After maybe the most painful regular season loss in Baltimore Ravens history, the Ravens 2016 campaign came to an end. With one week to go the team will have to do some soul searching and try to have a successful offseason to result in a successful 2017.
But first, there is one more game left to be played in Cincinnati against the AFC North division rival Bengals. It has been a long time since the Ravens and Bengals met in a game that will mean absolutely nothing for both teams. The division isn't on the line, no potential playoff berth is on the line for either team, no seeding positioning and no team can even play spoiler. It's a game where no starter should play to risk further injury for next season, unless your name is John Harbaugh apparently.
On Monday during his press conference to the media, Harbaugh stated the following.
"We're going to win the game. We'll play our guys. Everybody that's healthy will go play. That's the plan-wouldn't look at it any other way."
No. Just, no. I'm a big Harbaugh guy, but someone should probably throw a bucket of water in his face for what he's about to do because it's a completely reckless way of thinking. Then again, with the way Harbaugh has coached this year, mindless and reckless thinking has been his specialty. In a meaningless game, where it should be nothing less than a bonafide 5th preseason game, Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Marshal Yanda, Mike Wallace, Dennis Pitta, Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb etc., are going to play and risk further injury that may affect their 2017 status. For what reason exactly? What's the purpose? Just to get a win that means nothing to finish the year? For pride?
Now, not all of these starters should sit on the bench, the guys I listed above are the ones guaranteed to be back next year. Kyle Juszczyk will play because he is a free agent and he's the only fullback on the roster. Which also means that Brandon Williams should play along with Rick Wagner if he's healthy.
The only other Ravens starter that should play is, of course, Steve Smith Sr., simply because it's his final game of a Hall of Fame career. He deserves that much and a chance to go out their with his teammates and feel his passion and love for a game that's given him so much one final time.
Aside from your impending free agents and Smith Sr., no Ravens starter should play on Sunday. Especially guys like Flacco and Suggs who are just coming off major injuries the year before. That's another thing, why risk your starting quarterback's health? He's just coming off a torn ACL and MCL and he fought hard to get back. It makes no sense to put him out their in a season finale that means nothing. To top it all off, Flacco has played significantly better throughout the second half of the season after struggling in the first half. He just played a very good game against the arch rival Steelers in Heinz field and did everything he could to win, why risk halting that momentum against a Bengals defense he normally struggles against? Let him end the season on a high note, and get him ready for next season along with the rest of the starters. No future plans should be in jeopardy because of mindless thinking.
You know Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is not very happy after what happened just a few days ago in Pittsburgh. Imagine how angry he would be if one of his starters, most especially Flacco, were to be seriously injured in a meaningless game. In the end, an 8-8 or 9-7 record won't get Harbaugh fired, a lack of common sense would.