Baltimore Ravens @ Seattle Seahawks - WEEK 7
I am going to break my own rules with this article and switch my focus from the 6 pm Sky Sports game to the 9 pm kickoff instead. It is not that the Oakland Raiders @ Green Bay Packers matchup is boring, it is actually fascinating, it is how intrigued I am by the battle between two quarterbacks with somewhat similar styles. Last week we had a battle between two guys who are the future of this league, and this week we have that again. In Seattle, Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson will go head-to-head in a can’t miss showdown. Jackson has somewhat cooled off after his hot start, while Wilson remains an MVP candidate entering Week 7. The Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks both have ambitions of the playoffs this year and we will find out a lot about their credential this week.
This season we here at the touchdown want to help you understand more about what you can expect or are seeing if you choose to watch the full game on Sky as opposed to Red Zone. You can check out the superb piece by Tyler Arthur about how to see what the QB is seeing from your couch here. Each week I will be taking a look at the stats from this season and last, and helping you understand what to expect on Sunday.
Using these numbers, we will try and get a feel for how the teams might attack each other. What elements will be crucial in deciding the outcome, and what might be a bluff? Additionally, each week we will look at those all-important third down and Red Zone numbers. Along with turnovers they are the most crucial statistics in the game of football. Prolong drives and score touchdowns when you get inside the 20 and you stand a good chance of winning. Settle for punting and kicking field goals and you are fighting an uphill battle.
Let’s take a look at our Week 7 9 pm contest as the Baltimore Ravens take on the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle.
The magnificence of Russell Wilson
I have run out of superlatives to describe Wilson over the last few weeks. Incredible, amazing, unbelievable are all appropriate descriptive words for his performances. Some of the surface stats see him rank eighth in passing yards, joint second in passing touchdowns (14), and one of only two QBs with over 100 pass attempts to have not thrown an interception (Kyle Allen). However, the deeper stats are also very impressive.
So far in 2019 he ranks joint first in yards per attempt, and first on his own in adjusted passing yards per attempt. He has done this despite having the ninth worst sack% in the league. However, he simply has just not made mistakes, and that is testament to his ability to not panic and make bad throws. He ranks in the top half of the league in bad throw% (16.9), and he tends to avoid trying dangerous throws. Using the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Wilson ranks eighth lowest in aggressiveness% (13.2%). Aggressiveness% is the percentage of throws which are aimed at a receiver with less than one yard of separation.
That does not mean he just relies on short throws however. Wilson ranks sixth in intended air yards (9.5) and fifth in completed air yards (7.5). He is willing to thrown the ball deep and take shots. Part of the reason for that is his receivers have been incredible, as Wilson’s throws have a drop% of just 2.6, joint third best in the league. That has meant Wilson has an incredible COMP% of 72.5%, which is a full 10% above his expected completion percentage (xCOMP%). Only four QBs have a differential above 5%, and the next nearest is Dak Prescott at 7.5%. In fact, since 2016 only one other QB has ever been over 8% in a full season, Kirk Cousins in 2016. That would suggest that as impressive as Wilson has been there may be some regression coming in his COMP% numbers. However, while he continues to make good decisions, it is unlikely he suddenly starts turning the ball over.
Lamar Jackson comes back to earth
The story of Jackson’s season as a passer is a story of the first two weeks and then the rest of the year. Through two weeks Jackson had seven touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 576 passing yards. He also rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown in Week 2.
Since then things have not gone as smoothly. In the last four weeks, Jackson has just four passing touchdowns and five interceptions. He has averaged just 227.75 passing yards per game, had over 100 rushing yards just once, and has been sacked 13 times compared to just three the first two weeks.
Compared to the gaudy numbers that Wilson has been putting up, Jackson is relatively middle of the pack. One concern I have is that like Wilson his drop% is an incredible 2.6, which expect to regress. The problem is I am not sure that Jackson has the same room in his game for regression. He is not hugely aggressive, but does make bad throws on nearly 20% of his throws. Additionally, his xCOMP%-COMP% differential is just 0.2. If COMP% goes down as the drop% rises then Jackson could have some ugly looking passing numbers on his hands.
Jackson has still been effective as a runner, scrambling 19 times for an average of 9.9 yards per scramble. His team are 4-2 and he is a big part of that, but the numbers above suggest some serious concerns over his ability as a passer should remain.
What about the rest of the offense
This game is not all about the QBs. Having two explosive QBs opens up a lot for other parts of the team. Nothing demonstrates that more than the numbers for the Baltimore Ravens running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. Ingram and Edwards have been impressive complements for Jackson. Part of the reason is their efficiency at making positive yardage. Next Gen Stats efficiency rating is a ratio of actual yards gained compared to total distance covered. Both Edwards and Ingram rank top-six, averaging less than 3.5 yards of total distance covered per actual yardage gained. They also hit the hole quickly, with both back averaging less than three seconds behind the LOS when carrying the ball.
In contrast, Chris Carson have an efficiency of four, which is good enough for just 20th in the league. However, the Seahawks have really stood out in their receiving core. We already spoke about their impressive drop% of 2.6, and Tyler Lockett ranks second in the league with an 85.37 catch%. However, there are some other impressive numbers too. Rookie D.K. Metcalf ranks sixth in the league in targeted air yards with 15.8. Carson is also a dangerous open field runner having broken six tackles on 19 receptions.
Third down and red zone
One place Baltimore have an advantage in this gae is their efficiency on third down. Their offense has converted on third down 48.7% of the time (3rd in the NFL). In contrast the Seahawks convert on just 37.5% of attempts (17th). However, the counter to that is that the Seahawks rank seventh defensively allowing conversions less than 33% of the time. Meanwhile the Ravens rank 16th, allowing conversions 38% of the time.
In the red zone the Seahawks are also more efficient, scoring a touchdown on 70% of their red-zone trips. The Ravens are not as good, but are still solid scoring touchdowns on 62.5% of ther red-zone trips. Defensively the Seahawks are marginally more stingy, with both defenses allowing teams to score touchdowns roughly 55% of the time.
The Ravens need to be effective in the red zone, because Wilson will have his opportunities and against this secondary he will likely take them. This game has the potential to be high scoring unless the Ravens can use their effective running game to grind down the Seahawks leaky run defense (25th in rushing yards per attempt allowed).
Image credit: USA today