And while there will certainly be challenging moments for both teams once the playoffs kick off in January, they have the talent to meet again in the Super Bowl in Miami on the first Sunday in February. This could very well have just been the setting of the table for another monumental clash for all the marbles.
There was so little between these two teams. Lamar Jackson had his moments as he rushed for more than 100 yards for the fourth time this season and yet there were times when San Francisco's defense was able to get on top and come up with some key stops and took the ball away from Jackson through a fumble.
Ultimately, both teams will feel they have learned where and how they can win a re-match. Both teams will come away with areas for improvement but also feel good about certain areas of their game. They remain two of the very best, if not THE best, teams in the league.
Given how much success San Francisco had on the ground, it was a bit of a head-scratcher to see key fourth down conversion attempts placed very much in the hands of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The most critical of those came with 6:33 left to play when Jimmy G's pass intended for George Kittle was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
San Francisco never saw the football again.
When the Ravens were faced with their own short-yardage situations on their final drive, John Harbaugh played to his team's strengths and his rolling of the dice on fourth downs has become so norm we barely batted an eye when he went for it with the ball in his own territory. Jackson gained three yards on fourth and one at his own 44-yard line and later picked up two yards on a third and one at the San Francisco 30.
Derrick Henry...Others may get more attention but there is not a running back playing as well as Derrick Henry at the moment. The powerhouse is the driving force behind a Tennessee Titans team that recorded its fifth victory out of six on Sunday with a 31-17 victory over Indianapolis. Henry once again reminded us that he is as explosive as he is powerful as he rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. O- over the past 16 games, Henry has rushed for 1,725 yards (107.8 per game) and 18 touchdowns. He especially comes alive at this time of the year and that's good news for Tennessee's playoff charge.
Tre'Davious White...Stephon Gilmore is not the only shutdown corner in the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills have their own defender who can lock down one side of the field in White. It is such a benefit to have a defensive back who can take care of the opposing number one receiver on his own because the rest of your defense can play so aggressively, especially up front. White has four interceptions and 14 pass defenses on the season and is one of the very best in the business.
Ryan Fitzpatrick...When you consider that he should be getting paid danger money to operate behind Miami's shockingly-bad offensive line, Ryan Fitzpatrick is doing a hell of a job for the Dolphins. Every week, he makes plays and puts a bad and under-manned team on his back. Fitz is bringing out the best in receiver DeVante Parker and developing tight end Mike Gesicki and both came up big in Sunday's 37-31 win over Philadelphia. Fitz threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns during the win, reminding the Dolphins that they don't need to rush into their quarterback decision in 2020 if it doesn't suit them. He could be a bridge in 2020 for a long-term solution in 2021.
New England's offense...Everyone seems scared to write off Tom Brady and his New England Patriots offense and that is fair enough when you consider his pedigree and success rate at this time of year. But why should we just assume this New England attack is going to figure it all out come January? Is the reason because they always have in the past? That doesn't mean it will be the case again and this offense looks broken. Brady flits between anger and despondency on the sideline and this offensive funk is going to be hard to break out of come playoff time. Sunday night's 28-22 loss to Houston was worse than the final scoreline would suggest, particularly from the offensive side of the ball and, with no Rob Gronkowski comeback on the cards, breaking the shackles of this offense and winning the Super Bowl in February will require one of the best coach-quarterback jobs in recent history from Bill Belichick and Brady.
Freddie Kitchens...The head coach is supposed to be the CEO and face of any NFL organisation and he is never meant to be the one providing bulletin board material to the opposition, especially just days before a potentially toxic encounter with a fierce division rival. The Browns' Freddie Kitchens was photographed in Cleveland ahead of the showdown with the Steelers wearing a 'Pittsburgh started it' t-shirt. What was he thinking? Would Bill Belichick have considered such a move? Never. I don't even care that it was a present from his daughters. Did he not think it would be noticed if he wore the t-shirt out and about in Cleveland? It just through flames onto a simmering fire that needed no stoking. The fact that Kitchens doubled down and suggested he would wear the t-shirt again in the future makes me wonder if he is the right man for the job in Cleveland.
