The Seahawks host Baltimore today and though it's a tough matchup, there are some reasons for optimism. First, the Ravens have shown some inconsistency this season and proven they're mere mortals, just like us - losing early on to Tennessee and then in the Monday Night game against Jacksonville in Week 7 (where they only scored 7 points). They fell behind to Arizona in Week 8, 24-3, before mounting a furious comeback to win the game 30-27. Giving up 27 to the Cardinals would give anybody reason for optimism. So there's that.
Secondly, they're coming off a big, emotional win against Pittsburgh and get the division rival, and division leading Bengals next week, so that makes this the classic 'trap-game.' Though I'm sure they've got their veterans and leaders reminding everyone not to overlook the lowly Seahawks from southern Alaska, it's only human nature to look ahead at the 'more important' or 'hard' matchups in their near future. One can only hope they'll come out flat.
Finally - and probably most importantly, is that Baltimore's quarterback is Joe Flacco. I'm not meaning to rag on Flacco necessarily, but he's been inconsistent this year and if the Seahawks can get him to lay an egg (gross visual), there are some things they can do to take advantage. Here are some lines from a few of Flaccco's games this season:
At Tennessee: 15 for 32 (46.9%), 197 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Baltimore lost that game 26-13.
At home against the Jets: 10 for 31 (32.3%), no touchdowns and two turnovers - an interception and a fumble. The Ravens won 34-17 with the help of three defensive touchdowns (and Mark Sanchez).
At home against Houston: 20 for 33, 305 yards, one rushing touchdown two turnovers - an interception and a fumble. Ravens win 29-14 with the help of five Billy Cundiff field goals. Flacco did make a few big time throws in this game to put them in field goal range though.
At Jacksonville: 21 of 38 for 137 yards, no TDs and an interception. Baltimore lost 12-7.
Flacco has passed for over 600 yards in his last two games, both wins, and has gained some confidence, but only has one touchdown to show for it. This tells me that the Ravens lean on their rushing attack and defense to win games and is something the Seahawks may match up well against.
Quite simply, the Seahawks need to stop the run, something they're decently good at, and not make turnovers, something they're not so good at.
Tarvaris Jackson will need to game manage the sh*t out of this game. No turnovers. Distribute the football to your playmakers. Hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch and hope he picks up yardage. Don't throw jump passes or off your back foot and things might be ok. Make a few explosive down field plays.
I hit up Bruce Raffel over at Baltimore Beatdown for a few scouting nuggets.
DK - Can you sum up why the Ravens struggled against Tennessee, jacksonville, in the first half against Arizona? Does this inconsistency make you nervous as Baltimore travels to Seattle?
BR: "Most people seem to sum it up as the team overlooking the lesser opponent after a big win, but after the Cardinals game, something tells me this team will not do that again. That said, this is the NFL and you know what they say,..."any given Sunday.""
DK - What are the Ravens biggest strengths on offense? What do they need to do to beat the Seahawks on that side of the ball?
BR: "The Ravens are fast becoming a balanced offensive team. The addition of WR Torrey Smith gives Baltimore the deep threat they have not had in years, which has proven to open up the rest of the field for guys like Anquan Boldin and our two TEs. Of course, our running game is always dangerous and Joe Flacco is on pace for over 4,000 yards passing."
DK - How has the defense looked this season? Any weaknesses?
BR: "Defensive weakness? Ummm,...no, can't think of any right now. I know that sounds almost overconfident, but look at the numbers or game tape. Other than the Super Bowl defense, this one might be the most complete they've had in their history."
DK - What's your outlook for this season? Are the Ravens the class of the AFC? Do you think they have the ability to make a Super Bowl appearance?
BR: "Their inconsistency has a lot of people worried but when you look at their AFC competition, no one stands out as more consistent than them. They could and probably should be the favorite in the conference right now. A win in Seattle should confirm that but another letdown loss will change that in a big way."
DK - Any matchups this week that you think the Ravens will look to exploit?
BR: "Most people in Baltimore are not too familiar with the Seahawks strengths or weaknesses. We know Tarvaris Jackson is a versatile athlete and we will try to contain him in the pocket.
Our run defense will check Marshawn Lynch and force Jackson to beat us through the air, which usually feeds right into our defensive gameplan.
