Have we seen the last of Joe Flacco?
The veteran quarterback injured his right hip in the first series against the Steelers and could be out this week for a critical game against the Bengals.
As a result, rookie first-round pick Lamar Jackson appears set to make his first start.
No pressure. If the Ravens lose, they’re likely out of the playoff race.
“I feel I’ll be very prepared,” Jackson said about starting. “I’m trying to [get] everything in. I’m trying to learn the ins and outs, so whatever happens, happens.”
In addition to the potential playoff implications, this game could set the tone for the future of the franchise.
— Can Jackson give the Ravens a spark and show he can be ready to take over in 2019?
— Will Flacco benefit from a couple of weeks off and lead the Ravens down the final stretch of the season if their playoff hopes are still alive?
— If the Ravens lose, is there any reason to go back to Flacco the rest of the year?
— What is the role for Robert Griffin III moving forward? The Ravens have been criticized for RG3’s roster spot, but he could be needed this week. If he happens to play well, could he serve as a bridge to Jackson in 2019?
To RG3s’s credit, he has prepared each week like he was going to play, even though he has yet to be active for a game.
“My job is to make sure I’m always ready – whether that’s during practice, after practice, maximizing the reps that I do get and making sure that after practice I’m getting the things that I feel like I need if I’m called upon that week to play,” he said. “But that’s my job, that’s why they brought me here. They brought me here to be a pro; they brought me here to help this team if need be. I try to help the defense every week on scout team and do those things. If my number is called, I’ll be able to go out there and lead this team.”
There will certainly be a buzz around M&T Bank Stadium if Jackson does start. There will be some inevitable growing pains, which will add more fuel to the fire for his naysayers.
Jackson has appeared in nine games this season and has been used primarily in the wildcat scheme. He has run for 139 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown. Jackson has also completed 7 of 12 passes for 87 yards with a touchdown to fellow rookie Hayden Hurst.
Despite those modest numbers, he has won the confidence of his teammates, who see his game-breaking ability in practice during the week.
“I think he just has a little more confidence in the offense and what he’s seeing,” receiver Willie Snead IV said. “He knows the players around him, so he can trust us more. He’s just being a ball player now. I think once he has the scheme and everything around him under wraps, then you’ll see the playmaker come out of him. It’s just exciting to see, and as the week goes on, he’ll get better and better, and we’ll see what happens on game day.”
The Ravens will face a different Bengals team than the one that handily defeated them 34-23 in Week 2.
Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and will assume those duties. The Bengals are allowing the most yards per game (456.5) in the NFL. Lewis hired former Cleveland coach Hue Jackson as a special assistant.
The Bengals will be playing without their top playmaking receiver, A.J. Green, because of a foot injury. Green burned the Ravens for three touchdowns in the first matchup.
As a result, Lewis is more concerned about the issues surrounding his own team as opposed to whom will be playing quarterback for the Ravens.
“We have to be better fundamentally,” he said. “Whether you call that minor or major, that’s where we’re going to start.”