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Late for Work 1/6: Ian Rapoport: Ravens Confident Lamar Jackson Will Return for Playoffs

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QB Lamar Jackson

Ian Rapoport: Ravens Confident Lamar Jackson Will Return for Playoffs

The Ravens are confident Lamar Jackson will be back for the playoffs, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Jackson, who suffered an injury to his left knee (reportedly a sprained PCL) against the Denver Broncos on Dec. 4, missed his 14th straight practice yesterday.

"It has been five weeks for an injury that I think most people thought would take three. PCL's take a little bit longer and they're not going to risk it," Rapoport said on "The Pat McAfee Show." "I was told that they're confident in his return for the playoffs. If he's not out there for the playoffs, then it would be, OK, he had a setback."

Rapoport said he doesn't believe Jackson's absence has anything to do with his unresolved contract status.

"I don't think it's contract-related and I don't think it's effort-related," Rapoport said. "I'm sure it sucks for everyone, though, and I know he wants to be out there and they want him out there, but he is just not ready."

NBC Sports' Chris Simms said that he was told last week "by somebody in the know" that Jackson's knee "was still extremely swollen."

"I think the 50-50 thing was a little bit of very, very hopeful talk there as far as maybe he could play [last Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers]. … He wasn't really close last week," Simms said.

When Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman was asked about Jackson's status last week, he said Jackson is "working hard, getting his rehab done," but "you can't rush Mother Nature."

Bengals EVP Urges Owners to Vote Against Resolution That Could Give Ravens Home Game in Wild-Card Round

The NFL announced last night that one of the results of Monday night's Bills-Bengals game being canceled is that a coin toss would determine whether a hypothetical wild-card playoff game between the Ravens and Bengals would be played in Baltimore or Cincinnati.

That scenario is dependent on the Ravens beating the Bengals on Sunday and the teams winding up as the third and sixth seeds. For that to happen, the Los Angeles Chargers also would have to defeat the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

The resolution, which also addresses the AFC Championship Game potentially being played at a neutral site, still needs to be approved by the league's owners in a Special League Meeting. The Competition Committee has already given its approval.

For the resolution to go into effect, a minimum of 24 owners need to approve it. Bengals Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn, who is on the Competition Committee, urged the committee members to vote against the scenario in a memo obtained by ESPN's Seth Wickersham. Her reasoning stemmed from the timing of a rule change away from the standard of winning percentages used in this scenario, ESPN’s Ben Baby wrote.

Blackburn wrote: "The proper process for making rule change (sic) is in the off-season. It is not appropriate to put teams in a position to vote for something that may introduce bias, favor one team over another or impact their own situation when the vote takes place immediately before the playoffs."

The Bengals (11-4) have been declared AFC North champions by virtue of a higher winning percentage than the Ravens (10-6). However, the NFL's coin toss proposal was made in an effort to balance what the league called "potential competitive inequities."

If the Ravens win Sunday, they would have beaten the Bengals twice this season, have a 4-2 AFC North record to the Bengals' 2-4, and have the same number of total wins. Had the Bengals lost to the Bills, Baltimore would be the AFC North champion in that scenario.

From the Bengals' point of view, there could be no benefit to winning the division if they lost the coin toss. Not only could they end up having to play the second-place Ravens on the road in the playoffs, but they'd also have a tougher schedule than the Ravens next season.

As the second-place finisher in the AFC North, the Ravens will face the Chargers on the road and host the Miami Dolphins or New England Patriots and Detroit Lions or Green Bay Packers next season. The Bengals, by comparison, will face the Kansas City Chiefs, Bills, and Minnesota Vikings.

Bengals Are Near Unanimous Pick to Beat Ravens

The overwhelming consensus among pundits is that the Bengals needn't worry about the possibility of going to Baltimore in the playoffs.

All but one of the 31 pundits we sampled are predicting Cincinnati to beat the Ravens on Sunday. The lone Baltimore believer is CBS Sports' Dave Richard.

The Ravens defeated the Bengals, 19-17, in Week 5, but that seems like a lifetime ago. Cincinnati has gone 9-1 since. The Ravens have lost two of their past three games and averaged just 11.8 points over their past five games.

