As far as early December NFL matchups go, this Sunday's tilt between the 49ers and Ravens might be one of the most hyped in recent memory.
The 49ers (10-1), fresh off a demolition of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, will travel east to face Lamar Jackson and the Ravens (9-2), who are winners of seven straight and just pounded the Rams into dust on "Monday Night Football." Both teams have been virtually unstoppable this season, and have dreams of playing in the Super Bowl come February.
San Francisco is led by the NFL's best defense, which has been making mincemeat out of opposing passers all season long. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense slowly are improving and appear close to raising their game to meet the level of their elite defense.
The Ravens' rushing attack has drilled holes through everything put in their way this season. Baltimore leads the NFL with 210.5 rushing yards per game. San Francisco ranks second, albeit well behind the Ravens at 145.6 yards per game.
Sunday's game will have a number of fascinating matchups. How will Baltimore's offensive line, with a new center, hold up against the 49ers' D-line? Can the Ravens defense force Garoppolo to make mistakes? How in the world will the Niners slow down Lamar Jackson?
The matchup has just about everything and might just be a Super Bowl preview. Jerry Rice certainly thinks so.
"I really do," Rice told 95.7 The Game's "Jo, Lo and Dibs" when asked if he thinks this is a Super Bowl preview. "I was looking at the game between the Cowboys and the Patriots. The Patriots are not putting up points, they won that game 13-9. Dallas just could not get into the end zone. I don't know if it had to do with the weather or they just lost focus on special teams. I don't think Jerry Jones is very excited with the way they played.
"But the Patriots are not putting up points. With Tom Brady, his passer rating his not that good and they are winning football games on defense. [The 49ers] have the defense. We also have the offense. I think the Ravens and Lamar Jackson, what they were able to do to the Patriots I think has pretty much exposed them a little bit. And you might be looking at the Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl."
While the Ravens are red-hot, their path to the Super Bowl still would go through Foxboro and Gillette Stadium with the Patriots sitting at 10-1. While Jackson torched the Pats in Week 9, it would be hard to bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at home in January.
As for the 49ers, their road to the Super Bowl could be all sorts of treacherous. While they currently sit in the No. 1 seed, a loss coupled with a Seahawks win would send them to the No. 5 seed with four weeks to play. The NFC also is loaded with talent as the 49ers will have to knock off at least two of the Seahawks, Packers, Saints, Cowboys/Eagles and Vikings in order to reach Miami, which is a tall task.
Both the Niners and Ravens appear to be the class of their respective conferences, but don't start counting your eggs before January.