Offensively, we will try to get the run game going then go over the top to Anquan Boldin and deep to Torrey Smith for the big score. If the Ravens jump out to an early lead, they will be tough to beat."
Some more from Bruce and the Baltimore Beatdown after the jump...
Keeping The Momentum - Baltimore Beat Down
The biggest challenge for the Baltimore Ravens going into the second half of the season will be keeping the momentum they gained this week in Pittsburgh. In week two, after a huge win over the Steelers the Ravens dropped one against the Tennessee Titans. In week seven, after two big home wins against the New York Jets and Houston Texans, the Ravens went on the road and dropped a game to a one-win Jacksonville Jaguars team. This will not do for this team. This Ravens team has way to much talent.
Defensive Notes vs. Steelers 11/6/11 - Baltimore Beat Down
It’s easy to be giddy after Sunday’s big win by the Baltimore Ravens over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it shouldn’t mask a serious problem. The Ravens pass rush had a bad, bad night.
Ravens Tight Ends An Upgrade Over 2010 - Baltimore Beat Down
When the news broke that the Baltimore Ravens had released ten-year veteran tight end Todd Heap, many fans were confused, upset and even angry that one of the most popular players in team history was just released. The combination of his age, salary and the recent drafting of two tight ends made this the right decision in the mind of General Manager Ozzie Newsome. Everyone wondered what would happen with the production out of this very important position on the team?
Ravens Vs. Seahawks: Five Key Defensive Match-Ups - Baltimore Beat Down
1.) Cary Williams vs. Sidney Rice. Cary has done a nice job this season of covering bigger receivers. There have been more passes defended this year than in the previous two. This is a direct result of Williams getting more playing time. Rice is a big, talented receiver and is capable of changing the game at any time. It will be up to Williams to keep him in check. Advantage: Rice.
Ravens Vs. Seahawks, Five Key Offensive Match Ups - Baltimore Beat Down
1.) Ray Rice vs. David Hawthorne We all know Ray Rice and what he can do to make opposing linebackers look stupid. Last week in Pittsburgh you could tell the Steelers where focused on stopping him first and foremost but still Rice was able to impact the game. Here is some information about Hawthorn since most of us Ravens fans probably do not know much about him.
Offensive Line Model and Notes vs Steelers 11/6/11 - Baltimore Beat Down
It could fairly be stated that Joe Flacco was both the Ravens’ best offensive player and their best defensive player on Sunday. His 14 for 21 on 3rd down held the Steelers to 9 offensive drives including their last 2-play possession. The Steelers lost despite 8.5 yards per pass play (YPP) and 6.8 yards per play on all plays (YPPA).
Finally, here are some excerpts from the Ravens' game release that may be of interest to you (all quoted, see the press release here -> Ravens/Seahawks Press release)
Ray Lewis on Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano:
"It's almost like playing for your father... You don't want to let him down. You don't want to be behind in your studies, because it would be the wrong thing to do to a man like Chuck. Chuck and I text each other all the time. ‘What do you think of this? What tape are you watching? Did you see this when they lined up this way?' Early in the morning, at midnight. We communicate all the time."
An interview with Haloti Ngata.
Do you feel like you have contradicting personalities, being rough and aggressive on the field and much more calm and quiet off it?
"I'm a different person when I play football. I'm confident in my skills now, so I know that I can say things or help guys out if they need help with how to do something with their technique. I know it's part of my job to make big hits, so that's just what I do. I just like to hit. When both my parents passed away, it was a way for me to get away from everything and use football to release all my anger. Now, I'm not really angry about anything."
Do you have a motto or a mantra that you live by?
"‘As good as the worst and never the best.' It could be with any- thing, if you settle at just being good at anything, that's all you're going to get is good. If you want to be the best, you have to do your best and be great at everything. I try to do my best at every- thing and not settle for good."
You were a very good rugby player in high school. How did you start playing? "My dad played rugby and boxed. He was always in a league, and he would play with a lot of other men. A lot of my uncles played, too. So the kids would all try and play in an open field somewhere. Then I played in high school."
Since rugby was a family thing, why did you start playing football?
"I started playing football when I was eight. My older brothers played, but they were all running back types. I've always been a lineman because I'm so big. But I saw them playing, and I wanted to run around with them."
Do you see the football field differently now because of your rugby background?
