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Ravens-Seahawks: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 19 October 2019 by Luke Jones

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.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following their pre-draft press conference

Posted on 03 April 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens conducting their annual pre-draft press conference on Tuesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Eric DeCosta began by welcoming everyone to the “Liars Luncheon,” which is what many have called this event for years. It was a fun moment of levity to kick off a question-and-answer session that produces few headlines or revelations.

2. DeCosta estimated the Ravens will have roughly 180 “draftable” players on their board by the time the NFL draft begins in three weeks. He labeled safeties, interior offensive linemen, and pass rushers as the deepest position groups. The latter two could certainly help the current roster.

3. Despite owning just one selection (22nd overall) in the first 84 picks, DeCosta said having two choices each in the third and fourth rounds was “gold” with this year’s mid-round talent. You definitely get the sense the Ravens would prefer moving back in the first to add more mid-round capital.

4. Ozzie Newsome remains very much involved in the draft process with DeCosta noting that he’s probably watching more tape than he has in recent years without the burden of the administrative tasks of a general manager.

5. DeCosta again stated the need to “get some at-bats and swing” at wide receiver, which is a delicate balance for someone who’s perceived a sense of inflation with how the position has been valued in recent years. Given the great need there, you hope the necessary adjustments have been made.

6. Reading much into what’s said about prospects is unwise, but DeCosta compared Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf to Terrell Owens in terms of running after the catch while director of college scouting Joe Hortiz compared his size, physicality, and vertical speed to Demaryius Thomas. High praise.

7. While the likes of Nick Bosa and Josh Allen figure to be long gone by the time Baltimore picks, DeCosta confirmed a desire to add pass-rushing help on the edge and inside. That coupled with the versatility of Wink Martindale’s scheme should cast a wide net to address that need.

8. DeCosta said he could see three or four centers being drafted in the first or second round unlike most years when the position lacks high-end talent. North Carolina State’s Garrett Bradbury wouldn’t excite the fan base, but the Ravens have long searched for stability at center.

9. Both Devin White and Devin Bush are expected to be gone by the time the Ravens pick, but DeCosta praised the next tier of inside linebackers. You’d have to think one is added to the mix at some point. N.C. State’s Germaine Pratt was formerly a safety and carries upside.

10. Just how important is Marshal Yanda to the running game? Check out who owned Pro Football Focus’ best rushing grade when going off right guard. There’s been some ambiguity and speculation regarding Yanda’s status, but the Ravens still expect him to play in 2019, the final year of his contract.

11. How much does the long-term roster outlook factor into draft planning? Baltimore is currently scheduled to have 17 unrestricted free agents next offseason, a list that includes Yanda, Jimmy Smith, Justin Tucker, Matthew Judon, Willie Snead, Patrick Onwuasor, Michael Pierce, and Ronnie Stanley if his fifth-year option wouldn’t be exercised.

12. DeCosta expressed his love for the gamesmanship of the draft and throwing teams off the Ravens’ scent. “As a kid, I loved to play Risk, I loved to play Monopoly — all those games. To me, this is a game. But it’s not a game we can afford to lose.” Indeed.

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