Thanksgiving Night Football Picks: Harbaugh brothers meet in Baltimore

San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens
Thursday, 11/24/11, 8:20 PM EST, TV:  NFL
Opening Point Spread:  Baltimore -4
Current Betting Line:  Baltimore -3
Opening Total:  39.5
Current Total:  38.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

49ers Ravens NFL Betting Preview
John Harbaugh will try to beat his brother Jim and end San Francisco's eight-game winning streak on Thanksgiving night.

For the first time ever, two brothers will stand on opposing sidelines from one another as head coaches when the San Francisco 49ers visit the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving night.  The fact that San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh both have good enough teams to possibly meet again in Super Bowl XLVI only adds to the intrigue.

The 49ers (9-1) can clinch the NFC West with a victory against the Ravens (7-3) and a loss by Seattle against Washington on Sunday.  Their lone loss came against Dallas in overtime back in Week 2, as they have reeled off eight straight wins both straight-up and against the spread.

Baltimore (-3, O/U 38.5) has not been nearly as consistent this season, especially over the past five weeks.  The Ravens are 1-3-1 ATS during that stretch and have won a game by more than three points only once since routing Houston 29-14 in Week 6.  They are coming off a 31-24 home victory against Cincinnati last week, improving to 5-0 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Meanwhile, San Francisco topped Arizona 23-7 last week, and each of the team’s last six games during the winning streak has been decided by six points or more.  49ers quarterback Alex Smith has played well for the most part this year, but he will face a tough Baltimore defense whether linebacker Ray Lewis plays or not.

Lewis sat out last week’s win over the Bengals with a foot injury, the first time he missed a start in 58 games.  The Ravens surrendered a season-high 483 yards without Lewis in the lineup and gave up two rushing touchdowns for just the second time in 38 games.

Baltimore’s challenge offensively will be trying to run the ball against a San Francisco team that ranks first in the NFL in rush defense, allowing only 73.9 yards per game on the ground.  Ravens running back Ray Rice is coming off a 100-yard game against the league’s third-ranked rush defense and could be a key factor in this game due to his ability to catch the ball out the backfield as well.  The 49ers are the only team in the NFL not to give up a rushing touchdown this year.

San Francisco has a back looking to break the team record for rushing yards in Frank Gore, who needs 61 against Baltimore to pass Joe Perry.   Gore bounced back from a six-carry, no-yard game against the New York Giants with 88 yards on 24 carries last week against the Cardinals.  He totaled 52 yards on 16 carries in the last meeting with the Ravens four years ago, resulting in a 9-7 loss for the 49ers.

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