Week 16: Monday, Dec. 25 vs. Baltimore Ravens, 8:15 PM ET/5:15 PM PT
Yet another holiday game for the 49ers, having dispatched of the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving, the Baltimore Ravens come to Levi's Stadium for the Niners' final prime time regular season game of 2023.
In what could be a reasonable Super Bowl preview, the Ravens have quietly been one of the NFL's best teams and head into Week 15 as the AFC's top seed.
Baltimore is the NFL's fourth best scoring offense (27.8 ppg) and second best scoring defense (allowing just 16.8 ppg), while allowing the second fewest yards, fewest touchdowns, and the lowest yards per attempted allowed in the league.
In other words: this is a really good team, even if their offense is much better when running the ball than passing. Per the EPA metric, they have the NFL's highest rushing success rate at 46.3%, while they are tenth in EPA per dropback at 47.6%.
This is far and away the 49ers' toughest remaining test and it comes during a stretch when they can ill afford to lose another game given the easier path that the Philadelphia Eagles have for the remainder of the season.
The biggest problem is that the areas where Baltimore is particularly adept (rushing offense and stopping the pass) are the very same that are either the struggle for the 49ers (stopping the run on defense) or have driven the offense in terms of efficiency (Brock Purdy and the passing game).
This one is shaping up to be one of the better contests of 2023 and it's one both teams will need to say ahead in their respective conference races.
Still, I don't like the matchup for the 49ers, and unless the defense is able to use a similar game plan that it utilized in shutting down Eagles' quarterback Jalen Hurts to slow down Ravens' signal-caller Lamar Jackson, it could be a long and frustrating Christmas night.