Why Sitting Lamar Jackson in Week 17 Could be a Bad Decision

Sunday’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers has nothing for the Ravens to gain. Last week’s win over the Browns locked up the No. 1 seed, giving them home-field advantage through the postseason. Thus, Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced that he plans to sit several of his key starters in the season finale against the Steelers on Sunday.

The list of benched players includes running back Mark Ingram and safety Earl Thomas but most notably MVP frontrunner and mobile quarterback Lamar Jackson. 

Former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III will be under center for the Ravens on Sunday.

Jackson will end his sophomore season with 3,127 passing yards 36 touchdowns, which is a franchise record. He added seven more touchdowns on the ground. He also compiled 1,206 rushing yards, setting a new single-season rushing yard mark for quarterbacks, a record previously held by Michael Vick.

The most obvious reason to sit Jackson is that the Ravens don’t want to risk an injury in a meaningless game. Plus, if anyone deserves a week off, Jackson has without a doubt earned the rest. 

He has carried this team on his back, or in reality, his legs and his arm all season long, leading his team to 11 straight wins after starting the season 2-2. At that point, fans were beginning to wonder what this team’s identity was. Since then, he’s beaten playoff teams such as the 49ers, Patriots, Texans, and Bills.

This decision is definitely the smart one. After all, why would they put Jackson out there with nothing to play for? The risk of an unnecessary injury to Jackson would be detrimental to this team and their playoff run, especially with the Steelers still having an outside chance of sneaking into the playoffs. A close game between divisional rivals could get extra chippy to begin with. Add in playoff implications and it intensifies that much more. The Steelers are already coming in without running back James Conner and center Maurkice Pouncey, so they will rely heavily on their defense to win this game. 

But the downside, if there is one, would be this: with the Ravens having the first-round bye already in hand, sitting out Sunday against the Steelers means Jackson will have two weeks with no in-game reps. 

The potential opponents for his next game are Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Houston (who will have to services of defensive end J.J. Watt), Buffalo, or Kansas City (who dealt the Ravens one of their only two losses this season). All four teams have defenses that are towards the top in the league. 

Can a guy who is on a roll like Jackson take two games off and jump right back to his MVP-caliber self, or will it cool him off enough that it will cost his team a playoff victory?

After all, that would definitely be a let-down to this team and their fans.


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