Lamar Jackson put his hands up next to his head as if he might cover his ears. He was being asked about one of the more remarkable stats in his impressive career — a 17-1 record against NFC teams as a starter.
“I don't even want to put that in my head or let you finish that question,” Jackson said with a smile.
Maybe there's something to the idea that Jackson has an edge against teams that don't face him as often, but he insists not. Perhaps his record against the other conference is just a statistical quirk. Whatever the case, he'll have a chance to improve that mark against the NFC when the Baltimore Ravens host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
“I hope it's 18-1 after this one. I'll say that,” said Jackson, who led Baltimore to a 30-16 victory at Seattle in 2019.
Not only have the Ravens been excellent against the NFC with Jackson at quarterback, but they are 18-5 in their franchise history at home against teams from the Pacific time zone. But traveling east hasn't been much of a problem for the Seahawks of late. They are 16-5 — including playoffs — in the Eastern time zone since 2018.
So something has to give in this matchup between AFC North-leading Baltimore (6-2), which has won three straight, and NFC West-leading Seattle (5-2), which has won five of six.
“Here we go again, preparing to head to the east with a big matchup. I’m so impressed with this team that we’re playing," Seahawks coach Pete 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.”
Seattle expects new defensive lineman Leonard Williams to be on the field Sunday, just a few days after acquiring him from the New York Giants. Seattle’s defensive front was already playing well, but Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones and Mario Edwards Jr. were playing a lot of snaps early in the season. Adding Williams gives Seattle a versatile player who can contribute in several spots on the defensive front.
“I’ve been playing D-line for a long time and there’s not going to be too much of a difference here. I’m willing to play wherever they want me to play. I think I’m a pretty versatile player,” Williams said.
Baltimore's defense can beat opponents in a lot of ways. The Ravens have an NFL-high 31 sacks, and All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith is a major factor in the middle. The secondary has shown its depth to this point, with safety Geno Stone leading the league with five interceptions.
The foundation of Seattle’s running game is the young combo of Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet. The pair had 13 rushes for 109 yards last week against Cleveland, and the Seahawks acknowledged they need to give their running backs more attempts.
Seattle finished with 17 total rushing attempts against the Browns, and beating Cleveland with that few was a major outlier for the Seahawks. Since 2010 when Carroll arrived, the Seahawks are just 4-14 in regular-season games with 17 or fewer rushing attempts.
Rookie Zay Flowers has been Baltimore's top threat at wide receiver. The other players at the position have been inconsistent, but third-year receiver Rashod Bateman has made some significant contributions lately, including a 29-yard catch and an 18-yard run in last weekend's win over Arizona.
“If he starts popping and making plays and catch-and-run types of things that he does, that’s going to be something that’s just going to be a real problem for defenses,” coach John Harbaugh said. "You probably can go right down the line with every guy, and the more we get those guys involved — it’s not going to be every player, every game — but the more we can get them showing up in games, it’s just going to make everybody better.”
This matchup features two of the longest-tenured coaches in the NFL. Harbaugh has been in charge of the Ravens since 2008; Carroll arrived in Seattle in 2010. They are two of five coaches who have been with their current teams for at least a decade.
“John has been a rock because he’s a great football coach,” Carroll said. “The whole family can coach. His dad was a great coach and Jim (Harbaugh) is a great coach and the whole group can go.”
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