On the first night of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks came on the clock for the 27th pick of the first round, with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson available for the taking. The Seattle front office opted to go in a different direction, and five selections later the Baltimore Ravens traded back into the first round in order to select Jackson, who was sitting in the green room waiting to hear his name called.
It’s an understandable decision, as at the time the Seahawks had their franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson under contract for two more seasons, and there was no need to urgently replace Wilson who had yet to reach 30. Oh, how times change. Fast forward five years and Wilson is in Colorado, helping the Denver Broncos stink it up, while Geno Smith is under center for Seattle and Jackson is playing at a high level for Baltimore, helping the Ravens into first place in the AFC North.
And on Sunday, the Seahawks will get to face Jackson for the second time in his career, hoping that this time things go better than the 30-16 loss handed to them when Jackson and the Ravens visited Lumen Field in 2019.
Joining Field Gulls to preview the matchup between the Hawks and Ravens is Kyle Barber of Baltimore Beatdown, and without wasting any further time we’ll get right to his answers to the questions posed of him.
1. The Ravens have won three in a row after some closer games earlier in the year, and it really feels like they are hitting the proverbial midseason form. Is this the case, and how worried should Seahawks fans be?
The Ravens were unlikely to be going full bore from Week 1. New system, new roster, new additions and overall a team needing growth. But the past few weeks they’ve had better growing pains, or at least ones where they are continuing to find ways to win despite said growing pains.
I think the Seahawks are in for a big-time bout. These are two teams at the top of their division and have earned their place. Neither will being lying down. Not with the leaders they have on the field and on the sideline.
2. Hitting stride before the rest of the AFC North has given Baltimore a bit of an early cushion in the division. How are fans feeling regarding the potential for the team over the second half of the season as the schedule turns a bit more difficult?
I don’t think Ravens fans are confident. Not because they don’t believe in their team but because this division comes down to Week 18 every season. And with the Bengals getting their act together and the Steelers somehow riding high at 5-3, it’s a problem. But, the cushion helps. It would’ve been a lot better had they not fumbled and dropped their two losses over opponents they were better than, but that’s the game.
3. Seahawks fans are of course familiar with all the big names on the Ravens, but who is a player Seattle fans may not be familiar with who could have an impact on the outcome Sunday?
Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike is the player to watch. He’s sitting at seven sacks, tied for the most among interior defensive linemen. He’d had more, too, had penalties not wiped out a pair of sacks earlier in the year. But his ability to get after the quarterback has been among the NFL’s best for interior rushers. He’s always looked to have the ability and there was hype for it last year. Now, he’s put it together and has consistently been generating pressure.
4. This is a matchup of the teams that won back to back Super Bowls in 2012 and 2013, and each team is still led by the same coach. However, neither team has had the same level of success, with each team winning just a single postseason game since 2017. That has led to some fans calling for a change at coach for the Seahawks. Are there fans who would like to move on from Harbaugh? And if so, how large is the contingent?
There is a vocal minority pleading for the Ravens to move on any time they lose a game. But when you ask who they want to replace him, they never give specifics. “Some young college coach who is offensively minded.” Okay then, who? Name names. “Well I don’t know, but they should find that type!”
There is frustration and some fair criticism of Harbaugh. But, there are extenuating circumstances surrounding their lack of postseason success over the past few years that always gets misguided.
5. What’s your prediction for the outcome of the game? And will the Ravens bring the high scoring offense and blow the top off the over or will it be a defensive slugfest and fans should bet the under?
Slugfest for sure. This feels like a Roquan Smith vs. Bobby Wagner matchup, and that’s something I love. Both teams have great defenses and though each team have star talent on offense, I think we’ll see a second-quarter offensive duel as teams go from feeling each other out to pinpointing weaknesses. But, third quarter will arrive, corrections will be made by those on the field and it’s back to a grind-it-out fight.