Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale has a conundrum on his hands for Sunday versus the Seattle Seahawks: be true to himself and bring pressure against Russell Wilson
, or try to sit back in coverage?
Martindale knows the answer could burn him either way.
"It's sort of like playing against Steph Curry in basketball, if you will," Martindale said, via NBC Sports Washington. "You can pick him half court and he's going to try to drive by you or you can slack off and he's going to pull up and hit a three."
Wilson the magician has compared himself to the NBA star. Now an opposing defensive coordinator is making a very apt comparison to the challenge of defending the Seahawks QB.
A frontrunner for the 2019 MVP award, Wilson has been unstoppable through six weeks, carrying Seattle to a 5-1 record. Wilson leads the NFL in passer rating (124.7) this season -- 12.8 points higher than the next-best QB this season entering Week 7 (Patrick Mahomes
111.9). Since 1975, there have been seven instances of a passer rating leader finishing the season with a passer rating 10-plus points higher than the next-highest rated QB -- all seven won MVP that season.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, it's not as though Wilson has dink-and-dunked his way to good stats, either. Per Next Gen Stats, Wilson throws outside the numbers -- some of the most difficult passes -- on 59.3 percent of his attempts, the highest rate in the NFL. The league average on such throws is 59.4 completion rate. Wilson hits 70.5 percent of passes outside the numbers.
Earl Thomas knows Wilson as well as any defender, having spent nine seasons in Seattle. The safety understands what to expect from the QB.
"Everything is predicated off the run game, and we also know that Russell can extend plays," Thomas said. "That's when he kind of works his magic - when he plays backyard football. And his receivers do a great job of just melding with him and creating space, boxing guys out and creating leverages and coming up with big catches."
To bolster Thomas' point about Wilson extending plays, the QB excels on passes with 4-plus seconds to throw (15.9 percent of his attempts, the fifth-highest rate in NFL). Per Next Gen Stats, the NFL average on such passes: 67.4 passer rating, 44.2 completion percent. Wilson on those attempts: 139.2 passer rating, 66.7 completion percent.
ESPN's Al Zeidenfeld notes the return of Wilson's rushing attack (17 total carries over the past two weeks) only helps his massive floor/ceiling combination for Week 7.
Slowing Wilson is a lot like stopping Steph Curry. Sometimes it's just impossible. The Ravens' job is to make the impossible seem imaginable Sunday afternoon.
Who benefits here beyond Wilson?
As NFL.com's Michael Florio notes, Tyler Lockett
faces the Ravens this week who have allowed the third-most receiving yards per game to slot receivers (88.2). ESPN's Mike Clay reports that Ravens' CB Marlon Humphrey figures to travel with Lockett at times this weekend, as he did with slot receivers Tyler Boyd
, Sammy Watkins
and JuJu Smith-Schuster
earlier this season.
Of course, Lockett is moved around a ton and aligns inside 70 percent of the time, so this shouldn't be considered a major concern spot as Baltimore is allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to wide receivers in general.
Whatever the case, Lockett has a safe floor scoring at least 11 fantasy points in all but one game this season, but his ceiling is high this week as the Seahawks will have to put up points and should look to attack the Ravens through the slot.
In addition, Zeidenfeld believes DK Metcalf
has some positive results coming his way, due to the way the Seahawks have utilized him. He's second in the league with 12 red zone looks and tied for second in the league with seven end zone targets. However, he has only two total touchdowns.
That's something that should normalize -- in a good way -- for Metcalf moving forward, especially in a sneaky good matchup with the Ravens.
In addition, Zeidenfeld notes that breaking the 100-yard mark in three straight games is impressive enough, but what's more impressive to me is the commitment that the Seattle coaching staff has shown to Chris Carson
-- even as he was fighting through some early-season fumbleitis.
That commitment has paid off in a big way in the form of three straight 21.5-plus-point performances for Carson.
The Ravens aren't the same defense they used to be and are allowing a touchdown every 13.8 carries -- the highest rate in the league. Carson's increased workload in the passing game, combined with his recent usage on the ground, puts Carson squarely in "bell cow" status. ...
And finally. ... Back in 2014, 18.8 percent of the Seahawks targets were distributed to a tight end. That's notable because it's the lowest mark posted since Wilson joined the team in 2012. The team average during the span is 21.7 percent and sat at 22.8 percent entering Week 6.
This is all relevant because Will Dissly
(Achilles) is done for the season and Luke Willson
and Jacob Hollister
are next on the depth chart.
According to Clay, with Dissly leaving after 18 snaps on Sunday, Willson played 51 snaps (14 routes) and Hollister 25 (nine).
Though Wilson's history suggests both will chip in with a handful of targets each game, neither is likely to replace Dissly's TE1 production. Consider them deep sleepers
in two-tight-end formats.