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Mailbag: Can Lamar Jackson Pull Off a Magical Playoff Run?

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Mink: Lamar Jackson is obviously a special player that changes the game. He has magical qualities. So I'm not going to doubt his ability to elevate this offense significantly.

Once a healthy Jackson is back on the field, that makes an already very strong run game better because the threat of the quarterback run is magnified. Tyler Huntley is fast, but Jackson is the best runner of any quarterback in NFL history. The Ravens' read-pass option (RPO) game should immediately improve as outside linebackers can't crash down as hard against the run like Pittsburgh did, which also helps Baltimore's running backs and offensive line.

The passing game will also immediately improve, as Jackson gives the Ravens more big-play ability. He's made a living extending plays and making things happen, whereas Huntley has shown that he's more likely to make a quick read and get the ball out. The Ravens have not had as much big-play potential since Jackson went down.

Overall, the Ravens offense doesn't have to become a juggernaut overnight to win in the playoffs considering the might of Baltimore's defense. The offense wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire before Jackson went down, so it's unfair to expect it to suddenly turn into a 30+ points scoring machine. But with J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards stronger now than they were when Jackson last played, and Mark Andrews hopefully getting rolling as he did Sunday against the Steelers, the cast around Jackson should help him and the entire offense potentially play its best football since early in the season.

Mink: I'll also take this question since it's related. The Ravens have been dealing with a thin wide receiver corps ever since Rashod Bateman went down and Devin Duvernay's season-ending foot injury exacerbated the problem. However, they've won a lot of games despite these injuries.

The level of competition will increase in the playoffs, but I still believe that the Ravens' run-heavy and tight-end formula can work in the playoffs if they execute in critical situations and in the red zone. If they run the ball well and Andrews stays hot, they don't need their wide receivers to make a bunch of plays. They only need them to make a handful, and I think this unit is capable of that. We've seen it at times this season.

We've got to stop comparing the Ravens' wide receiver stats to other teams. The offense just isn't built that way. Generally speaking, they're not going to put up big numbers. But if the wideouts make the most of their opportunities, that's a success. Against the Steelers, Baltimore's wide receivers were targeted five times and made two catches for 18 yards. I think the Ravens need better results than that to win in the playoffs.

Downing: This is a major question and something that feels unresolved at this point. The NFL has said that the game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals won't be played this week, but they haven't announced whether it will be resumed at all. With the playoffs scheduled to begin Jan. 14, it's unlikely that the league could reschedule that game without drastically altering the rest of the NFL calendar. It seems that the NFL would have to make a final decision on that Bengals-Bills game prior to the Ravens-Bengals matchup so that the teams know what's at stake. If there's still a chance for the Ravens to win the division, then certainly they would play everyone they could to have the best chance to win. But if the Bengals-Bills game isn't resumed, Cincinnati already has the division crown locked up.

Head Coach John Harbaugh did indicate last week that regardless of the division race, the Ravens would still have seeding to play for against Cincinnati. The Ravens would likely prefer a No. 5 seed and a trip to Jacksonville or Tennessee, rather than getting the No. 6 seed and playing the Bengals or Bills in the wild-card round. The Los Angeles Chargers currently have the No. 5 seed and would maintain that spot with a win this weekend over the Denver Broncos, so the Ravens don't control their own destiny at improving their playoff seeding. The top priority for the Ravens is to ensure they're in the best position to win games in the playoffs, so they may opt to rest players if they aren't fully healthy yet. Players like Jackson, Calais Campbell or Marcus Peters could fall into that mix. But the Ravens also want to get the best possible playoff seed, so this will be a difficult balance to find.

Downing: This question is about outside linebacker David Ojabo and tight end Charlie Kolar, who have both been activated in recent games, but only saw one defensive and offensive snap, respectively. There has understandably been lots of excitement and intrigue about the talented two players who have lost nearly all of their rookie season to injuries. What this comes down to is that the Ravens have depth at both of those positions and snaps are hard to come by for the two of them. It's difficult for the Ravens to take Justin Houston or Jason Pierre-Paul off the field in order to get Ojabo more snaps. The same goes for Mark Andrews and Josh Oliver, who has become a premier blocker. If the coaches felt like Ojabo or Kolar were ready to make a difference, then they would be getting more playing time. Now, there are still high hopes for these players after they both had to overcome significant injuries, but it looks like their impact as rookies will be limited.

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