Ravens look to continue playoff push, keep Jaguars reeling
The Baltimore Ravens will look to take another step toward making the playoffs for the third straight year on Sunday against the visiting and reeling Jacksonville Jaguars, who have lost a franchise-record 12 straight games.
The Ravens are coming off their biggest victory of the season — a 47-42 win in Cleveland. Quarterback Lamar Jackson overcame cramps, which sidelined him for parts of the third and fourth quarters, and returned to throw a 44-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-5 to give the Ravens the lead with less than two minutes remaining.
The Browns tied the game, 42-42, with a touchdown on their ensuing possession with 1:04 remaining before Jackson — the league’s reigning MVP — drove his team to the Browns’ 37-yard line, where Justin Tucker’s 55-yard field goal with two seconds remaining proved to be the difference.
Jackson threw for 163 yards, rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns and returned to the dominant player who fueled the Ravens’ 14-2 season last year. Jackson recorded a 99.5 QBR, the highest rating of any quarterback this season.
“He’s the leader — he’s the heartbeat of the team,” Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins said of Jackson. “He makes plays and he has that killer instinct.”
But more importantly, it was the Ravens’ second straight win after a stretch in which they lost four of five games that took them from leading the wild-card race to being out of the playoffs if the postseason started today.
While the Ravens (8-5) still trail the Browns (9-4), Colts (8-5) and Dolphins (8-5) for the three wild cards, Baltimore closes with three teams — the Jaguars, Giants and Bengals — who have a combined record of 8-30-1.
Jacksonville (1-12) hasn’t won since Week 1 and is battling the New York Jets for the top pick in next year’s draft. The Jaguars are turning to Gardner Minshew at quarterback. He returns to the starting lineup after playing well in Sunday’s loss to the Titans. He replaced Mike Glennon in the third quarter.
Sunday will be Minshew’s first start since a 39-29 loss to the Chargers on Oct. 25. After the game, Minshew told the coaching staff that he had injured his thumb two weeks earlier and the team has since started Glennon or rookie Jake Luton the past six games.
“Hey, am I looking to make a quick hook? Obviously not,” Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone told reporters when asked if Minshew would start on Sunday. “I want someone to go in there and give us a chance to win and get the guys around them to play better. That was my main focus when I spoke to those quarterbacks today.”
Jacksonville’s lone bright spot has been undrafted rookie James Robinson, who is third in the league in rushing with 1,035 yards, to go along with seven touchdowns. Robinson is just the fourth undrafted rookie in league history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his first year, and he is well on pace to break the league mark set by the Colts’ Dominic Rhodes, who ran for 1,104 yards as a rookie in 2001.
The Ravens will rely on their rushing attack, which they have done all season. The Ravens lead the NFL with 173.8 rushing yards per game and feature three players who have rushed for at least 500 yards this season — Jackson (793 yards), Gus Edwards (536) and rookie Dobbins (504). The trio has accounted for 17 touchdowns.
Mark Ingram, who made the Pro Bowl last year but has been hobbled by injuries this season, has rushed for 260 yards and two scores, and is expected to play against the Jaguars.
Jacksonville has allowed 1,892 rushing yards (145.5 ypg) this season, as only the Texans (1,980) and Cowboys (2,115) have been worse against the run.
Also, the Ravens placed Marquise Brown, James Proche and Miles Boykin on the reserve/Covid-19 list on Wednesday. The three players may be available to play on Sunday because they have tested negative for COVID-19 but came in contact with someone who had tested positive, according to Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
–Field Level Media