This past Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens beat down the Cleveland Browns 31-15. With the win, the Ravens have now officially clinched a first-round bye and the AFC North title. They also locked in their first No. 1 seed in franchise history. After the game, players and coaches talked about the importance of winning their next one, a Week 17 showdown against their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers. During their postgame presser, MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson admitted to wanting to play in the final week of the regular season, even if it changes nothing for the outcome of the team.
“Yeah, I want to play. No doubt,” he said Sunday, via the team’s transcript. “But it’s coach’s decision. It’s up to coach.”
However, head coach John Harbaugh announced that Jackson, along with Mark Ingram, Earl Thomas, Marshal Yanda, and Brandon Williams, will not play against the Steelers on Sunday.
What exactly would Jackson have to play for? The reality is…nothing. The Ravens and the Buffalo Bills are the only two teams playing in Week 17 where the outcome of the game changes nothing for their playoff seeding. Jackson sitting won’t hurt his MVP bid, which is all but clinched with a week left. He also beat Michael Vick’s record for most rushing yards by a QB two weeks ago. Ultimately, he has nothing left to play for.
Harbaugh had said on Sunday that he’d discuss the matter with the team’s leaders Monday and promised that “we’ll be forthright in how we plan to do it.”
“No matter what we do, the emphasis is going to be on winning the football game,” said Harbaugh, whose 13-2 team has already set a franchise record for wins in a season. “We want to win the football game. We want that 14th win. There’s no doubt about that.”
Ending the Steelers playoff dreams could have been enough motivation for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens
There is one form of motivation that could have been enough to have Jackson start in Week 17. If the Ravens were to beat their division rivals, it would eliminate them from playoff contention. The Pittsburgh and Baltimore rivalry is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most intense rivalries in the NFL.
But even with that, the risks outweigh the benefits. Even if the Steelers are to win this game, they will still need help to make the playoffs after suffering a loss to the New York Jets this past weekend. They no longer control their own destiny. Steelers fans will likely be cheering for Houston come Week 17.
If Pittsburgh can defeat the Ravens, they will move into the sixth seed for the playoffs. They then need the Houston Texans to defeat the Tennessee Titans to remain the sixth seed. If the Titans win, then both teams will be tied record-wise for the sixth seed, but Tennessee holds the tiebreaker.
How dominant has Jackson been this year?
Jackson’s regular season has been impressive, to say the least. He has 3,127 passing yards with 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. On top of that, he has over 1200 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
However, using Pro Football Network’s OSM metric, we can see that Jackson has actually been one of the more inconsistent quarterbacks this season when it comes to throwing the football. His overall OSM grade is 24.3, which is considered good but not elite. It is enough for QB13 on the year. The OSM grades measure how much of a player’s statistical production they were actually responsible for. The one caveat is that Next Gen Stats, which is what OSM is based on, does not take rushing into account for the quarterback. Last week, PFN’s Lucas Ellinas took a deep dive into Jackson’s OSM score so far. Here is his analysis on Jackson’s season so far.
“When examining his OSM grades from these three games, it rapidly becomes apparent that Jackson can be very inconsistent as a passer. But when taking his entire season into account, the problem becomes even more evident. With grades ranging from his 61.74 in Week 10, all the way down to a grade of 5.73 in Week 14, Jackson is one of the NFL’s most inconsistent players, according to the OSM. When he is playing well, his passing game can carry his entire offense, while in other games, Baltimore’s success is more heavily influenced by Jackson’s teammates, as well as his own abilities as a runner.”
Eyes set on the future
In the end, this Baltimore team has already cemented their legacy in record books this year. They had 12 players named to this year’s Pro Bowl. Jackson is the only quarterback in NFL history to eclipse 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in the same season. He will likely to be named this year’s MVP. Plus, Harbaugh will be a candidate for coach of the year.
The right move was made by Harbaugh in sitting several key veterans. Letting them rest and heal up any nagging injuries will only help them in the playoffs. As well as the team has played, the competition in the AFC is fierce with the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots breathing down their necks. As it is, both teams will be battling on Sunday to secure their playoff seeding.
For more football news and information, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PFN365.