After eleven weeks of NFL action, arguably the most anticipated football game of the 2011 regular season is upon. Thanksgiving is a few short days away and we will have brother versus brother as Jim and John Harbaugh square off Baltimore. The 49ers and Ravens square off for the first time since 2007 when Baltimore won 9-7. Given how these two defenses are playing, it would not be surprising to see a similar low-scoring game.
More importantly for the media, it is HarBowl 2011. The battle of brothers is one that does have to be mentioned, but we'll leave the dramatization of the matchup to the mainstream media. ESPN and NFL Network will have their wall-to-wall coverage of this second coming of Gettysburg. It is a great storyline worth noting, but we won't be pounding it into the ground here at Niners Nation.
We will throw around "HarBowl" will get thrown around plenty, if only because it is a short, succinct and awesome way of describing the game. The brotherly matchup is an interesting one and it has become even more so thanks to the fact that both teams are playing well. It would have been a buzz-worthy matchup no matter what, but when you've got a 9-1 team facing a 7-3 team, it adds a whole new level of buzz. In spite of that, I'd still prefer a HarBowl Super Bowl. Although, I suppose such a contest would destroy mainstream media. This week's HarBowl only gets four days of buildup. A Super Bowl HarBowl matchup would get two full weeks of media attention. I don't know if the world can handle that.
The line came out late last night and the 49ers opened as 4 1/2 point underdogs. It is interesting to note that the line has already come down a point and a half to three points. People expect a close matchup of this one and 4 1/2 was probably a bit high to start. While the 49ers could very well lose to Baltimore and/or Pittsburgh this season, one thing I like about the 49ers is that they seem to be built to hang close. They did drop behind Philly 23-3 but quickly clawed their way back into the game.
At this point, the 49ers play a brand of football that can usually keep things close. Whether they can do that against the Packers offense remains to be seen, but all things considered, I'd like to think they can do that. For this week though, they face a Ravens offense that can be quite explosive (see: Smith, Torrey), but can also be quite inconsistent (see: Smith, Torrey).
The Ravens are undefeated at home. They had to claw back against Arizona, but they have otherwise been quite strong at home. Consider it yet another monster test for the 49ers. The New York Giants game was considered by some as a chance to show the 49ers "belonged." I would argue a win at Baltimore on Thursday would be "style points" given the 49ers current stature in the league.