Nasty weather looms over Ravens, 49ers matchup

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  • By Jelani Scott NFL.com
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Both the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers defenses are known for making big splash plays at key moments.

When the two teams meet in Week 13's most highly-anticipated game, every play made by both clubs will carry that title but for a much different reason.

As of Saturday evening, the forecast for the 1 p.m./ET kickoff in Baltimore shows a 100-percent chance of rain with wind gusts up to 10-15 mph, and the accumulation set to reach near an inch. According to Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com, the run-heavy Ravens offense has been precautious regarding Mother Nature's impact while preparing for the game, so much so that they practiced with wet balls on Thursday.

"Our equipment staff did a great job of soaking those things pretty good. So, we got some really good work with that," Ravens OC Greg Roman said, via Mink. "Really, it comes down to being great with the ball-handling. That's where you really [see rain] impact the game."

Ball-handling is an area Baltimore has excelled in, thanks largely to the gravity of quarterback Lamar Jackson. Baltimore has fumbled 12 times but has only lost four, which is the fewest among the 26 teams who have fumbled 10 or more times. With Mark Ingram lining up in the backfield, the MVP candidate has propelled the Ravens' top-ranked offense to a league-best 210.5 rush yards per game. Seventeen of their 42 total TDs have come on the ground; nine from Ingram and six via Jackson.

On the flip side, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers offense have enjoyed the run, as well; the Niners rank second in rush YPG (145.6), are tied for the second-most rush TDs (15) and boast arguably the best RB depth in the NFL. Rather than talk up the ways the slick field could alter his team's approach in that department, Shanahan opted to look at the silver lining when talking earlier this week about the gameplan.

"We'll see how it is on Sunday, and how that could affect both teams, but I usually don't like [the rain] or want it as much because I feel we're a team that's predicated on speed, and I think rain always slows you down a little bit," Shanahan explained on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger and Brooks" show on Wednesday. "I don't mind too much their quarterback (Lamar Jackson) slowing down, though.

"So I don't exactly know how that will affect (us). I know they're going to run the ball, whether it's a monsoon or whether it's 90 degrees out and not raining at all. I don't think it's going to change what they do, but you've got to sit there, and watch, and see if it makes them better or worse. Then you've got to adjust accordingly."

Adjusting to the elements is an obstacle both teams have already faced this season. Back in Week 6, the 49ers traveled to FedEx Field and beat the Redskins in a sloppy 9-0 affair, the team's worst game to date. The Ravens took on the Seahawks the following week in a similarly dreary road game, and won 30-16.

Many have labeled this contest as a potential "Super Bowl LIV preview" but neither side can afford to buy into that allure; for now, the focus will be about emerging victorious on what promises to be a saturated Sunday afternoon.

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