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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
December 28th, 2023
Christmas Day gifted NFL fans with a potential preview of Super Bowl LVIII as the AFC's top team, the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFC-leading San Francisco 49ers clashed on prime time Dec. 25.
The Niners entered the game as a 6.5-point home favorite, but the league's No. 3 scoring offense was held to 19 points, and San Francisco's No. 3 scoring defense surrendered 33 points to Baltimore.
Despite Baltimore's blowout victory, the Niners sit atop the Super Bowl odds board heading into Week 17 as the +225 favorite, while Baltimore is slightly behind them at +350.
The Miami Dolphins, who eked out a 22-20 win over Dallas at home in Week 16, are the third choice to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, and last year's Super Bowl runners-up, the Philadelphia Eagles, own the fourth-best odds (+800) after beating division rival New York 33-25 on Christmas Day.
As for the MVP race, 2019 unanimous NFL MVP Lamar Jackson overtook Brock Purdy as the favorite to win the 2023 MVP award, with -190 odds; Niners running back Christian McCaffrey moved into the second spot on the odds board, at +500.
After Monday night’s 33-19 win over the 49ers, Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson is now 20-1 vs. NFC teams.Bodes well for Baltimore if Jackson can lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/7Oj03M4tYv— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 26, 2023
After Monday night’s 33-19 win over the 49ers, Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson is now 20-1 vs. NFC teams.Bodes well for Baltimore if Jackson can lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/7Oj03M4tYv
Purdy is now a +1200 longshot to win MVP after he was picked off on three of the first four drives of Monday's contest, and four times total for the day. The second-year QB became the first 49ers quarterback since Colin Kaepernick in 2015 to record four interceptions in a game.
Last year's Super Bowl winner, the Kansas City Chiefs, are fifth (+800) on the Super Bowl odds board but look more vulnerable than ever. On Monday, the Chiefs hosted the 7-8 Las Vegas Raiders, playing behind interim head coach Antonio Pierce, and fell 20-14. Patrick Mahomes went three-and-out on back-to-back series to start a game for just the second time in his career, and Kansas City was held to minus-18 yards in the first quarter.
Even worse for K.C., Las Vegas scored on consecutive turnovers, taking an Isiah Pacheco fumble to the house before returning a Mahomes interception to the end zone on the next drive.
Mahomes has yet to play a true road playoff game in his career and with the way his team is competing at the moment, any matchup away from Arrowhead is going to be a tall order for the Chiefs, who have lost three of their last four.
Two defensive touchdowns in SEVEN SECONDS 🤯#LVvsKC | #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/lbuQgITiGl— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 25, 2023
Two defensive touchdowns in SEVEN SECONDS 🤯#LVvsKC | #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/lbuQgITiGl
At +750 odds, the Miami Dolphins are one of the most dangerous teams in the AFC and will square off with Baltimore in Week 17, giving us an idea of which of these powerhouses is the more legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The Dolphins have won five of their last six, with their lone loss coming by a point to Tennessee in a 28-27 home defeat in which Tyreek Hill was absent for most of the game with an injury.
On Wednesday, Hill, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, running back Raheem Mostert, and left tackle Terron Armstead were among a number of players who did not practice. The Ravens are unlikely to face a full-strength Dolphins squad on Sunday, but in the playoffs it could be a different story.
The Dolphins currently rank first in yards per game, passing, scoring offense, and are fifth in rushing yards per contest. The defense is fourth in yards allowed and fifth in rushing yards surrendered, which could cause some issues for Baltimore.
Over in the NFC, Super Bowl LVI champion Los Angeles has suddenly emerged as a serious threat in the conference. Boasting +7000 odds, the Rams are not a team to sleep on. Matthew Stafford and Co. have won five of their last six, and their lone loss in that span was in overtime to the Ravens in Week 14.
Second-year running back Kyren Williams and rookie receiver Puka Nacua are playing at an elite level, and Cooper Kupp has shown signs of his old self when healthy.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Rams would get the No. 6 seed and confront No. 3 Detroit, Stafford's former team.
The Seahawks own the No. 7 seed as of Thursday, Dec. 28, and have lost to Los Angeles twice, while the Rams have only played San Francisco once so far this year. The result was a close, 30-23 defeat in which Kupp was sidelined.
With the way the Rams are playing right now, the Niners and every other team in the NFC should be most worried about the recent Super Bowl champ going on a run — potentially all the way to Super Bowl LVIII.
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