Intensity of a thousand suns take: we’re going to watch some fun football this weekend.
I’m utterly fascinated by the Baltimore Ravens this year. Honestly, I wish I could’ve seen more of them to date; if I had NFL Sunday Ticket, I’d be tempted to put them on just about every week! After two games, they looked on track to compete for a Super Bowl slot with the Patriots and Chiefs; but were we watching fool’s gold? Wins over the Dolphins and Cardinals – blowouts that they were – are obviously not very impressive. You’re supposed to kill those teams.
Nevertheless, my expectations for this Ravens team heading into the season were completely out of whack compared to what they put out into the world. I was not a Lamar Jackson believer, for starters. I thought he was a fine fantasy quarterback, in the same way Josh Allen is a fine fantasy quarterback. Rushing yards can make all the fantasy difference at the QB position. But, in real life? In the NFL, where wins matter above all else? Where you need to prove you actually have an arm and can use it for something other than jabbing it into a defender’s face as you run by him for extra yardage? I couldn’t buy it.
The fact of the matter is, the Ravens’ offense from 2018 threw me off the scent. Lamar was a rookie, after all, and they used him like one. He sat behind Joe Flacco for an uncomfortably long time. Then, when he got in there, the offense looked so drastically different, it seemed like they pared down the playbook to a post-it note. I figured, at some point – probably as soon as Week 1, 2019 – defenses would adjust to the Run-First/Run-Second/Run-Third ethos of what John Harbaugh was trying to instill, by stacking the box and forcing Lamar to throw deep.
And, they might have very well done that! But, funny thing: Lamar just went over the top and blew everyone’s doors off!
He threw for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns against Miami (with only 6 yards rushing). He followed that up with another 272 yards and 2 more TDs against Arizona; and the MVP chatter was in full effect.
I watched that Ravens/Chiefs game in Week 3 pretty closely for a while, until the score got out of reach (I missed a lot of the garbage-time points the Ravens scored late), and honestly I liked what I saw. The Ravens took chances, went for it on 4th down, went for two on the game’s opening touchdown; they knew that field goals and field position weren’t going to be enough to beat the high-flying Chiefs offense. It was a brilliant strategy, poorly executed (especially in the first half).
What I saw over everything else was a defense that isn’t NEARLY as good as I expected them to be. The Ravens’ defense, in 2018, really carried the mail. They were the reason I had them in the hunt at all for a possible wild card spot. I figured it would be more of the same as 2018; that’s usually my mistake when making pre-season predictions.
To be fair, I don’t know exactly what they did exceptionally last year, but I’m assuming it was the front seven. With the addition of Earl Thomas in the backfield, I figured he would do what he did for many a mediocre Seahawks’ defenses in the last few years: pick them up on his back and make them look much better than they actually were.
But, he hasn’t really stood out (aside from almost killing that Steelers quarterback), and I contend they’re using him wrong. I haven’t watched the tape or anything, but I can’t believe he’s lost that much of a step after looking fantastic in his few games in 2018; yet he’s seemingly never in a position to make a play. I put that on the scheme. My hunch is they’re playing more of a Tampa 2 when he’s coming from a Single High scheme. Let your dog hunt! Set Earl loose and watch the magic happen!
Anyway, the Ravens biffed it against the Chiefs, and completely fell apart against the Browns (giving up 33 and 40 points respectively). That’s on the defense. Things have settled down the last two weeks – they beat the Steelers and Bengals in closer games than they probably should’ve been – but again, those are terrible teams. The Ravens are 4-2 and have beaten probably the 4 worst teams in the league through six weeks.
So, what does that tell us?
I don’t know if it’s told us a whole lot. Lamar Jackson has looked much more like the player I was expecting in the last few weeks. Fewer passing yards, more rushing yards, fewer TDs, more picks. But, he’s yet to face this Seahawks defense.
A defense that’s as much of an enigma as I’ve ever seen.
Jarran Reed returns this week. I hope and pray that brings with it a bit of stability, but I’m worried he won’t play as much as we probably need him to. He drastically improves our depth in the front seven and in particular in the defensive tackle rotation. He’s a great run stuffer, and as he showed last year, he can be a whiz rushing the passer. We need the middle of that line to be as good as it’s been all year to slow down the Ravens’ rushing attack. Between Lamar and Mark Ingram, they’ve got a couple of LOADS that are tough to stop, who only get stronger as the game goes on.
I would hope that our defense will shut down their deep passing attack, but I’ve seen so many breakdowns this year, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see one or two get behind us for big gains. I’m more concerned with the rush defense though, and the pisspoor tackling we’ve seen from pretty much everyone.
I’ve stopped banking on this team actually getting sacks, but if it’s EVER going to happen, this would probably be the game to see ’em. The Ravens love some play action and Lamar loves to extend plays, so we should – if nothing else – see some coverage sacks.
I’d honestly be surprised and a
little lot disappointed if we let the Ravens score in the high 20’s or 30’s. This is probably a game the Seahawks should win in a semi-grudge match. Something like 24-16.
It should be raining, which is always a concern for the Seahawks’ offense. The last time it rained for a home game was against the Saints, and you saw all the freaky shit that happened.
I have to believe the Ravens will sell out to stop the run, which is playing right into Russell MVP Wilson’s hands. There’s no doubt Earl will make his presence felt in this one, but the rest of their secondary is pretty ordinary, so we shouldn’t have any trouble throwing on the outside.
I’m expecting a workmanlike, forgettable Seahawks victory in this one. I’m also expecting to be surprised by the Ravens as I’ve been pretty much all year, so I can’t wait to watch this game.