Five 49ers to watch in Week 13: Jaquiski Tartt faces stiff test vs. Ravens

Five 49ers to watch in Week 13: Jaquiski Tartt faces stiff test vs. Ravens

SANTA CLARA – The hottest team in the AFC plays host Sunday to the team with the best record in the NFC with forecasts calling for a 100-percent chance of rain and temperatures in the 40s.

The Baltimore Ravens, owners of the most potent offense in the NFL, face the NFC-leading 49ers, who are expecting their opponent to stick with what has been working, regardless of the conditions.

“I have a feeling they’re going to run the ball whether it’s raining or not,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I don’t know how much it’s going to change.”

The game Sunday marks the midpoint of a challenging three-game stretch for Shanahan’s team. The 49ers (10-1) face three consecutive opponents with win percentages of .800 or better, the first time a team has faced three consecutive opponents this strong this late in the season in the Super Bowl era.

The 49ers opened the back-to-back-to-back with an impressive 37-8 victory over the Green Bay Packers. Next week, the 49ers go up against the 10-2 New Orleans Saints.

But, first, the 49ers must contend with John Harbaugh’s Ravens, who have taken over the top spot in the NFL Power Rankings.

Here are five 49ers who should have important roles in Sunday’s game.

5. RT Mike McGlinchey

Second-year offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey is coming off his best game of the season. Now, he must keep it going on Sunday against the Ravens.

McGlinchey will find himself matched up for at least half of the game against strong side outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who leads the Ravens with seven sacks on the season. Regardless of which player he finds lined up across from him, McGlinchey must take care of business with little to no help.

The 49ers have more uncertainty on the other side of the line. Veteran left tackle Joe Staley has missed eight games this season with fractures to his left leg and a finger on his right hand. If he returns to action Sunday, some rust can be expected.

Rookie Justin Skule struggled in the first half of the 49ers’ game last week against Green Bay, and Daniel Brunskill entered the game in his place. The team’s left tackle likely will require more help in pass protection, so the pressure is on McGlinchey to handle business on his own.

4. DL Arik Armstead

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead is having his breakout season as a fifth-year pro. It is coming at the best time for him, as he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

Armstead had nine sacks in his first 46 NFL games. In 11 games this season, he has registered a team-leading 10 sacks. Armstead is benefitting greatly from the 49ers’ wide-nine alignment.

The idea that new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has brought to the team is to get to the quarterback on every play. And on the way to the quarterback, if it’s a run play, the adjustment is made. That mentality could create some problems Sunday.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson orchestrates the league’s best running game. Under offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the Ravens have a variety of read-option run plays. Jackson is Baltimore’s leading rusher with 876 yards and an electrifying 7.1 average.

And when Jackson hands it off to his backs, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards both are averaging 5.2 yards a carry. Armstead must be solid as a run defender on base downs at defensive end, and as a pass-rushing interior lineman on nickel downs.

3. TE George Kittle

The area of the Ravens defense that Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo can exploit is the linebackers. None of Baltimore’s linebackers can even come close to handling George Kittle.

Therefore, the chore for Shanahan will be to devise a series of shifts, motions and route concepts that test the coverage skills of inside linebackers Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor. Whenever Kittle is matched up against the linebackers, that’s when Garoppolo must strike to get the ball in his hands.

Kittle returned to action last week after missing two games with ankle and knee injuries. He immediately picked up where he left off with six receptions for 129 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown catch. Big plays could decide the game Sunday, and Kittle is the 49ers’ best bet.

2. WR Deebo Samuel

Rookie receiver Deebo Samuel has emerged as a reliable threat in the passing game – both to keep the chains moving and to supply a big play with his yards-after-the-catch skills.

With the inclement weather expected Sunday, it might be difficult for Garoppolo to drive the ball down the field on deeper routes. Samuel could be a significant factor with his ability to catch the ball on an underneath route, then challenge the Ravens secondary to tackle him.

In his past three games, Samuel has 18 receptions for 296 yards and a touchdown. He will be working against some top-notch corners Sunday, namely Marcus Peters, Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey.

[RELATED: Ravens building on offense made for 49ers, Kaepernick]

1. SS Jaquiski Tartt

No player on the 49ers’ defense will be challenged quite like strong safety Jaquiski Tartt.

The 49ers will be dedicated to slowing down Baltimore’s ground attack on first and second downs to put them in third-and-long situations – where the team’s strong pass rush can get after Jackson.

Tartt will be the eighth defender in the box and will have to quickly diagnose the Ravens’ read-option plays, whether Jackson is keeping the ball or handing off to Ingram or Edwards.

“The more he’s down there, the better he’s gotten in terms of feel, understanding his run fit, understanding his reads and being able to key in on the tailback and making sure that he can feel the line and all that stuff,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said of Tartt. “He’s gotten a lot better at it over the course of his career and he’s going to need to be even better this week.”

How 49ers' two 2020 New York games could be impacted by coronavirus

How 49ers' two 2020 New York games could be impacted by coronavirus

The 49ers are planning to spend more than a week in New York in September, but that might not happen anymore.