Jacksonville Jaguars...While there is talent on their roster, the Jaguars don't deal with adversity very well. When the wheels came off their 2018 season, they lacked discipline and locker room leadership. And that raised questions about whether Doug Marrone was the right head coach for the job. He was given a stay of execution in 2019 and the Jags appeared to be in the mix at 4-4 as they rolled into Wembley Stadium in early November. Since then, Marrone's men have lost by 23, 20, 22 and 17. And their loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday was nowhere near that close until Gardner Minshew came in and briefly lit a fire under the offense. Big changes are coming in Jacksonville but will those expected sweeping moves involve expensive quarterback Nick Foles?
The Fast Five...
Count the Carolina Panthers as one of the most disappointing teams of the past month. Ron Rivera's group have now lost five of their last six and losing at home to Washington on Sunday is a major setback. Rivera has survived adversity in the past but it feels like his seat is warming.
I love a snow game and the New York Giants delivered at home against the Green Bay Packers. But the weather was all that New York served up in that 31-13 loss at MetLife Stadium. The Giants have now lost eight straight, Daniel Jones has 21 giveaways in 11 games and Pat Shurmur is cooked as the head coach. Merry Christmas!
Fact of the Week
Baltimore's Lamar Jackson is the only player in NFL history with 25+ passing touchdowns and 950+ rushing yards in one season. Jackson has thrown 25 touchdown passes and rushed for 977 yards in 2019.
Finish That Sentence
Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go...
From Mark Sugar (@marksugar)... The Dallas Cowboys should.. stay the course for the remainder of this season and stick with Jason Garrett as head coach. He has been a good servant as a player and coach and does not deserve to be embarrassed down the stretch. But it will be time to move in during the offseason and I think Jerry Jones needs to be as aggressive and bold in his coaching search as he was in building his remarkable stadium. I think Dallas should give up as many draft picks as it takes to secure the services of Sean Payton.
From Christian Burt (@ChristianBurt)... The Washington Redskins with a fully-fit Derrius Guice can...put together at least a semi-positive end to 2019 that will offer hope for the future. But this team needs a big overhaul and it starts in the front office before it even reaches the field. Guice provides some real juice to the ground attack, though. That much we know already in a short period of time. There are plenty of holes, but the recent signs have not been bad. But there is a long, long way to go because this once-proud franchise has fallen harder and faster than most. The bleeding has slowed, but not yet stopped and the rebuild has not even begun yet.
From Mark Fawcett (@mjfawcett) The team that confuses me the most is...the Houston Texans. To be clear, this is not the team I am most pleased or disappointed with - it is the team I cannot quite put my finger on this season. First up, let me make it very clear that I believe this to be a talented and dangerous contender, as evidenced by their defeat of New England on Sunday night. But there have been times this year where the Texans have dropped the ball just when we start to believe in them. So as we enter the final four weeks of the regular season, I'm not fully sure who this team is or can be. On one day they look capable of springing some playoff wins here or there and going all the way. And then on other days, I wonder if they can hold off the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South.
From Rob Fussey (@RobFussey) The Oakland Raiders really need...A wide receiver who can stretch the field and also another year of grace before we really jump on board their bandwagon. Everything is a process for the Silver and Black and their rebuild is in the early stages. You will also notice I didn't say they needed a quarterback - I think Derek Carr can get the job done. He just needs more passing game weapons around him because it takes too long for the Raiders to move downfield.
How timely was that big day for Jared Goff in the Los Angeles Rams' 34-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals? Sean McVay schemed up some good stuff for Goff, who threw for 424 yards and two touchdowns. The first of those scoring strikes was his first since Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium. The most important thing from a team point of view is that the Rams remain alive in the NFC playoff race in 2019. But there is a longer-term play here and Goff - who the Rams are tied to financially for years to come -needs many more days like Sunday to get the doubters back on his side.