Lamar Jackson Week 5 Injury Update: Is he a fantasy starter vs. Bengals?

With Lamar Jackson returning to practice on Friday from injury (knee, illness), will he be 100% and a reliable fantasy starter in Week 5?

After an incredible 2019 season, 2020 has been a strange year for Lamar Jackson and his fantasy football GMs. In the entirety of the 2019 season, Jackson scored under 20 fantasy points just twice, a feat he has already matched through the first four weeks of the 2020 season. Now the situation for Lamar Jackson’s Week 5 outlook is even more convoluted as he has spent the entire week on the injury report and was considered questionable heading into Sunday. What can Jackson’s fantasy GMs expect from the 2019 MVP on Sunday?

Update: Lamar Jackson was not included in the Baltimore Ravens official inactive list and is, therefore, active for the Week 5 contest with the Cincinnati Bengals

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Could the playbook be scaled back due to Lamar Jackson’s injury?

The Ravens host the Bengals at MT&T Stadium for this Week 5 divisional tilt. The question on everyone’s mind is how Lamar Jackson will respond to his knee injury that limited him in practice this week, especially since he did not return to the practice field until Friday.

And knowing that offensive coordinator Greg Roman makes no secret about the favoritism towards the run, if the knee limits Jackson in any way, how much of the playbook is sacrificed as a result?

Despite playing the cellar of the AFC North, these divisional games always have the element of familiarity, and the Ravens have a slim margin for error against the Bengals, who are fresh off a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 2019 Bengals (2-14) were within six points early in the season against the Ravens (14-2) in Baltimore, so they will know they can play this team close.

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However, the Ravens likely do not play Jackson in this situation if there were doubts about his long-term health. Fantasy managers should expect a full arsenal of plays for Jackson this Sunday. The Ravens face the teams that tied each other in the next two weeks, and ironically enough with identical 1-2-1 records: the Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Then it’s a bye week, and an average strength of schedule after the bye. If there were any reason to have caution, the Ravens would exercise it here. Therefore, feel confident starting Lamar Jackson in Week 5.

What production can we expect from Lamar Jackson in Week 5?

Jackson had his 2019 season-high 152 rushing yards in the early season contest with the Bengals, and he’d end the two-game feud with orange-and-black in 2019 with 217 rushing yards, leading his team in rushing yards in each game. The 2020 Bengals are the sixth-worst team in rush defense this year. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that Jackson doesn’t hit his typical floor of rushing yards that fantasy managers depend on.

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The question is, what happens in the passing game? The completion percentage is up, and the TD/INT ratio is still impressive. Jackson’s passing output depends almost entirely on the game script. If the Bengals can answer offensively and give a reason for the Ravens to be balanced on offense, passing expectations increase. If the Ravens get off to an early start and the Bengals struggle to keep pace, fantasy managers are looking at a slower-paced, run-heavy Ravens attack that will limit Jackson’s passing volume.

The Ravens are currently favored by 12.5/13 points, depending on the sportsbook. Thus, the likelihood of a run-heavy second half to protect the lead and “assert your will” is more pronounced. Curb your enthusiasm on Jackson’s passing output: even early passing success could lead to the glass ceiling on Jackson’s potential passing volume by getting into the game script nerves aforementioned.

Heading into Week 5, Lamar Jackson is QB8. Is there any reason to worry?

No, there’s not a reason to fret. Though narratives change wildly in the NFL, the Ravens are looking at an average strength of schedule for the remaining part of the season. The fact that the Ravens are in a more contentious race for division lead only results in more of a sense of focus and “not letting off the gas pedal.” That fear of being left behind will propel Jackson to continue to be an upper-tier QB performer in fantasy football in 2020.

Fantasy managers with Jackson on their team are also in unique positions to be in a negative game script for a quarterback (running the ball) and continue to have an opportunity to rack up points. It’s not something to bank on, but something still possible with a QB like Jackson. Even if the Ravens are handily beating their counterparts, Jackson is still viable with his rushing yardage potential. With the Ravens’ bevy of running backs, they are built for the long haul and the war of attrition.

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Best of luck this week!

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