Ravens (6-2) @ Seahawks (2-6)
The Ravens head to Seattle this week to take on Pete Carroll’s squad as well as the famous “12th man” crowd at Qwest Field. The last time the Ravens made this trip, they were smacked around by Matt Hasselbeck (hey, sound familiar?) as Troy Smith made his first NFL start, and I was inspired to write some “Ravens Suck” themed Xmas Carols. That was back in 2007, of course, so lets hope that four years later the results will be markedly different.
Our purple and black look to avoid their third loss of the season to a clearly inferior opponent, after dropping road games in Nashville and Jacksonville. Both of those games, like this one, followed on the heels of huge wins over quality teams. After a big emotional victory like the one last Sunday in Pittsburgh, the team could be primed for another letdown. Since it’s already happened twice this season though, let’s hope they can learn from their past missteps and take care of business on the West Coast.
Seattle has already played the other three teams in the AFC North, falling to all of them. Pittsburgh routed them 24-0 at Heinz Field, the Browns beat them 6-3 in a stinker in Cleveland, and Cincinnati went up to Qwest and pounded the ‘Hawks 34-12. We can’t be the only ones in the division to lose to them, can we?
The Seahawks have shown flashes of competence this season, losing by just two points to the Atlanta Falcons at home in Week 4, then going to the New Meadowlands and beating the New York Giants 36-25 in Week 5. Since then, they’ve lost three in a row though, most recently falling in Dallas 23-13 last Sunday.
On offense, Seattle boasts an explosive running back in Marshawn Lynch. The last time the Ravens faced Lynch – also in 2007, though when he was a member of the Buffalo Bills – they held him to 84 yards on 27 carries (3.1 avg). Marshawn’s once-promising career hasn’t shaped up the way many thought it would when he came out of the University of California, but he’s having a bit of a resurgence in Seattle, averaging 4.1 yards per carry with 4 scores this season. He is, of course, always capable of plays like this one from last year’s playoffs:
The Ravens’ run defense has been stout as always here in 2011, coming in at #3 in the league allowing 86.8 yards per game. Haloti Ngata appeared to be playing hurt in Pittsburgh, so hopefully he will be back close to 100% and his dominating self this week. Terrence Cody and Cory Redding have also been stout against the run, and Ray Lewis is once again defying father time and playing at a high level (Lewis was named 2nd team All-Pro for the first half of the season by Pro Football Focus this week).
It will be interesting to see what game plan the Ravens come out with on offense Sunday. Joe Flacco once again showed his comfort level with the shotgun short passing game last week, not only in the game-winning 92 yard drive, but throughout the game with his great success on 3rd downs. Dallas’s DeMarco Murray was the first runner to break the 100-yard mark against Seattle this season, and they are tied with the Ravens for 2nd in the NFL allowing only 3.4 yards per carry. There isn’t likely to be a lot of room for Ray Rice on the ground, so let’s hope “Good Joe” shows up for the second consecutive week.
Lee Evans practiced Wednesday and Thursday this week, and could return to the lineup for the first time since Week 2. Having Evans back on the field along with Anquan Boldin (the NFL’s leading receiver over the past four weeks) and Torrey Smith (on pace to easily break the Ravens’ rookie receiving record held by Mark Clayton) could definitely help open things up underneath for the running game though. Seattle’s young safeties are two of the top up-and-comers in the game, and Flacco will have to be aware of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas at all times.
The Ravens’ pass rush looks to get back on track after failing to show up in Pittsburgh. Through the season’s first seven games, the Ravens were near the tops of the league in getting to the quarterback, averaging 3.5 sacks per game. However, they only managed to bring Ben Roethlisberger down once. Seattle is the perfect place to get back on track; the Seahawks have allowed 29 sacks, second highest in the NFL. Tarvaris Jackson has been brought down an average of three times per game. Jackson has thrown six touchdowns and nine interceptions, so if the Ravens defense shows up Sunday, they should be able to force him into some mistakes and turnovers.
Ed Reed is due for a pick, having not registered an interception since Week 1. I didn’t do the research, but that’s gotta be a personal-high drought for him, right?
The Ravens need to start fast this Sunday, something they’ve failed to do so far this year (Ray Rice’s opening play touchdown in Pittsburgh notwithstanding, of course). They would be well served to take a big early lead, and negate any potential effect the crowd noise (real or artificial) can have on the contest. Don’t give Seattle the illusion that they can hang around. Score early, score often, then pin back your ears and get after Jackson once he is forced to throw to try to catch up, and force some turnovers.
That would be the perfect scenario. As we’ve seen in 2011, though, the Ravens haven’t seemed particularly interested in perfect scenarios. I think they’ll win Sunday, but I don’t think it will be particularly easy or pretty.
Ravens 20 Seahawks 10