5 Matchups to Watch as Seahawks Take Flight Against Ravens

Corbin Smith

After moving to 5-1 for just the third time in franchise history last weekend, the Seahawks will look to continue their winning ways when they battle the Ravens on Sunday.

Starting with a 3-0 record on the road for the first time since 1980, Seattle used four turnovers during the final three quarters of play to overcome a 14-point deficit and snag a 32-38 win at Cleveland. Russell Wilson continued his MVP-caliber season with 295 passing yards and three total touchdowns, while Chris Carson rushed for a season-best 124 yards and a touchdown.

Hoping to build off the comeback victory, the Seahawks will now face one of their toughest tests of the season against the AFC North-leading Ravens. Coach Pete Carroll understands it won't be an easy task defeating a well-coached team that mirrors his own in so many ways.

"They have a great commitment to the running game. They have a great commitment to playing tough defense. Very aggressive on defense. Their special teams is as good as we’ll see all year." Carroll said on Wednesday. "They give you a really well-balanced, well-rounded football team that plays tough and physical and all that. They make it really difficult on you. They’re a hard team to beat. It’s a great challenge for us."

Baltimore will arrive at CenturyLink Field riding a wave of momentum after securing a 23-17 win over Cincinnati last Sunday. Led by dynamic dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson and punishing running back Mark Ingram, the Ravens lead the league averaging 205 rushing yards per game and rank second in the league in scoring offense (30.7 points per game).

Defensively, Baltimore hasn't been quite as dominant as prior years under coach John Harbaugh. But despite lacking much of a pass rush (11.0 sacks as a team) and producing just seven turnovers so far, a unit headlined by former Seattle safety Earl Thomas has been steady, surrendering 24.3 points per game.

Heading into Sunday's clash of potential Super Bowl contenders, which five matchups will decide which team exits with a signature win?

--Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson vs. Ravens safety Earl Thomas: Wilson and Thomas have partaken in some epic battles on the practice field as former teammates. Now, they’ll get a chance to square off against each other in a real game situation as opponents for the first time and fans should get their popcorn ready. The opportunistic, rangy Thomas will be motivated to silence a boisterous home crowd and nothing would quiet the stadium more than intercepting Wilson, who has yet to throw a pick in 2019. On the flip side, Wilson will be looking to capitalize on Thomas’s aggressiveness and use it against him, as he has a tendency at times to go for the big play when it isn’t necessarily there. He’ll have to keep close tabs on his friend every snap, as he’s been playing two-deep safety, robber, and blitzing off the edge in defensive coordinator Don Martindale’s exotic, disguise-heavy scheme.

--Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson vs. Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner: In another matchup between a talented quarterback and the undisputed leader of the defense, Wagner will be held responsible for spying on Jackson, who isn’t afraid to tuck and run on any given play. The second-year quarterback out of Louisville already has over 400 rushing yards and at his current pace, he’d be the first player in NFL history to amass 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. Most middle linebackers don’t have the speed to be able to track an explosive athlete like Jackson sideline-to-sideline, but Wagner isn’t most NFL linebackers and he already has plenty of prior experience defending other mobile quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. The key will be discipline, as Wagner has to ensure the rest of the defense lines up correctly against a Ravens offense that deploys countless run schemes as well as RPOs and play action passes.

--Seahawks interior offensive line vs. Ravens defensive tackles Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams: Seattle may have mauling guard D.J. Fluker back in the lineup after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury, which could prove to be very beneficial playing against a stout defensive front. Baltimore boasts the fourth-best run defense in the NFL in large part due to the ability of Pierce and Williams to clog up running lanes at the point of attack. Both players weigh close to 340 pounds and use their size extremely well to create stalemates at the line of scrimmage. While Jamarco Jones has played well over the past two weeks, he’s struggled a bit moving defenders in the run blocking department and for this particular game, having the powerful duo of Fluker and Mike Iupati would give Seattle a better chance to get the ground game rolling.

--Ravens tight end Mark Andrews vs. Seahawks linebackers Mychal Kendricks and K.J. Wright: Tight ends have persistently been an Achilles heel for Seattle’s defense over the years and that hasn’t changed in 2019. Two weeks ago, Rams tight end Gerald Everett caught seven passes for 136 yards in a one-point loss to the Seahawks and last weekend, Browns tight end Ricky Seals-Jones came open against broken coverage for a 33-yard touchdown reception. Neither of those players have been as productive as Andrews in his second season with the Ravens, as the former Oklahoma star leads the team with 34 receptions, 410 receiving yards, and three touchdown receptions through six games. Seattle has continued to use its base 4-3 defense more than previous seasons, which means Andrews will likely be defended by Kendricks or Wright most of the time on Sunday, creating a matchup problem Baltimore will be looking to exploit.

--Seahawks receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf vs. Ravens cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters: Earlier this week, the Ravens acquired Peters from the Rams to bolster their secondary and he’ll be facing a familiar opponent on Sunday. The Seahawks know Peters quite well from his brief stay in the NFC West and Wilson has had success manipulating the hyper-aggressive cornerback with his eyes in the past. Only a few weeks ago, Peters allowed Metcalf to race past him on a post and Wilson hit him for a 40-yard touchdown. Last year, Wilson connected with Lockett and David Moore on long touchdowns with Peters in coverage after they shook free from him with double moves. With Humphrey across from him, Peters could be in the perfect landing spot to rediscover his prior All-Pro form. But with only a few days under his belt trying to learn Baltimore’s defense, expect Wilson to not be shy about attacking him in coverage against either Lockett or Metcalf.