Week 13 Matchups and X-Factors to Watch for San Francisco
There are two notable Ravens weapons the 49ers will have to be mindful of in Week 13, Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram.
Ingram is averaging a career-best 5.2 yards per rush this season, which is surely assisted by Jackson’s exceptional abilities, both as a passer and a rusher. And considering San Francisco’s difficulty this season stopping the run, one can figure Baltimore wants to come out strong on the ground — an element mandated by the weather conditions expected at M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday.
Forecasts for the game call for 40 degrees with an 87 percent chance of rain. The Ravens prepared for this by practicing with wet balls during the week, while the 49ers had the added benefit of rain storms hitting Northern California.
The weather might hinder both teams’ passing efforts, also making it more difficult for defenses to react quickly enough. It could also cut down on Jackson’s mobility, too, although that’s still a tough challenge regardless.
Jaquiski Tartt vs. Lamar Jackson
All 11 Niners defenders on the field will have to be on point against Jackson, although strong safety Jaquiski Tartt likely has the biggest responsibility, as pointed out by NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco:
"The 49ers will be dedicated to slowing down Baltimore’s ground attack on first and second downs to put them in third-and-long situations – where the team’s strong pass rush can get after Jackson. Tartt will be the eighth defender in the box and will have to quickly diagnose the Ravens’ read-option plays, whether Jackson is keeping the ball or handing off to Ingram or Edwards."
Tartt is performing at an exceptional level this season, making this particular matchup one to watch.
Arik Armstead vs. Ravens Offensive Line
Defensive tackle Arik Armstead was the first Niners defender to reach 10 sacks this season, and he’ll be in line for a tough task on Sunday, too.
Baltimore’s offensive line currently ranks 17th in pass protection, according to Football Outsiders, but a key advantage in favor of San Francisco could be the Ravens losing veteran starting center Matt Skura to a season-ending knee injury.
Armstead and the 49ers pass-rushers will look to exploit Skura’s backup, either Patrick Mekari or Jake Brendel, this Sunday.
George Kittle vs. Ravens Linebackers
Another player Maiocco touted for this contest is George Kittle, having written “none of Baltimore’s linebackers can even come close to handling” San Francisco’s Pro Bowl tight end.
Kittle’s mere presence on the field does wonders for the Niners offense, either acting as a decoy for Kyle Shanahan’s other pass catchers or as a legitimate yards-after-the-catch threat.
Using Kittle to exploit this weakness should be something the 49ers try early and often during the game.
Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida vs. Ravens Run Defense
Not coincidentally, the Niners rushing attack got back to form in Week 12 against the Packers, thanks largely to Kittle’s return to action. While no San Francisco runner put up gaudy numbers, individually, the 49ers as a whole managed 112 rush yards on 22 attempts.
Matt Breida’s possible return to action is a huge boost, while fellow running back Tevin Coleman will be asked to provide both reliable services on the ground and act as a legitimate pass-catching option out of the backfield — something potentially necessary in the rainy conditions in Baltimore.
San Francisco maintaining possession with the run game will help chew up clock, which is the best way to keep Jackson off the field.