It’s the 5-1 Seahawks and the 4-2 Ravens … it’s the return of one of the greatest players in Seahawks history … it’s two of the best and most exciting quarterbacks in the league … it’s the premier game of the NFL’s Week 7.
Five things know about Baltimore ahead of Sunday’s showdown at CenturyLink Field:
1. No. 29 is back.
Earl Thomas’ return to Seattle is sure to dominate the news cycle this week.
Thomas played nine (mostly) incredible seasons in Seattle, and his 29 ought to be hanging from the CenturyLink rafters someday. Some wounds will have to heal before then, after Thomas’ infamous middle-finger salute to Pete Carroll as he was carted off the field with a broken leg in Arizona last year — his final game in a Seahawks uniform.
“A lot of frustration that day,” Thomas told Peter King in March. “I was in a battle with the team, and I chose to play, and I was betting on myself. So when it happened, it just added to my frustration. I did what I did, and I saw Pete Carroll, and I just was like, ‘You won. You won.’ Just a very disappointing day.”
Thomas started his Baltimore career with a bang, intercepting a pass in the Ravens’ first defensive series of the season. He has 19 tackles and two passes defended in six games this season.
2. The Ravens have the most explosive offense in the NFL and one of the league’s most exciting players.
Lamar Jackson, the second-year QB out of Louisville, had a historic performance in the Ravens’ 23-17 victory over Cincinnati, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 200 yards and run for 150 yards in a regular-season game. (Colin Kaepernick had 181 yards rushing and 263 yards passing against Green Bay in a playoff game in January 2013.)
Jackson, 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, had 111 yards rushing in the first half alone Sunday, and finished with a career-high 19 carries — many of them on zone-read runs — against a Bengals defense that ranks as the worst in the NFL against the run.
“That’s the most frustrating thing for a defense,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after the game. “You have a play covered, and he’s an elite athlete. He’s one of the rarest I’ve seen in person. Just one little crease, and he’s got 30 yards on you.”
Through six games, Jackson is completing 65% of his passes for 1,507 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs and a passer rating of 96.7. He is also on pace to rush for more than 1,200.
The Ravens lead the league in total offense (450.7 yards) and rank second in scoring (30.7 points).
3. Jackson isn’t the Ravens’ only dangerous runner.
There’s another Heisman Trophy winner in Baltimore’s backfield. Former Saints running back Mark Ingram, in his first season with the Ravens, has 87 carries for 424 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and seven TDs.
The Ravens lead the league in rushing at 205 yards per game. (Minnesota is second at 159 yards per game.)
Backup running backs Gus Edwards (44 carries, 199 yards) and Justice Hill (18 carries, 78 yards) are averaging 4.5 and 4.3 yards per carry, too.
“Our running game is at a high, high level schematically,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters Sunday. “I think there are a lot more elements to our run game now.”
4. The Ravens defense is really, really aggressive.
Baltimore’s defense leads the NFL with a 10.5% QB knockdown rate (when the QB hits the ground after he throws), according to Pro Football Reference.
That, no doubt, is owed in large part to the Ravens’ aggressive approach, in which defensive coordinator Don Martindale calls for a blitz on 35.8% of all opponent dropbacks, the second-highest rate in the NFL (behind Tampa Bay’s 41.7%).
Strange, all that blitzing has netted the Ravens just 11 sacks in six games. But with their ability to affect the QB, the numbers suggest those sack totals should be on the rise.
5. Marquise Brown has been hobbled with an ankle injury.
Brown, the Ravens’ first-round draft pick and cousin of Antonio Brown, has become Jackson’s top deep threat in his rookie season, averaging 15.5 yards on his 21 receptions (including three TDs).
Brown missed Sunday’s game against the Bengals with the ankle injury, and he was described as “day to day” on Monday.
If Brown remains sidelined, figure the Ravens will rely even more on tight end Mark Andrews, who has a team-leading 34 receptions for 410 yards and three TDs.