While the Cleveland Browns look toward the future, two AFC North rivals are focused on the present. The Cincinnati Bengals hope to replicate last year’s playoff run to the Super Bowl but, this time, bring home the trophy to the state of Ohio. The Baltimore Ravens are happy to be back in the postseason after missing it last year but have far more question marks.
Unlike the Bengals, the Ravens hopes for a long playoff run are much lower and, basically, depends on the health of QB Lamar Jackson who missed the last month of the season.
Jackson’s situation is not just one that could impact the playoffs but could have repercussions for Baltimore and the AFC North moving forward. The former MVP is set for free agency at the end of the year. Representing himself, Jackson and the team have not come to an agreement on a contract over the past two years of negotiations.
Now, Jackson could possibly miss the Ravens playoff game according to a new report on Wednesday:
“Not looking good for Lamar Jackson,” Rapoport said on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “Which is a bit of a surprise if you look back. Dec. 4 was the last time he played, battling a PCL sprain. There were so many people involved who thought if Lamar is not going to play in the regular season, he will surely be ready in the playoffs. However, from my understanding this is something sources have said over the course of the past 24 hours is that Lamar Jackson faces an uphill battle to be able to get out on the field in the playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The report, by Ian Rapoport, notes that Jackson is rehabbing in an effort to play but his knee is “not quite right.”
If Jackson can’t play, Baltimore will likely be one-and-done in this year’s playoffs. In our SB Nation rankings of playoff teams, it was hard to find a spot to rank them due to the uncertainty around Jackson.
With the two sides unable to come to an agreement last offseason, this injury and his inability to play in the playoffs (if that comes to pass) would likely guarantee he will be franchise tagged this offseason. If he plays and plays well, perhaps the team meets his demands and a deal gets done this offseason.
For the Browns, Jackson has always been a problem. His dual-threat capabilities have caused havoc on no matter what defensive coordinator was trying to stop him. A healthy Jackson and a win or two in the playoffs could make it certain that the next DC has to try to stop him. Jackson not being able to play could lead to significant changes in Baltimore over the next few seasons.
That is how big this injury could be not only for the Ravens but the whole AFC North.