With Tyler Huntley (right throwing shoulder/wrist) limited in practice for the second straight day, the Ravens' quarterback situation continued to be in flux.
Lamar Jackson missed his 14th straight practice, leaving Anthony Brown and Brett Hundley to take Thursday's reps. It remains to be seen if Huntley will start Week 18 against the Bengals, but Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said the Ravens had no choice but to cope with Huntley's lingering throwing arm problems.
"Anytime your quarterback can't practice, that's a tough situation," Roman said. "It is what it is, it's the NFL in January, you've got to adapt, you've got to overcome that. He's working hard. He's doing rehab like crazy. He's been dealing with this thing for weeks, fighting through it. It's changed the way we've had to play some of these games a little bit. We know when he's at full strength we have a dynamic player for us. We just want to get him back there."
Brown has already delivered once for the Ravens in Week 14, after Huntley left the game with a concussion in the third quarter. In his first NFL action, Brown calmly entered the game with Baltimore backed up at its own 1-yard line and completed a pass on his first play. Later, he led an important drive that ended with a field goal during Baltimore's 16-14 victory. If Brown starts again on Sunday, Roman said he will have Baltimore's trust.
"I have a lot of confidence in him," Roman said. "I think he's got a bright future. You never know until they get out there and do it the first time. But that's ok. That's part of the excitement. But I thought how he comported himself in Pittsburgh, on the road, coming in that game and leading us to victory there was pretty darn impressive."
Players Say They Will Be Focused Sunday, Even if AFC North Is Not at Stake
According to a report from the Associated Press, the NFL will not resume the Bengals-Bills game from Week 17. Unless something changes, that would make the Bengals the AFC North champions.
For now, that still leaves the Ravens in an uncertain space this week, but right tackle Morgan Moses was certain about two things. The Ravens have already clinched a playoff spot, and beating the Bengals would be a good way to end the regular season.
"Nine years in, I've only been in the playoffs twice," Moses said. "To know that we already have a slot, I'm happy for us.
"It's an opportunity to compete Sunday. There's no reason to be upset. We're blessed to be in the playoffs. It's out of our hands. It's our job to go and execute on Sunday."
The Ravens could rest more key players Sunday if the division title isn't on the line. Running back J.K. Dobbins always wants to play, but he said any players who take the field against Cincinnati will be giving their all, regardless of the circumstances.
"We're competitors," Dobbins said. "We just want to win. I know I do. These guys in the locker room think the same thing.
"It's all up to the coaches and to God. If I do play, I'll be ready."
Ravens Could See Bengals Again in Playoffs, Which Could Impact Sunday's Gameplan
The Ravens' most likely playoff path as it stands now is heading back to Cincinnati to open against the Bengals, if Cincinnati finishes as the No. 3 seed in the AFC and the Ravens finish as the No. 6 seed.
Knowing there could be a rematch next week could make both teams more conservative Sunday, saving some things for the playoffs.
"It certainly could, but we're going to try to go win the game," Roman said. "Whether I call this play or that play, we'll see, but we're going to go try to win the game no matter what the situation is. Will it change strategy? It could; it certainly could."
Asked if he views game-planning against the Bengals as a potential two-game problem, Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald said, "Yes, absolutely."
No Easy Answers for Stopping Bengals Offense
During their 19-17 victory over Cincinnati in Week 5, the Ravens did an excellent job shutting down the Bengals' high-powered offense, limiting Joe Burrow to 217 yards passing – his third-lowest total of the season. The Ravens gave a lot of two-high safety looks to Burrow and eliminated Cincinnati's big plays. No receiver had a catch over 20 yards.
However, the Bengals have made adjustments since that game and have been rolling offensively while winning seven straight and nine of their last 10. Trying to contain the Bengals on Sunday may require different tactics than it did in Week 5.
"They're clicking on all cylinders right now," Macdonald said. "Like any good teams do, over the course of the year, they just get better and better.
"In terms of how to stop the offense, there are not many answers, but it definitely has to be complementary [on the] front and back. You're trying to deny the ball, and then when [Joe Burrow] does get the ball out so fast, you've got to eliminate those hidden yardages and be able to stop the run. I'm not sure about their trend over the course of the year, but they're definitely playing well right now."