The Ravens travel to Seattle as underdogs against a 5-1 team with the red-hot favorite for MVP at quarterback. The Ravens have not won against the Seahawks since 2003, and are 0-2 in Seattle, which is considered to be one of the strongest home field advantages in football. Despite the 5-1 record and star quarterback however, there are significant flaws with this team, and this game is more winnable than it seems at first. Even when Russell Wilson plays perfectly, the Seahawks often barely eek out a win against mediocre to bad opponents. Of their 5 victories, four of them have come by 1, 1, 2, and 4 points, and none of them came against a team that is better than 3-3 right now. This game will be a challenge that could go either way, but it is a game the Ravens can win.
Thanks to their quarterback play, the Seahawks have been very effective at passing the ball this season. Behind Russell Wilson’s passing, they are 3rd in yards per pass play, 2nd in completion percent, and 3rd in passing touchdowns. They have, without doubt, a top 3 passing offense right now. If the season ended today, Russell Wilson would be voted as MVP. The only thing that prevents them from having the best pass offense in the game is the same as it has always been: Wilson’s propensity to take sacks. Sacks are more influenced by quarterback play than even offensive or defensive line play (just look at Denver and Indy’s sack rates from 2009-2014 for exhibit A,) so the Ravens front 4 will have opportunities to get pressure.
The Seahawks’ greatest weakness isn’t exactly a position group, but rather a refusal among their play-callers to play to their strengths. So far this season, the Seahawks rank 21st in total number of pass plays (including sacks) and 3rd in total number of run plays. You would normally expect a winning team to have a greater number of rushes, but only one of their wins was by more than 4 points: it’s not like they were killing clock in garbage time for the whole 4th quarter. Their running game, while not awful, has resulted in fewer yards per carry than the league average (4.1 vs 4.3,) and more fumbles than the league average (9 vs 7.4.)
Key Matchup: Offense
Mark Ingram and Lamar Jackson vs Bobby Wagner: Bobby Wagner is one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL, with his main strength being that he has been the surest tackler in the NFL. He almost never misses tackles, missing only 5 out of 199 tackle attempts since the start of 2018. He has good range as well, regularly being among the leaders in tackles from season to season. He will need this against the Ravens’ run game, which is the best in the NFL. Both Jackson and Ingram will be a threat to carry the ball, and Wagner and the rest of the Seahawks linebackers will have their work cut out for them. Bobby Wagner is a multiple-time all-pro though, so this looks pretty evenly matched.
Key Matchup: Defense
Earl Thomas vs Russell Wilson: Earl Thomas faces his old teammate in this game against the Seahawks, and as good as Wilson is, Thomas should have a good matchup here. During most of the years Thomas was with the Seahawks, their defense was better than their offense, and the defense had the edge in practices. Because the playstyle of different quarterbacks is more varied than the playstyle of different free safeties, Thomas’s familiarity with Wilson will be a greater advantage than Wilson’s familiarity with Thomas. Earl Thomas has continued to play at a high level this season, allowing 5 completions for 38 yards and 0 TDs on 10 targets, and is still playing well enough to limit the large chunks of yardage that the Seahawks passing game can pick up.
Betting Line and Prediction
The Ravens are 3-point underdogs against the Seahawks according to the Vegas Insider consensus. Despite having a better record and higher standing in most power rankings, the Seahawks routine of playing barely above the level of bad teams lead the oddsmakers to only give the road team 3 points. Given that Seattle’s home field advantage is worth more than 3 points over a neutral field, the oddsmakers at Vegas actually do recognize the Ravens as a slightly better team. However, I think Vegas is still underselling the Ravens a tad. The only time the Seahawks faced a team that currently has a winning record, they lost to their backup QB. While the Ravens had similar problems, they were more dominant against bad teams. Ravens 27, Seahawks 25.