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Pre-snap read: Ravens-Seahawks

After beating the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, the Ravens have touched down in Seattle, where they will play the Seahawks on Sunday afternoon. The Seahawks were a playoff team a season ago (mostly by default, though, because they won the woeful NFC West with a 7-9 record), but they have won just two games in 2011.

That’s to be expected when you have to choose between Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst at QB.

The Ravens are the superior team in this matchup, but as we have seen a couple of times this season, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will end up as the victorious team. Here are five storylines to watch Sunday as the Ravens try to avoid another letdown at CenturyLink Field, one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.

1. What will Joe Flacco do for an encore? The Ravens quarterback delivered what was arguably the best start of his career in a 23-20 win over the Steelers. He threw for 300 yards and a touchdown to Torrey Smith that capped off a 92-yard scoring drive in the game’s final two minutes. It would be nice if Flacco finally showed a little consistency with another strong performance against the Seahawks, who are in the middle of the pack in passing yards allowed, but have a pair of talented, young safeties in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

2. Seattle’s unique challenges: The Ravens flew out to the West Coast on Friday night, hoping that they could get their biological clocks adjusted to Pacific Time by Sunday’s 4:05 p.m. Eastern Time kickoff. It won’t affect every player, but some will still be lagging during the game. And then there’s CenturyLink Field, which used to be called Qwest Field, where crowd noise has led to an NFL high in false start penalties since the 2005 season. This isn’t the sexiest of storylines, but these intangibles could make a difference if it’s a tight game.

3. Switching off Beast Mode: Seahawks back Marshawn Lynch earned the nickname “Beast Mode” after he rumbled over several New Orleans Saints players on a 67-yard touchdown run in last year’s playoffs. The Ravens talked a lot this week about the challenge that Lynch poses as a physical runner who likes to finish off his runs by bowling over a defender. He rushed for 135 yards in last week’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

4. Figuring out the 4-3 defense: Ravens running back Ray Rice hasn’t had much success running the ball of late, regardless of what base defense his opponents used. He is averaging less than four yards per carry in four of his last five games. But in the losses to the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, Rice struggled running against the 4-3 alignment. In those two games combined, Rice mustered just 71 yards on 21 carries.

5. Avoiding another letdown: You’re tired of seeing letdowns after big wins. We’re tired of asking the Ravens about said letdowns. And John Harbaugh and his players might go postal on a reporter if they use the word “letdown” at another press conference. That’s why the Ravens want to care of business on Sunday -- just to shut everyone up. This is the definition of a “trap game,” but I don’t think the Ravens will fall into this one.

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