the headlines.
However, as big a story as that is, the more important story for the 49ers is that they have a chance to clinch the NFC West this week with a win and a Seahawks loss. Given the 49ers strong start to the season, they are also in a position to secure a first round bye in the next few weeks. They hold a two-game lead over the New Orleans Saints and a three-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. As long as the 49ers handle their business the rest of the season a bye is their's for the taking. However, it is always nice to get a little help from the rest of the conference.
San Francisco 49ers @ Baltimore Ravens: As was said when the 49ers traveled to the Detroit Lions and again when they hosted the New York Giants, this is probably their biggest game of the year. Aside from the importance of a win it doesn't impact the 49ers conference tiebreaker. At the same time, a win is a win is a win. And I don't pick against the 49ers (I also don't bet money on them). PICK: 49ers
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions: If the 49ers can defeat Baltimore, a Packers loss opens the door for the 49ers to secure the NFC's #1 seed and accompanying home field advantage through the playoffs. If the Packers defeat Detroit, it's tough to see them losing the rest of the way. Odds are high the road to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau Field. PICK: Packers
Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks: The 49ers can clinch the NFC West with a win and Seahawks loss (some tie options could also work, but we'll ignore those for now). The Seahawks are on a bit of a roll and sitting at 4-6. Their NFC West chances are slim, but their wild card hopes are intriguing. They are three back of the Bears and Lions, but with three straight home games coming up (Redskins, Eagles, Rams), they could very well be 7-6 three weeks from now. Alongside the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, the Seahawks stadium (formerly Qwest Field) provides one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. I think they'll hold onto it this week. PICK: Seahawks
New York Giants @ New Orleans Saints: The Saints have a shot at matching the 49ers record in the coming weeks, but they are also behind in the conference tiebreaker, which makes it all the more difficult. This week though, the Saints get a home game against an inconsistent Giants squad. The Saints play well enough at home that I just don't see the Giants doing enough to get the W. PICK: Saints
Miami Dolphins @ Dallas Cowboys: Now that the Cowboys have moved back into a tie for first, they are a threat to get the first round bye if the 49ers have a modest collapse in the coming weeks. The Cowboys hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the 49ers. Miami is playing incredibly well right now, but it just seems a little too tough heading into Big D. PICK: Cowboys