OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Lamar Jackson’s availability for the playoffs is the one question that trumps all others right now when it comes to the Baltimore Ravens.
Coach John Harbaugh didn’t have any major update Monday. One way or another, the answer will come soon enough.
Jackson missed his fifth consecutive game when the Ravens lost 27-16 at Cincinnati, and the clock is ticking toward Baltimore’s postseason opener — on the road Sunday night against those same Bengals. Jackson’s knee injury, which was not initially thought to be season-ending, has turned into a major problem for the Ravens, who lost three of five down the stretch without their star quarterback.
“Lamar has been in great spirits,” Harbaugh said Monday. “He’s been working super hard. He’s out there again today. I don’t watch the workouts with the trainers. It’s with the trainers. Hopefully, it’s progressing to the point where he can get to practice at some time soon.”
Baltimore (10-7) had an outside chance to host a first-round playoff game, but the Ravens needed to beat Cincinnati last weekend and then win a coin flip with the Bengals for that scenario to work out. Instead, the Ravens held running back J.K. Dobbins out of the game and started third-string quarterback Anthony Brown. Jackson was out, and backup QB Tyler Huntley was inactive, too, after dealing with shoulder issues during the week.
Baltimore fell behind 17-0 — its largest deficit of the season — but fought back enough to keep the final score respectable. Now the Ravens will hope that the extra rest for players like Dobbins and tight end Mark Andrews will help the team turn the tables on Cincinnati this coming weekend. But if Baltimore has to start Huntley or Brown, its seems clear that the offense will be limited.
Because there was still a home playoff game hanging in the balance, the Ravens got a good look at Cincinnati’s top offensive players. Quarterback Joe Burrow attempted 42 passes, and the Baltimore defense held him to 215 yards through the air. Sunday was only the second time the Ravens allowed more than 16 points since the start of November, but the Bengals were aided by four Baltimore turnovers.
Defensively, the Ravens played well enough to give the team some confidence this weekend.
“It’s a division opponent that we know very well. They know us very well,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “There’s a lot of just passion behind the ballgame. That’s what it’s all about. It’s win or go home.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
If the Ravens are forced to start Huntley or Brown, it will be hard to have much hope in the passing game. Brown went 19 of 44 for 286 yards with two interceptions against Cincinnati.
Huntley hasn’t thrown for more than 138 yards in any of his four starts this season — and those were all against teams that didn’t make the playoffs.
Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely caught eight passes for 103 yards with Andrews inactive. Expect the Ravens to lean on their tight ends a lot this week.
“Those guys will be out there together plenty, for sure,” Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of options with the tight ends, and we plan on using them.”
The Ravens have spent much of the season near the top of the NFL in turnover margin, but their minus-3 showing last weekend is the type of performance they can ill afford in the rematch.
The Ravens held Dobbins out of the game, only to have Gus Edwards — their top running back who did play — exit after four carries and enter concussion protocol.
28:41 — Baltimore’s time of possession Sunday. Although the Ravens outrushed and outgained the Bengals, they weren’t able to keep Cincinnati’s dangerous offense off the field for that long.
This will be the first time the Bengals and Ravens meet in the postseason. The only AFC North team Baltimore has faced in the playoffs is Pittsburgh, and the Ravens are 1-3 in those games.