The vaunted Ravens defense against the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom,” right?
Not these days as offense is currently king in both Baltimore and Seattle while the defenses are rather pedestrian.
Sunday’s tilt provides the Ravens a major test after entering Week 7 tied for having the NFL’s easiest schedule by winning percentage and holding the second-lowest strength of victory in the AFC (not including winless Miami and Cincinnati). The Ravens can’t control which teams they play, of course, but a win against a 5-1 Seahawks team would be quite a statement to the rest of the conference still finding its way behind undefeated New England.
It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Seahawks for just the sixth time ever with Seattle holding a 3-2 series advantage. Baltimore is winless in its only two trips to CenturyLink Field and hasn’t defeated the Seahawks since Nov. 23, 2003, a crazy 44-41 overtime final.
Below are five predictions for Sunday:
1. Earl Thomas will grab an interception against his old team. The six-time Pro Bowl safety took the high road and expressed respect for his former organization this week, but you know Thomas would love nothing more than to stick it to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll for fazing him out of Seattle’s plans in his mind. More importantly for the Ravens, Thomas’ confidence is growing as he noted he’s having fun and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has given him “that green light.”
2. Russell Wilson will go over 35 pass attempts for just the second time this season. The veteran is overdue to throw his first pick of 2019, but making his offense one-dimensional by shutting down the run may not be that desirable. The Seahawks are right on the Ravens’ heels in terms of run-pass ratio, but Seattle ranks 17th in yards per carry at 4.1 compared to Baltimore’s league-best 5.5 yards per attempt. In other words, why run so frequently with mediocre results instead of giving Wilson more chances to make plays with his arm? He’s second in the NFL at 9.0 passing yards per attempt. The Ravens taking away that “balance” by completely stopping the run could actually prove to be detrimental.
3. Mark Andrews will go over 100 receiving yards and catch a touchdown. Speedy wide receiver Marquise Brown appears unlikely to play after missing another full week of practice, putting even more pressure on Andrews to be the go-to guy for Lamar Jackson and the passing game. The Seattle defense has given up three touchdown passes to tight ends and 66 or more receiving yards to Cincinnati’s C.J. Uzomah and the Rams’ Gerald Everett, who had a career-high 136 two weeks ago. Even with the Ravens’ lacking a vertical threat, Andrews should have another big day.
4. Tyler Lockett and D.K Metcalf will catch touchdowns against a reshuffled secondary. We’ve seen the defense take positive steps in each of the last two weeks, but forgive me if I’m not convinced holding Devlin Hodges-led Pittsburgh to 23 points and the winless Bengals to 17 constitutes a real breakthrough. I like the Marcus Peters acquisition, but the high-variance cornerback had to fly across country twice in little more than a 48-hour period and is still learning a new playbook. This trade will pay off, but that won’t come until after the bye week when Peters can catch his breath.
5. Red-zone and third-down efficiency will be the difference as the Ravens fall 30-23 to Seattle. Baltimore will try to control the clock with the ground game and keep Wilson off the field as much as possible, but that only works if you’re finishing drives with touchdowns rather than field goals, which is easier said than done against a good opponent on the road. The Seahawks rank seventh in third-down defense and tied for 15th in red-zone defense, superior to the Ravens defense in both departments. This will be a close game that could go either way, but Wilson is playing too well right now to bet against him, even if Jackson gives you a real chance to win whenever he steps on the field.