It will be a clash of two division leaders when the Seahawks play the Ravens on Sunday, with two of the league's longest-tenured coaches, Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh, leading a pair of playoff-contending squads yet again.
This will be Seattle's first trip to Baltimore since a 2015 win over the Ravens, and the first matchup between these teams since the Ravens won in Seattle in 2019, led by then second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, who went on to earn MVP honors that season. Jackson is having his best season since that MVP campaign, and Baltimore's defense is as dangerous as ever, making this a big test for the Seahawks, who have won five of six since a disappointing season-opening loss.
"I'm so impressed with this team that we're playing, and the way John (Harbaugh) has done a great job of coaching these guys for a bunch of years," Carroll said. "They're just so well-rounded and they're good in all phases. They make you realize what it's like to play in a championship matchup. That's what you expect the teams to be like and they got it. Whether it's offense and all of the firepower they have with Lamar, (Mark) Andrews, Gus (Edwards), the whole crew, and their defense is kicking butt. Special teams, they have (Justin) Tucker. It's an amazing team we're playing."
Here are five things to watch when the Seahawks face the Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:
1. Which elite defense helps its team to victory?
This is the second straight week the Seahawks are facing one of the NFL's best defenses, with the Ravens ranking first in the league in points allowed (15.1 points per game), second in total defense (276.5 yards per game), third in pass defense (176.6), and third in red zone defense, with opponents finding the end zone on just 35 percent of red zone trips.
"I think this is amazing for us at this time of the year to have these challenges," Carroll said of facing the Browns and Ravens defenses in consecutive weeks. "Whether we're playing here or there, it doesn't matter. These are the kinds of games that we have to have in our schedule to build yourself up so that you get stronger, you get smarter, you learn from them. This feels like a championship game again. Division leader and the whole thing. It's really exciting for us."
What shouldn't be lost when recognizing the quality of Baltimore's defense, however, is that the Seahawks have also been, by just about any measure, one of the NFL's best defensive teams going back to Week 4. Dating back to that that dominant win over the Giants, the Seahawks rank first in scoring defense (12.5 PPG), yards per play allowed (4.1), and sacks per game (5.3), and second in yards per game (274), while the Ravens are first in yards allowed over that span, and second to Seattle in the other three categories.
Seattle's defense has been particularly strong in the second halves of games, not giving up a second-half touchdown over that four-game stretch, while allowing a total of nine second-half points.
"Sometimes, when (teams) come out, you're getting their best punch or you're getting all the plays that you may have messed up the week before," linebacker Bobby Wagner said when asked about his defense's second-half stinginess. "They're throwing new plays in and sometimes schematically you just adjust at halftime, and I feel like that what we've been doing a really good job at. Just making those key adjustments, understanding how they're attacking us and everybody just being on the same page."
2. How does Leonard Williams look in his Seahawks debut?
The Seahawks made a big splash prior to this week's trade deadline to upgrade an already strong defense, acquiring Pro-Bowl defensive lineman Leonard Williams in a trade with the Giants.
The Seahawks have no doubt that Williams will help them this week and in the future, but it will be interesting to see exactly how defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt uses his new weapon this week, and just how much he plays and how effective he will be in his first week with the team.
"To be able to get him in the mix, and the benefit is he's incredibly sharp and he's picked up things really well," Hurtt said. "So to get him in the rotation of understanding exactly what we want. And the big plus is the unselfishness of the group and openness for him to fit in, and being with these guys already has been awesome. Look forward to seeing that on game day."
3. Can Seattle's defense keep Lamar Jackson from doing too much damage as a passer and a runner?
Since coming into the league in 2018, Jackson has always been one of the NFL's most dangerous runners—and not just running quarterbacks, runners in general. Over the course of his career he has rushed for 4,817 yards and 29 scores, including a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and he's averaging 6.0 yards per carry in his career. This year, Jackson has 380 yards and five touchdowns through eight games.
And yet, it would be insulting to Jackson's abilities as a quarterback to say the Seahawks need to stop him as a runner and they'll be fine, because he is more than capable of beating teams with his arm as well. This season, Jackson completing 70.5 percent of his passes, a career-best mark, and has nine touchdown passes with just three interceptions while posting a 101.0 passer rating that is his best since his MVP season in 2019.
"They put a lot on his ability to run the ball, but I think where he's grown the most is just his ability to make the pass," Wagner said. "I feel like he's always been a good passer, but it's gotten better over the years, and I think before when he used to kind of escape, he would look to run, but he's looking to pass and he's dangerous in the run. I think he's equally as dangerous in the pass and it's going to be one of our tougher matchups to be able to contain him and not let him just do whatever he wants."
The Seahawks defense has been great over the past month, but going against Jackson and this Ravens offense might be their biggest test yet.
4. Does Geno Smith and the offense clean up the turnover issues?
Even with a myriad of offensive line injuries in front of him this season, Geno Smith continues to play at a high level in his second season as Seattle's starter, which was most recently on display as Smith and the offense drive for the game-winning touchdown against Cleveland last weekend.
Yet for all of the impressive throws Smith has made this season—and there have been many—he would be the first to note that there is one thing he needs to turn around right away, and that has been the recent run of turnovers. After throwing just one interception—Seattle's only turnover through four games—Smith has been intercepted five times in the last three games, and there was also a lost fumble when he and rookie center Olu Oluwatimi didn't execute a snap. Sure, there have been mitigating circumstances on some of those, be it a mix-up between Smith and a receiver, or a defensive player just making a ridiculous play, as was the case last week when Browns defensive lineman Maurice Hurst dropped into coverage, leapt to tip a ball, then dove to make the catch. But even if every interception isn't the case of Smith making a bad play, he knows those plays can't continue, especially against a defense like Cleveland's. And if the Seahawks can get back to taking care of the ball like they were earlier in the season, their offense has the firepower to hang with just about anyone.
"Obviously the big thing with him, the thing we work at every week with all our players, is trying to limit the turnovers, because we know some of those things make the games either closer than they need to be or keep the other team in the game longer than they should be," offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said. "If we can do a good job of taking care of the ball, I think that's the next step we need to take as an offense. Geno, but also anyone that's part of possessing the ball, whether it's the running backs, receivers, tight ends, everyone having that conscience every day of taking care of the ball. Our defense is playing at a high level and special teams is playing at a high level. As we keep progressing on offense, look for that consistency, taking care of the ball first and foremost and going from there."
5. Can the Seahawks get more out of their running game?
In last week's win over the Browns, the Seahawks averaged 6.7 yards per carry, including 8.3 yards per carry from Kenneth Walker III, and 10.6 yards per carry from Zach Charbonnet. But while the Seahawks ran the ball well in that game, they didn't run very often, carrying a total of 17 times, including eight carries from Walker and just five from Charbonnet. Carroll and company would like to see the Seahawks get those backs more involved this week, particularly against a loaded defense that ranks first in the NFL with 31 sacks.
"We need to do it more,' Carroll said. "Just more. We can run the football. Our guys are good at carrying the rock. We just need to give them more chances and to do that, you have to get more first downs. That means you go back to third down. It's the same old, same old. There's not a new story there. We have to convert on third downs so that we can create the next series of downs. You can't go three-and-out without losing on third down. You have to win those and then it'll happen. It's not just calling more runs; we have to develop the opportunity for the runs to be a bigger part of the game."
The Seahawks and Ravens face off on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. Kickoff is set for 10:00 a.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Ravens.