This is more or less a link dump, but I wanted to throw out some extended thoughts on just a couple of articles.
The big storyline (aside from Trent Dilfer's burning desire for revenge against the Ravens) is the first meeting of Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis. It's certainly the most obvious story. Patrick Willis is most often compared to Ray Lewis. Mike Singletary and Mike Nolan both worked with Lewis in Baltimore. Willis is showing flashes of Ray Lewis play making ability. If Willis becomes anything resembling Ray Lewis, we'll have a Hall of Fame linebacker, hopefully for a very long time. Nolan was distinguishing the two of them:
Lewis fairly defines extroverted for the way he demands, and gets, attention. As for Willis...
"Quiet but deadly," the rookie said. "Boom! That's just me."
Finally, I thought I'd throw out some comments from the Scouts Inc. scouting report (Insider article):
First off, the matchup to watch, which is one we'll ALL be checking out.
Look for Baltimore to run multiple-zone dogs, stunts, X-blitzes and everything they can throw at him. The 49ers do not have threats in the passing game, so look for the Ravens to play more press-coverage and blitz. The Ravens will also fake the blitz and back off to get Dilfer to force the ball into zones. Look for the Ravens to show a lot of movement and pre-snap adjustments to keep this 49ers offense out of synch.
The 49ers enter this week with the 32nd ranked offense and pass offense in the NFL. QB Alex Smith (shoulder) will be out this week. He was injured early in the game last week and Dilfer came in and could not get anything going either. Dilfer has less arm strength than Smith, which does not bode well for the 49ers being able to open the offense up this week. Dilfer tried to stretch the field last week, but his intermediate-to-deep throws were either into traffic or off target.
Baltimore is struggling to stop the pass for a few reasons. First and foremost they are not getting pressure on the QB and rank 26th in sacks this season. Secondly, CB Chris McAlister has not played with any consistency and thirdly, Samari Rolle missed his second consecutive game last week. Rolle will be a question mark again this week. Baltimore is not going to get as much pressure because they will once again be without DE Trevor Pryce. This will force defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to blitz more this week.
Look for Baltimore to be very aggressive with its front seven this week because Dilfer is not a mobile QB and if pressured will put the ball up for grabs. The biggest issue with the San Francisco passing game is that starting receivers Arnaz Battle and Darrell Jackson struggle to separate. Neither is a vertical threat in the offense and can be covered one-on-one on the outside. This will allow the Ravens to come after Dilfer and take steps in coverage with their pass defense this week.