The phrase Any Given Sunday has been popularized to remind fans that any NFL team can win any NFL game, no matter how slim the odds may seem on paper. On any given Sunday, any team can come out and win the game. However, this given Sunday for the Baltimore Ravens may just have the outcome already decided. The 10-7 Ravens are set to square off against the 12-4 Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday night at 8:15 PM.
Let’s face it—the Ravens stand no chance against the Cincinnati Bengals without Lamar Jackson. And every day that passes this week his status gets increasingly bleak for Sunday’s game. Tyler “Snoop” Huntley is a solid backup who can salvage regular season games against below average opponents. An offense led by him—or possibly even Anthony Brown—will not salvage anything against most recent Super Bowl runner-ups.
Before we go any further, no, I do not believe that Jackson is holding out in any way because of his contract concerns. If he is not on the field on Sunday, it is simply because his knee has not fully healed. Nothing less, nothing more.
A Stout Defense Matched with an Underwhelming Offense
Baltimore has been able to run the ball well and play stout defense to eek their way out to victories in Jackson’s absence. But Cincinnati’s offense proved far too explosive to contain last week, and Baltimore just did not have the offensive firepower to match them.
Anthony Brown, the third-string quarterback for Baltimore, did everything you can ask for from a third-string rookie quarterback in their first start (Brock Purdy stay out of this). However, his underwhelming 48% completion percentage and two interceptions held the Ravens back from ever being in the game.
It’s abundantly clear—the Ravens need their quarterback to be healthy to compete in this game. The defense has been much improved this year and ranks third-lowest in the league in terms of points per game (18.5). The addition of Roquan Smith has seemed to transform this defense, and his new $100M contract reflects it. But Baltimore’s offense is just so rudimentary even with Jackson starting. Without him it’s nearly unwatchable at times.
Not only is the scheme stale, but Baltimore’s talent and health at their skill position groups is just not proficient. Their leader in receiving yards at the position in 2022 was Demarcus Robinson, with a whopping 458 yards. Despite missing four games and leaving in the first quarter of a fifth one, Lamar Jackson still led the team in rushing yards with 764. He only trailed J.K. Dobbins in rushing yards per game by less than two yards with 63.7 yp/g.
Baltimore’s offense ideally runs through Lamar and Lamar only. When his one-of-a-kind ability is not on the field, the Ravens are exposed as a sub-par and quite boring offensive team.
Ravens, Lamar Jackson Can’t Escape the Injury Plague
The Baltimore Ravens faced a similar demise last year in 2021. They started off with an 8-4 record and looked like an AFC powerhouse for what would’ve been the third straight year they had done so. A Jackson injury and five consecutive losses later, they found themselves outside of the playoffs looking in.
Again Baltimore started hot in 2022, boasting a 7-4 record before their franchise QB suffered yet another prolonged injury that would end up being season-ending. The backup Tyler Huntley did a great job controlling the damage and leading Baltimore to some wins in Jackson’s absence. This year, the Ravens managed to secure a playoff spot.
Ravens Unfinished Playoff Business is Taking Longer to Finish
The playoffs have been so highly anticipated for Ravens fans since 2019; a season that saw them boast a 14-2 regular season record only for them to get bounced in the Divisional Round by the Tennessee Titans. While the city of Baltimore has been awaiting the team’s rebound, the Ravens have only seemed to regress as a team in the following years.
This year was also critical for Jackson to leave no doubt that he is worthy of top 5 QB money. Jackson has been dominant in the regular season, but still lacks the iconic playoff performance that his peers Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and even Joe Burrow boast. It looks like Jackson will have to wait yet another year before he can acquire one.
How Bad Can the Wildcard Game Be?
As dismal as it may sound, this Sunday’s Wildcard matchup is still a divisional game. Baltimore will not feel sorry for themselves and let the Bengals walk all over them. If the Ravens can control the clock with their run game, stop Cincinnati’s run game, and capitalize on any Joe Burrow mistakes, they can keep this one close.
I am not predicting a blowout game between the two teams. What I am predicting, however, is that Baltimore will top yet another promising start to the season with a disappointing finish.
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