"I guess a little bit. In rugby, there's a lot of open-field tackling because you're always going one-on-one with another guy. And, the field is a lot bigger; it's played on a soccer field, basically. I guess I know where the ball is more, and I see some things that people who aren't used to open-field tackling as much wouldn't see."
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on S Bernard Pollard:
"I think Bernard Pollard is an awesome addition. He's got a nasty playing disposition. He is physical. He's a turnaround-tackle kind of guy. When you turn the tape on, boy, you see him getting after peo- ple in just about every film you put on. He's quickly become a core member of that group, and he's putting some good stuff on tape."
CSNBaltimore.com's John Eisenberg on the Ravens' emergence of younger players after the release of several veterans (sound familiar?):
"The purge amounted to a bugle call signaling the arrival of the Ravens' Generation Next. Suddenly, there are young guys - basically the high end of the past two drafts - poised to contribute all over the place. Oh, sure, the Ravens are still dominated by veterans such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and there's a maturing mid-career core led by Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, a pair of fourth-year guys. But make no mistake, the lineup is evolving."
Head coach John Harbaugh on OLB Terrell Suggs:
"Terrell Suggs is a premier player. He's one of the best players in the National Football League. He's one of the premier defensive players that everybody game plans around. He gets blocked every different kind of way a guy can get blocked, from one game to the next, when you watch it. He still finds a way to make plays. Plus, he's one of the best leaders I've been around. This guy is one of the hardest working guys I've ever been around. He's part of the heart and soul of our team and our defense."
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on QB Joe Flacco and his poise on the game-winning drive at Pittsburgh:
"I don't get all the stuff everybody talks about with Joe. Just turn on the TV and look around this league, these are good defenses in the NFL. Even the great ones have their issues. I've been fortunate to be around a lot of really good ones. At Joe's age, he's a great one. And he's going to do nothing but get better and better. But we know expectations are high. As we say around here, Joe's just the man for the job."
The Sporting News' Vinny Iyer on K Billy Cundiff:
"Billy Cundiff is a secret weapon for the Ravens. Baltimore had a big advantage with Cundiff's ability to stick the ball in the end zone on kickoffs last season. Now, even though touchbacks are all the rage after the rule change, his big leg is paying off in other ways. Cundiff delivered a 51-yard field goal - a rare 50-plus yarder for a Heinz Field visitor - in the second quarter and made up for the 40-yard miss he had earlier."
On Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron:
In his fourth year as the Ravens' offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron's impact has been significant. Last season, QB Joe Flacco finished with career highs in passing yards (3,622) and TDs (25), while Baltimore ranked 16th in NFL scoring (22.3 ppg).
In 2009, the Ravens were the NFL's ninth best in scoring (24.4 ppg), up from 24th in 2007, while setting team records for most total TDs (47) and most rushing TDs (22). In his first season in Baltimore (2008), Cameron built a creative offense that ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing (148.5 ypg), first in time of possession (33:10) and 11th in points per game (24.1 ppg).
Cameron brought his unique offensive mind to Baltimore after one year as the Miami Dolphins' head coach. His successful stints with the NFL's Chargers and Redskins and the NCAA's Indiana Hoosiers and Michigan Wolverines have been celebrated.
Under Cameron's guidance the past four seasons (2008-11), the Ravens have rushed for 129.0 yards per game, seventh most in the NFL. Baltimore also has 61 rushing TDs, tying for third.
Baltimore has committed only 77 turnovers during this span, the NFL's fourth fewest. (Ravens set a team record with just 20 give- aways in 2010 and have posted a +4 turnover ratio in 2011.) The Ravens' 23.9 points per game during this span rank ninth.
On Ravens' Offensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano:
Chuck Pagano, a nine-year NFL coaching veteran (and 27 years overall), was promoted from second- ary coach to defensive coordinator on Jan. 18. Un- der Pagano's guidance the past four seasons, the Ravens' pass defense ranks third in the NFL, allow- ing 202.3 yards per game. This season, the Ravens boast the NFL's No. 2 overall defense (279.4 ypg) and rank No. 2 in scoring defense (16.3 ppg) entering Week 10.
With Pagano on the "D" staff the past four seasons (2008-11), the Ravens' defense has allowed the fewest points per game (16.2) and the second-fewest net yards (291.5) in the NFL. Balti- more's "D" ranked No. 3 in scoring in 2008, 2009 and 2010.