Safely in playoffs, Ravens still have division to play for
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens have clinched a postseason berth. Coach John Harbaugh indicated that would have no impact on Lamar Jackson’s status.
“Players play when they’re healthy and ready to go. That’s really all we do,” Harbaugh said after Baltimore’s 17-9 win over Atlanta on Saturday. “When the player and the docs come back and say, ‘Hey, it’s time,’ then (as) coaches, we build him into the game plan.”
Even though the Ravens are headed to the playoffs, Baltimore still has a division title to play for. The Ravens are one game behind Cincinnati in the AFC North. If Baltimore beats Pittsburgh on Sunday night, the Ravens would ensure themselves a chance to win the division by beating the Bengals in their regular-season finale.
Jackson has missed the past three games because of a knee injury. There may be some benefit to resting the star quarterback until the postseason, but it’s also clear that the offense could use him — and winning the division would give Baltimore (10-5) a home playoff game. On Monday, Harbaugh said he still believes Jackson will return at some point this season, but he didn’t shed much light on whether he expects him to practice this week.
“We’ll just have to see,” he said.
Baltimore is postseason bound for the 10th time in Harbaugh’s 15 seasons at the helm. The Ravens could stay in the division race even with a loss this week if Cincinnati loses to Buffalo, but the Bengals-Bills game isn’t until Monday night, so that result won’t be known when Baltimore plays.
The Ravens won 16-14 at Pittsburgh earlier this month in their first full game this season without Jackson.
Since acquiring linebacker Roquan Smith in a trade with Chicago, the Ravens have held six of seven opponents to 14 points or fewer. They’ve also gone three straight home games without allowing a touchdown.
“Our defense has been showing up,” rookie safety Kyle Hamilton said. “We get in situations that seem tough in the game, whether they’re on a two-minute drive or in the red zone, but we’ve been bowing up every week.”
Atlanta reached the red zone four times, kicking three field goals and turning the ball over once on downs.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The offense. Still. Baltimore did what it needed to do Saturday on a cold day at home — and the Ravens finally reached the end zone after being kept out of it for eight straight quarters — but the team still produced only 299 yards of offense.
“There are things we do well, but everything we can do better. There’s nothing that we can’t do better than what we’re doing right now,” Harbaugh said. “I’m excited about the possibilities. Hey, if you’re hitting on all cylinders, then you’ve got nowhere to go but down, I guess.”
Through the first 14 games of the season, Baltimore had only four passing plays of more than 35 yards. On Saturday, the Ravens had two in the first half — a 40-yard strike from Tyler Huntley to Sammy Watkins and a 36-yarder from Huntley to Mark Andrews.
The Ravens extended their streak of multi-sack games to 11, but barely. Their two sacks came in a three-play span in the first quarter, and one of them was for no gain.
“We got a lot of play action on third down,” Harbaugh said. “That is tough because that was a team that runs the ball quite a bit on third down. I think Pittsburgh’s obviously a very good running team, and they’ll be willing to run it on third down as well. ... When you can run the ball on third down, and you run play action on third down, that’s going to slow down your pass rush.”
In addition to Jackson, the Ravens were without DE Calais Campbell (knee) and CB Marcus Peters (calf) on Saturday.
1 — The number of penalties on the Ravens in Saturday’s game. They were called for pass interference early in the third quarter, but that was it.
The Ravens’ game this coming Sunday was flexed into prime time. It will be their fourth night game of the season. They beat Cincinnati at home on a Sunday night, won at Tampa Bay on a Thursday night and won at New Orleans on a Monday night.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL