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Preston’s preview: Key matchup, what’s at stake in Ravens vs. Seahawks

Key matchup

Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner vs. Ravens center Matt Skura: Wagner is one of the best at his position in the game and the leader of Seattle’s defense. He leads the team in tackles with 56, including 31 solo. Wagner also has four tackles for losses. He is excellent at diagnosing plays and has great speed to react. Because of his quickness, very few offensive linemen get clean shots on Wagner, who can also shock and shed. Skura has made good improvement from a year ago. He has gotten bigger and stronger and can occasionally pull and make blocks into the second level. But he’ll have problems with Wagner. The Ravens will use a lot of angles and double teams to block Wagner. The problem is, the Ravens like to run inside the tackles with their running backs, so they have to run right straight at Wagner.

What’s at stake

This is a statement game in quite a few ways. The Ravens have struggled with NFC teams and the Seahawks are tough to beat at home. CenturyLink Field is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL and the Seahawks have a 97-42 record there since 2002, the most home wins of any NFC team in that span. The Ravens have rolled up a lot of yards and wins against teams that don’t have winning records, but Seattle is 5-1. If the Ravens can beat the Seahawks, they will be taken seriously around the league. If not, they will still be considered pretenders.

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Under the radar

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is being mentioned as a Most Valuable Player candidate and deservedly so. He has completed 137 of 189 passes for 1,704 yards and 14 touchdowns. But keep an eye on Seahawks receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and running back Chris Carson. Wilson can break down defenses with his scrambling ability but these guys keep working to get open. They never stop and find ways to work back to Wilson. Lockett has 35 catches for 454 yards while Carson has 19 for 140 and Metcalf 16 for 336. Inside the red zone, Metcalf has become a prime target on slant patterns.

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