NBC Sports NFL analyst Peter King reported Sunday night that the NFL will urge teams with back-to-back road games in opposite time zones not to stay in hotels between games.

"The eight teams that have such back-to-backs will probably have to file “IDER plans,” which stands for infectious disease emergency response," King wrote Sunday in his latest "Football Morning In America" column. "These are detailed travel and sequestering plans that the league and the union will need to approve before a team is able to stay on the road for that length of time. I’m told the league is going to strongly urge teams not to stay on the road that long, despite the inconvenience for the teams involved."

Back in May, King reported that the 49ers and Raiders were among eight teams to ask the NFL to group together road games in the Pacific or Eastern time zone.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The league scheduled the 49ers to play at the New York Jets in Week 2 and the New York Giants in Week 3 during the 2020 NFL season, meaning San Francisco could stay in the New York area to reduce travel.

[RELATED: Jimmy G arrives at camp in Kittle shirt]

But with the coronavirus pandemic raging, it now appears that the league won't allow the 49ers and other teams to stay on the road rather than returning home.

Like everyone else around the world, NFL teams are going to have to get used to adjusting their routines. If the 49ers have to travel back to the Bay Area and then return to New York a few days later, it surely will be an inconvenience. But this is going to be a season of inconveniences.

NFL opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

NFL opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

As the sports world now is underway despite the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL is next up. There will be questions and concerns aplenty, too. 

Before training camp even begins, several players already have decided to opt out of the 2020 NFL season due to health concerns. That list is bound to grow as well.

Here is who will not be suiting up this season as the virus continues to run rampant. 

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, OG, Kansas City Chiefs

Duvernay-Tardif, who has a medical degree from and has been working as an orderly at a long-term care facility in his hometown of Montreal, Quebec during the pandemic, became the first player to opt out of the 2020 season. The Chiefs' starting offensive guard tweeted his reasoning on July 24. 

De'Anthony Thomas, WR/KR, Baltimore Ravens 

Return specialist De'Anthony Thomas voluntarily opted out of the season, the Ravens announced Monday. 

Chance Warmack, OG, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Media's Mike Garafolo reported Monday that Warmack has opted out of the season. Warmack, who signed with the Seahawks this spring, also sat out last season 

Maurice Canady, CB, Dallas Cowboys

Garafolo also reported Monday that Canady is opting out of the season as well. 

Marcus Cannon, OL, New England Patriots

Cannon, who battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2011, will not play in 2020.

Danny Vitale, FB, New England Patriots

Vitale and his wife recently had a baby, so the fullback will not be participating in the 2020 season.

Dont'a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots

Hightower, who has a two-week-old son, is choosing to protect his family's safety.

Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that Bolden is one of five Patriots to opt-out of the season.

Patrick Chung, S, New England Patriots

Add another Patriot to the list.

Najee Toran, OL, New England Patriots

Make that six Patriots. 

Marquise Goodwin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

The former 49ers receiver announced he will not play this season after the birth of his daughter in February.

Andre Smith, OL, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens announced Smith joined his teammate, De'Anthony Thomas, in opting out this year. 

Star Lotulelei, DT, Buffalo Bills

The Bills announced former first-round draft pick Star Lotulelei has opted out. 

Stephen Guidry, WR, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys annoinced undrafted rookie Stephen Guidry has opted out.

Devin Funchess, WR, Green Bay Packers

Funchess announced on Instagram that he has opted out of the season. 

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Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, Houston Texans

The former Raiders defensive lineman will not play in 2020.

Cole Wick, TE, New Orleans Saints

The veteran tight end will not play this season, according to NFL Media's Tom Pelissero.

Michael Pierce, DT, Minnesota Vikings

Pierce, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract this offseson, is high-risk and has opted out.

Nate Solder, LT, New York Giants

Solder opted out of the season, citing family's health concerns.

Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

The star of Super Bowl LIV has opted out of the season, the Chiefs announced.

Chandler Brewer, C, Los Angeles Rams

Brewer played seven games with the Rams after signing as an undrafted free agent last summer.

“With my history with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I am at high risk and will opt out of playing in the NFL this season,” Brewer said in a statement posted to the team’s website. “I would like to thank the Rams for their support and I look forward to getting back on the field in 2021 and beyond."

Marquise Lee, WR, New England Patriots

The USC product became a father for the first time in February, and cited his newborn daughter as a major factor in his decision.

"This is a big sit-down process I had, with me and my significant other, as far as family goes. The risk factor in which we believe that's going out there, it just wasn't worth it in a sense. Just too many unknowns," Lee told ESPN.com.

C.J. Mosley, LB, New York Jets

The four-time Pro Bowl linebacker is citing family health concerns as his reason for opting out, ESPN's Rich Cimini reported Saturday.

E.J. Gaines, CB, Buffalo Bills

Bills general manager Brandon Beane says the cornerback will sit out the 2020 season. 

Matt LaCosse, TE, New England Patriots

Matt LaCosse is the eighth Patriot to opt out of the season.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]