On Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will meet in their first preseason game of the 2014 season. This will be the first time that these two teams have met since Super Bowl 47, when the Ravens held off a late comeback by the 49ers to win the franchise’s second Super Bowl by a score of 34-31. It will be a lighter duel between brothers John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh due to the fact that it is just a preseason game.
The 49ers have advanced to the NFC Championship Game in the last three years, and will look to make it a fourth. Last year, Richard Sherman prevented the team from advancing to their second straight Super Bowl. The 49ers have had an injury-plagued preseason in which the biggest hit was losing defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey for the year with a torn bicep. If the team is going to get far this year, they are going to have to rely on depth to help them out.
The Ravens finished a disappointing 8-8 in their first year without Ray Lewis leading the defense. It also did not help them in 2013 when they lost eight starters from their Super Bowl-winning season. They will start the 2014 season without star running back Ray Rice as he serves a two-game suspension for his role in a domestic violence incident. The Ravens did have a strong offseason as they drafted C.J. Mosley to help out the defense, and also added Steve Smith to the receiving corps.
I do not expect quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco to be in the game for longer than two to three series. But in this game, I would look at the Ravens’ offense and the 49ers’ defense. The Ravens have gotten slightly better on offense, and the 49ers are still solid on defense, but losing Dorsey is going to be a significant blow.
This battle between two likely 2014 playoff contenders should be an interesting one to watch, especially seeing how deep these teams can be going forward.