The Baltimore Ravens will be back at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 9 for the first game of a three-week homestand, where they’ll face off with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. They are strong favorites in this matchup, facing a formidable opponent that also leads their division and is coming off an impressive come-from-behind win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 8.
However, games aren’t won on paper or decided by betting odds. There are some pivotal matchups between individual players, units, and coaches that will go a long way in determining the outcome of this contest.
Below are a handful of those key battles that could prove to be deciding factors in Week 9.
DB Geno Stone v. QB Geno Smith
This matchup could very well come down to a clutch play made by one of these two players, one of which has made a habit of throwing interceptions this season and the other has made a habit of hauling them in. The Seahawks’ veteran signal-caller has thrown nine touchdowns to six interceptions in seven games this year and has been picked off one or more times in each of his last three games, including twice last week. The Ravens’ fourth-year safety leads the league with five interceptions in eight games and has recorded one in each of the last three weeks.
Most interceptions by a Ravens player in the team's first 8 games of a season:— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) October 30, 2023
5 - Ed Reed, 2007
5 - Geno Stone, 2023
Even if Stone doesn’t start this Sunday because veteran Marcus Williams returns to the lineup after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury, he will still see the field early and often. Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike MacDonald will find a way to get all three of his dynamic playmaking safeties in the game on a regular basis as he looks to disguise coverages and pressures.
Ravens pass rush v. Seahawks offensive line
Generating consistent pressure on Smith will be the key to forcing errant throws from Smith. In the team’s win over the Arizona Cardinals last week, it was the pressure that inside linebacker Patrick Queen put on Josh Dobbs that led to him overthrowing his intended target for the first interception of the game.
Hadn't realized how much the pressure from Patrick Queen likely resulted in the Joshua Dobbs overthrow and Brandon Stephens interception. pic.twitter.com/0iOQpgIrZR— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) October 31, 2023
While the Seahawks have given up the fourth-fewest sacks in the league with 14, they have yet to face a pass rush as potent, diverse, or creative as the Ravens’ top-ranked unit that leads the league with 31 sacks. On Thursday, Seattle had both of their starting tackles miss practice with injury or illness.
Having a compromised interior offensive line with a quarterback who likes to step up into the pocket could spell disaster for the invading Seahawks going up against a Ravens’ interior defensive line group. The beastly position features breakout star Justin Madubuike, who leads all interior defensive linemen in the league with a career-high 6.5 sacks, veteran nose tackle Michael Pierce fresh off a dominant Week 8 performance, and second-year pro Travis Jones who has been coming on strong as the season has gone along.
Ravens cornerbacks v. Seahawks wide receivers
Seattle has a talented group of wideouts headlined by Pro Bowl veterans D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, both of which have at least 27 receptions and 370 receiving yards this season. However, both players are dealing with injuries and aren’t guaranteed to be at full strength on Sunday. Metcalf missed last week’s game with a hip injury and did not practice Thursday after being a full participant on Wednesday. Lockett didn’t practice Wednesday and was a limited participant on Thursday with a hamstring injury.
The Seahawks also have a pair of rookie receivers that have been making plays lately in first-rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba and undrafted gem Jake Bobo. They both have at least eight receptions, over 120 receiving yards, and a touchdown apiece in their last three games combined.
Whether it’s the established veterans or the promising first-year pros, the Ravens will be well-equipped to limit the Seahawks’ receivers because they have a talented group of corners who are playing at a very high level.
Three-time Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey has returned to pre-surgery form since making his debut in Week 5. Veteran nickelback Arthur Maulet has been excellent playing in the slot when called upon since Ar’Darius Washington went down. Third-year pro Brandon Stephens has locked down the perimeter and has yet to give up a touchdown in 348 coverage snaps according to Pro Football Focus.
Brandon Stephens: 348 coverage snaps without allowing a TD this season pic.twitter.com/aVwxRymQky— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) November 1, 2023
Ravens pass catchers v. Seahawks pass defense
On the flip side, Baltimore’s wide receivers are hungry to bounce back from an uneasy outing in Week 8. Throughout the week, there has been talk about getting Rashod Bateman more involved moving forward. There has also discussion about how Odell Beckham Jr.’s targets have been resulting in more positive penalty yardage than actual receiving yardage.
Highlights of Part 1 of Odell Beckham Jr.:— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) November 2, 2023
“Obviously not where I want to be.”
“Receivers, as much as a bad rap as receivers get, they’re actually the most selfless people on the field.”
“Just get open, catch the ball — that’s all I can do.” pic.twitter.com/e69RbwwI7R
Expect to see both players targeted early and often this week as quarterback Lamar Jackson and Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken look to get them going against a pass defense that ranks in the middle of the pack of the league. The Seahawks will be facing their toughest test to date with a Ravens offense that has scored over 30 points in their past two games.
Jackson also has three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews and standout rookie Zay Flowers at his disposal. Both are having great seasons and are ranked first and second on the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Andrews has been on a heater as of late with an average of 4.6 catches and 63.4 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the past five games. Flowers leads the team in targets (61), receptions (44), and receiving yards (461).
The Seahawks have a very talented secondary with a pair of rising star cornerbacks in second-year pro Riq Woolen, who tied for the league-lead in interceptions as a rookie last year, and first-round rookie Devon Witherspoon, who is having a strong inaugural season. They also have three safeties that they like to regularly deploy with Julian Love and Quandre Diggs playing the traditional spots and Jamal Adams aligning almost exclusively in the box as a dime linebacker.
Ravens run game v. Seahawks run defense
While Seattle ranks middle of the pack against the pass, they are a top-10 unit when it comes to defending the run. The Seahawks have given up the seventh-fewest rushing yards in the league (678) and are yielding the third-fewest yards per attempt (3.6). However, they have given up an average of 141 yards on the ground over the past two weeks against two top-10 run games, including a season-high 155 yards to the Browns this past Sunday.
The Ravens have racked up the second-most rushing yards in the league and are averaging the third-most yards per game 143.1. Veteran Gus Edwards is coming off a career day where rushed for three scores. The offense has been able to solve some of their short-lived red zone woes by running the ball better near the goal line inside the 10-yard line.
Jackson is averaging a career-low 47.5 rushing yards per game and has been judicious about when he decides to take off on scrambles. Nevertheless, having him at quarterback gives the Ravens the ultimate advantage in the run game on every play because the threat he poses is always present.
Ravens inside linebackers v. Seahawks running backs
Although Seattle’s offense ranks in the bottom half of the league in rushing, they still have the ability to rip off explosive plays on the ground with a pair of backs that complement each other very well.
Second-year pro Kenneth Walker leads the team in carries (117), rushing yards (516), and rushing touchdowns (six) and is a big play threat every time he touches the ball. Second-round rookie Zach Charbonnet ranks second on the team in rushing yards and recorded a season-high 53 yards on just five carries last week.
After watching the Cardinals consistently rip off some chunk runs against the Ravens’ elite defense in the first half last week, the Seahawks will likely try to follow a similar game plan.
Even though his team came out on top last week, Ravens All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith wasn’t satisfied and felt like they played below their standard. He and Queen will be leading the charge for what they intend will be a bounce-back outing in terms of consistency defending the run.