Week 6: Top 10 Ravens, 49ers to watch
Long way from 2012
The 49ers and Baltimore Ravens do not look much like the teams that met in February 2013 for Super Bowl XLVII. Both rosters have turned over from that game, which the Ravens won 34-31 to earn the Lombardi Trophy. Only four Ravens starters from that time remain with the organization. In fact, two Baltimore starters from the Super Bowl – wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith – are now starters for the 49ers. Both teams enter Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium with 1-4 records and are desperate to get back in the win column.
10. RG Andrew Tiller, 49ers
Tiller is a powerful player who had an impressive exhibition season and continued to impress his teammates and coaches with his work on the practice squad. Finally, the 49ers turned to Tiller for help at the team’s weakest position. He shared time with starter Jordan Devey on Sunday against the N.Y. Giants and played well. His play time should only increase from here.
9. CB Shareece Wright, Ravens
Yes, we’re talking about THAT Shareece Wright, the fifth-year player who was inactive for the 49ers’ first four games and released on the eve of the fifth game to make roster space for Tiller. Regardless of whether Wright steps on the field – something he never did in his short stint with the 49ers. He could make an impact in this game with his sharing of insider information with his new team.
8. TE Garrett Celek, 49ers
In 28 previous NFL games over three seasons, Celek had just eight receptions. But through five games, he has proven to be the 49ers’ best and most reliable tight end. His blocking has been good, and he’s already caught 14 passes for 131 yards. Last week, he recorded the first touchdown from a 49ers’ tight end since Vernon Davis got into the end zone twice in the first quarter of the first game of the 2014 season.
7. LB Daryl Smith, Ravens
The 12th-year pro has been solid in the middle of the Ravens defense, as he averaged nearly 10 tackles through five games. Smith will be busy on Sunday, as he’ll try to go with the flow in the 49ers’ zone-blocking scheme and be waiting in the hole for the 49ers’ lead back – whether that’s Carlos Hyde, who is nursing a foot injury, or somebody else. The Ravens must keep the 49ers’ in third-and-long situations to turn up the pressure on Colin Kaepernick.
6. WR Anquan Boldin, 49ers
Boldin was out of the country when the 49ers acquired him in a trade for a sixth-round draft pick just a month after playing a key role in the Ravens’ victory over S.F. in Super Bowl XLVII. After Boldin expressed frustration with the 49ers passing game for a couple of weeks, he and Colin Kaepernick seemed to get back on the same page on Sunday against the N.Y. Giants. If Boldin is active in the 49ers’ game plan, that usually means good things for the offense.
5. RB Justin Forsett, Ravens
The 49ers had no answers for another former Cal running back, Shane Vereeen, against the Giants. First, NaVorro Bowman did not have much success in coverage. Then, defensive backs Jaquiski Tartt and Keith Reaser struggled to slow down Vereen in the passing game. Forsett gives the Ravens a player who is adept at catching passes out of the backfield. And that is an area they will want to exploit on Sunday after the 49ers after struggling in that area a week earlier.
4. LB Ahmad Brooks, 49ers
Brooks was back on the practice field on Thursday, and that was a welcomed sight for the 49ers. Brooks took a one-week leave to be with his family in Louisiana after the death of his sister. Without Brooks on the field last week, the 49ers’ pass rush struggled. Aaron Lynch got no help from anyone on the other side. Brooks will be playing with a heavy heart, but his presence should provide the 49ers’ defense with a lift.
3. RB Jarryd Hayne, 49ers
Reggie Bush (calf) is not expected to be available, so Hayne figures to serve as the team’s backup running back. And it’s possible he could have a significant role due to Carlos Hyde’s foot condition that kept him off the practice field on Wednesday and Thursday. In addition to handling the punt-return chores, Hayne should see his most action, yet, at running back. He has 25 yards rushing on just eight attempts in five games.
2. QB Joe Flacco, Ravens
There’s not much conversation any longer about Flacco being “elite.” But his finest NFL moment did come against the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Flacco completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns, prompting the Ravens to sign him to a six-year, $120.6 million contract a month later. Flacco has six TDs and five interceptions this season. If Steve Smith is not available, the Ravens’ receiving corps is bleak.
1. QB Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Kaepernick’s performance in the 49ers’ 30-27 loss to the Giants quieted the voices calling for backup Blaine Gabbert. But Kaepernick has to prove himself every week. And the last time the 49ers were at home, Kaepernick and the offense heard loud, angry boos from the fans at Levi’s Stadium. If Kaepernick is throwing the ball in rhythm, he’ll be fine. But when he gets indecisive when going through his progressions, he tends to struggle.