Could Dalvin Cook Get in the Mix?
The Ravens officially signed veteran running back Dalvin Cook to their practice squad on On January Jan. 5, the day before the team's regular-season finale.
While Cook didn't see any action vs. the Steelers, it might not be long until Ravens fans see him in action.
"Dalvin Cook's chances of being active for the Ravens in the playoffs got a major boost without him even playing in Saturday's game," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "He'll start practicing with the team next week. The Ravens have made no promises that he'll be elevated off the practice squad for the playoffs, but that seems more likely after Saturday. Melvin Gordon, who is the team's No. 3 running back, lost a fumble. His ball security has been a persistent concern in his career. Gus Edwards also lost a fumble for a second straight week. The door is open for Cook."
Cook, 28, is a four-time 1,000-yard rusher and four-time Pro Bowler. Cook has averaged 3.2 yards per carry this season for the New York Jets, down from his career average of 4.6. The Ravens hope he can regain his previous form in the playoffs.
"Dalvin wanted to come here," Head Coach John Harbaugh said after the game. "We'll be in the process of figuring out how all that fits, but you sure [do] appreciate having another really good player on your football team."
It should be noted that Gordon and Edwards were not the only players that had trouble holding onto the ball in the rain Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium.
"We turned the ball over a couple of times and just gave them opportunities to score points, that was it," Harbaugh said. "We take that into the playoffs. We already know that, and we understand how to win, but it's a nice little reminder that you have to protect the football to win games."
Ravens Justified in Resting Starters After Week 18 Sees Stars Go Down
While pride and bragging rights were on the line in Week 18 for the Ravens as they hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday, the Ravens had little else to gain from playing their starters. For that reason, several stars rested for Baltimore. After watching other teams not opt to do the same, 105.7 The Fan's Cordell Woodland sees Harbaugh's decision as further justified.
A few players that suffered an injury were Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt, Detroit Lions tight end Sam LaPorta, wide receiver Kalif Raymond, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown and quarterback Jalen Hurts and others.
For the Steelers and Eagles, they didn't have the luxury to rest their starters, as both were contending for the playoffs and a division title, respectively. That's even more reason to use the luxury when earned. Woodland wasn't alone in crediting the Ravens for their decision.
"If the Ravens needed a reminder of why such prudence was called for, they saw Pittsburgh's best player, T.J. Watt, crumple to the ground after an awkward collision with a teammate in the third quarter," The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote. "That was six days after the Miami Dolphins lost their best pass rusher, Bradley Chubb, on a meaningless play late in a 56-19 blowout loss in Baltimore."
The Lions also played their starters and Sam LaPorta, a key element of their offense, suffered a knee injury. Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell spoke on his decision to play them.
"You don't want guys to get hurt. I said a prayer last night. I do it every time for these games for our guys," Campbell said. "You don't want anybody to get hurt, especially a game like this, but there again, we [only] had two tight ends, and we used [Dan] Skip[per]. We tried to limit what we could, and that happened to be a play that it happened."
TE Isaiah Likely is the "NFL's Best Backup Tight End"
When tight end Mark Andrews went down against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11, the Ravens offense lost what had been Jackson's No. 1 target for multiple seasons and a driving force of their offense. But in his absence, tight end Isaiah Likely has demonstrated he's the best No. 2 tight end in the game, writes NFL.com’s Bobby Kownack.
"Tight end Isaiah Likely continued his campaign for the NFL's best backup tight end, collecting two catches for 31 yards and a score to mark his fifth touchdown in the last five games," Kownack wrote.
With each game, Likely has developed greater chemistry with Jackson, become a more trusted target in Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken's offense, and proven he's an emerging playmaker.
Pressbox’s Bo Smolka sees Likely becoming "a dominant offensive force."
"Likely might not have the telepathic connection with Lamar Jackson that Andrews has had since the duo's rookie summer together, but Likely every week looks more and more like a dominant offensive force, especially with the ball in his hands," Smolka wrote. "The Ravens have expressed optimism that Andrews can return at some point in the postseason, but Likely's emergence as a seamless replacement for the Pro Bowl tight end has been impressive. It's a big reason why the Ravens are entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed."