One of the biggest Christmas Day showdowns since Shaq vs. Kobe 2004, and Rocky vs. Drago is taking place on Dec. 25, 2023. The No. 1 seed in the AFC — the Baltimore Ravens — is going up against the top NFC seed — the San Francisco 49ers. Personally, I prefer when the NFL does not insert itself into the sporting calendar on one of the NBA’s signature days, but for a matchup like this, I’ll indulge.
Will it be divorce court for Lamar and the Ravens? | Agree to Disagree
The Ravens are hoping that playing the “nobody believes in us card,” will help push them to their biggest victory of the season. Most sportsbooks have them as a 4-5.5 point underdog on the road against the 49ers.
Kyle Hamiton told the media that the team feels disrespected by that point spread. Marlon Humphrey went so far as to say it, “hurt my feelings a little bit.” John Harbaugh did confirm with the media that the spread has been discussed in team meetings.
Oddsmakers know what they are doing. They are trying to tempt as many people as possible to bet on the game, and that line is juicy. The 49ers have won all of their games by double digits since the bye week. That includes wins in Jacksonville, Philadelphia, and Seattle. They are a buzzsaw.
While the Ravens have the same record, they have not gone through their schedule with the same level of domination. They have won their last four by double digits, but one is a 20-10 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, and last week they went to Duval County and beat the Jacksonville Jaguars — with a hobbled Trevor Lawrence — 23-7. The 49ers play like a wave compared to what sometimes is a ripple from the Ravens.
This game is the highlight of the 2023 regular season. Both teams are relatively healthy and the winner will have the inside track at the top overall seed in their respective conference. That right there is the true significance of the game. The winner will end the day with three losses, while the loser falls into the pack of teams in their conference with four.
The Ravens can be in their feelings about the spread and talking heads can bloviate all they like about this being a measuring-stick game for Lamar Jackson & Co. This highly-anticipated Christmas Day showdown is just one of 17 regular season games.
Yes, it would be an excellent look for the Ravens to knock off the mighty 49ers in front of America, but that is all it would be. Regardless of the result, there is nothing left for the Ravens to prove in the year 2023.
Every step they take in the next three weeks needs to be building toward a playoff crescendo. What they need most is for this newly remodeled offense to hold up when a loss is more than a disappointment — it is final. If they win on Monday, they have to turn around and play the Miami Dolphins six days later, possibly with the AFC top seed on the line.
The Ravens can feel free to post the point spreads for their Christmas tilt against the 49ers all over the practice facility and their locker room at M&T Bank Stadium. It can’t hurt. However, if they win, the celebration should last only until they hit the showers.
Beating the 49ers will make them look good and improve their record, but there is more work to be done.