With the AFC’s No. 1 seed locked up after their win over the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens will be sitting a number of Pro Bowlers in Week 17 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters Monday that quarterback Lamar Jackson, offensive guard, Marshal Yanda, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, running back Mark Ingram and free safety Earl Thomas will not play on Sunday. Ingram was already expected to miss the game with a calf strain.
With Jackson not expected to play, back-up quarterback Robert Griffin III will likely see the majority of action against the Steelers. Rookie seventh-rounder Trace McSorley could also see some time.
Harbaugh indicated that more players could also be held out, depending on who stays healthy over the course of the week.
“We’ll still decide as the week goes on,” Habraugh said. “I just think one thing that’s really important to understand is this is pro football, not college football. You can’t sit your starters in a game, that’s not how it works. You have up to seven options, if you’re completely healthy. We don’t know exactly if we’ll be completely healthy or not. We’re very healthy, so that does bode well. It will be an opportunity for some guys to play who have been inactive, so that’s a big plus for us.”
Any player who sits out Sunday will face three weeks of not playing football until the Ravens’ begin their playoff run on Jan. 11 or 12. So much time off might worry some fans, but the risk of injury to a player like Jackson against the Steelers’ physical defense should be even scarier.
Great news for the Steelers
Missing Lamar Jackson and a number of other contributors from the Ravens will be welcome news for the Steelers, who are facing a must-win situation in Week 17. It will be less welcome news for the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders, who are both in contention for the AFC’s final playoff spot.
The Steelers will need a win over the Ravens and a Titans loss against the Houston Texans in order to capture the No. 6 seed. A loss by both the Steelers and Titans could open the door for the Raiders, but Oakland would also need a win on Sunday and an Indianapolis Colts loss to make it.
However, even with Jackson and company out, a win could still be a tall task for the Steelers. The news of the Ravens sitting some of their starters came shortly after Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, who looked strong in limited action last Sunday, will be out for multiple weeks.
Lamar Jackson’s MVP campaign officially comes to a close
If this is really it for Jackson, the regular-season chapter of the NFL’s biggest breakout in 2019 has come to a close.
The second-year quarterback is the heavy favorite to take home MVP honors in the offseason after incinerating defenses week in and week out, and generating a near-constant stream of viral highlights.
Jackson will finish the season with 3,127 passing yards, a league-leading 36 passing touchdowns, a 113.3 passer rating and an NFL quarterback record 1,206 rushing yards. Not bad for a running back indeed.
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