With Tyler Huntley (right throwing shoulder/wrist) limited in practice the past two days, rookie quarterback Anthony Brown could make his first start.

Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:

The Bengals' superior offense will be the difference.

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal: "Lamar Jackson is still not back at practice, and these teams are not equally matched even if he were to play. While the Ravens' defense may be the better side, the Bengals' offense is more complete and explosive. In big games, lean offense."

Bold prediction: The Ravens will give up more than 30 points.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Since Week 3, Baltimore is one of two defenses to hold every opponent under 30 points (Jets). But since the Ravens held the Bengals to 17 points in Week 5, Joe Burrow and Cincinnati have averaged the third-most points in the league (28.3 per game).

The Ravens offense will not have success running or passing against the Bengals.

NBC Sports’ Chris Simms: "When D.J. Reader's on the field nobody runs the ball on the Bengals. … I'd have a hard time thinking that the Ravens are just going to be able to rely on that. Let alone we know the Bengals are good in the secondary and that Ravens offense, even if you do over-commit to stop the run, there's nobody to worry about at receiver, and they can play them man to man and stop them that way."

Without Jackson, the Ravens might be hard-pressed to even keep the game close.

Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton: "The Bengals may look sluggish in this matchup, having witnessed Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapse on their field on Monday. However, if Cincinnati can draw any motivation from the playoff implications of this matchup — with at least a shot at the No. 2 seed — it can handily beat a Ravens squad that will play without quarterback Lamar Jackson."

The Baltimore Sun’s Ryan McFadden: "The Ravens' offense is a complete mess right now, and the uncertainty at quarterback as Tyler Huntley deals with a shoulder and wrist injury doesn't help. It's hard to imagine Baltimore putting enough points on the board to keep up with a Bengals offense led by quarterback Joe Burrow and talented wide receivers."

The Bengals will win, but the Ravens will be competitive.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "It's hard to predict how the Bengals will react to a tumultuous week. But even if they are a little flat to start, they just have too much firepower for a Ravens team expected to again be without Jackson. I think the Ravens will keep it close for a while, but they'll just not have enough answers on either side of the ball in a 27-17 type of game."

Table inside Article
Source Prediction Commentary
ESPN 5 of 5 panelists pick Bengals
Baltimore Sun 5 of 5 panelists pick Bengals “There’s not much separating these teams. We know the game will be close. We know it will be low scoring. The Ravens ran at will in Pittsburgh and picked off [Mitch] Trubisky three times. They can’t count on repeating the same formula against a rival that’s fighting to stay alive.”— Childs Walker
NFL.com Bengals 24, Ravens 14 “Zac Taylor is a real one. In his actions on the field Monday night and in his press availability Wednesday, Taylor showed tremendous leadership. There’s no way to know how the events of the last week will impact the Bengals on the field, so I’m evaluating these teams as if it’s another game, which it most certainly is not. Lamar Jackson is still not back at practice, and these teams are not equally matched even if he were to play. While the Ravens' defense may be the better side, the Bengals' offense is more complete and explosive. In big games, lean offense. If Jackson plays, add a touchdown to the Ravens.” — Gregg Rosenthal
NFL Network 10 of 10 panelists pick Bengals
Sporting News Bengals 24, Ravens 17 “The Ravens just can't find enough offense without Lamar Jackson beyond Mark Andrews and the running game. The Bengals will be working to gain better momentum going into their AFC championship repeat run. There's a chance this is the rematch for the first round of the playoffs, so Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo must be a bit wary of what they plan to do a third time with Joe Burrow and the defense.” — Vinnie Iyer
CBS Sports 5 of 6 panelists pick Bengals “I think the Bengals will come out and light up the Ravens defense. Bengals win it.” — Pete Prisco
Pro Football Talk 2 of 2 panelists pick Bengals “When D.J. Reader’s on the field nobody runs the ball on the Bengals. … I’d have a hard time thinking that the Ravens are just going to be able to rely on that. Let alone we know the Bengals are good in the secondary and that Ravens offense, even if you do over-commit to stop the run, there’s nobody to worry about at receiver, and they can play them man to man and stop them that way.” — Chris Simms
Fansided Bengals 20, Ravens 16

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