Ravens-Seahawks: Five predictions for Sunday

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We’ve officially reached the silly season for the disappointing 2015 Ravens.
Starting left tackle Eugene Monroe became the latest to be placed on injured reserve on Saturday.
Starting tight end Crockett Gillmore is doubtful to play with a back injury and rookie Nick Boyle was suspended for the rest of the season, prompting the signings of tight ends Konrad Reuland and Richard Gordon earlier this week.
And Jimmy Clausen — who hasn’t even been a Raven for three weeks — is likely to start at quarterback against two-time defending NFC champion Seattle on Sunday. The Seahawks have won three straight games by a combined 56 points and sport a defense ranking fourth or better in virtually any significant category you can find.
You’ll excuse me if I’m having a difficult time taking these predictions seriously anymore.
Alas, it’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Seahawks for just the fifth time ever with the teams having split the first four contests. Seattle is playing at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2003, but has won each of the last two meetings with Baltimore.
Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to avoid clinching their first losing season since 2007 …
1. Clausen will not be shut out again against Seattle, but his performance won’t be pretty. The promotion of Bryn Renner to the 53-man roster on Saturday said everything you need to know about the Ravens’ confidence level in Matt Schaub being able to start against the Seahawks. Considering the depleted offensive cast, it doesn’t really matter who plays quarterback. Clausen is set to become the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start two games against the same team while playing for two different teams in one season. Sunday’s performance will go better than his Week 3 start for Chicago, but Clausen won’t throw for more than 150 yards and will commit two turnovers in an almost-impossible spot.
2. Buck Allen will lead the Ravens in receiving for the second straight week. Kamar Aiken has played respectably since becoming the de facto No. 1 receiver in place of Steve Smith, but he won’t be able to find room against Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, which will force Clausen to check down repeatedly to Allen out of the backfield. The rookie running back has been a bright spot, particularly with his ability to catch passes, and he will follow his 12-catch, 107-yard performance against Miami with 70-plus receiving yards. He won’t find much room between the tackles against the NFL’s third-ranked run defense, but Allen will still be Baltimore’s best option to move the chains on Sunday.
3. Russell Wilson will throw for two touchdowns and run for another. The Ravens defense has shown improvement in recent weeks, but that came against an underwhelming list of offenses. In addition to having the league’s top-ranked rush offense, Wilson has thrown a whopping 11 touchdown passes over his last three games without tossing an interception. Much like the dilemma they face every year when playing Ben Roethlisberger, the Ravens must find ways to make Wilson uncomfortable while still keeping him in the pocket. The defense will play well for stretches, but second-half fatigue will ultimately lead to Wilson making big plays with his arm and his legs.
4. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will combine to collect 3 1/2 sacks against an overwhelmed offensive line. Second-year tackle James Hurst has started six games in place of Monroe this year, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman acknowledged that the Ravens have shuffled the offensive line during practices this week, making it possible that we see a new look on Sunday. Unfortunately, it won’t matter as Seattle’s pair of defensive ends will be too tough in addition to Clausen being indecisive in the pocket. Even if the Ravens had a full and healthy offense on the field, the Seahawks’ front would be a lot to handle. At this point, it almost seems unfair.

5. The Ravens will break their streak of 12 consecutive games being decided by one possession in a 29-10 loss. It’s the NFL, so anything could happen. A few turnovers and a special-teams score or two can dramatically change the outlook of any game, but the Ravens are just too undermanned to objectively think they have much of a chance to win on Sunday. Considering the heart with which John Harbaugh’s team has competed throughout a trying season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Ravens make it closer than most expect. But this one is far more likely to turn ugly than for the Ravens to pull off an upset, even playing at home.