The Baltimore Ravens clinched the top seed in the AFC last Sunday with a victory over the Browns. Now, they will head into their final regular season game with virtually nothing on the line. As a result, they now have the luxury of being able to rest some of their key starters. John Harbaugh already confirmed that Lamar Jackson, Marshall Yanda, Brandon Williams, Earl Thomas, and Mark Ingram will not play this week.
Coach Harbaugh confirms Lamar Jackson, Marshal Yanda, Brandon Williams, Mark Ingram and Earl Thomas will not play Sunday. pic.twitter.com/7wVoflXJjX— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 23, 2019
Mark Andrews and Marcus Peters are dealing with injuries and could join that list.
Ravens didn’t practice Wednesday. Practice participation is an estimation:— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 25, 2019
DID NOT PRACTICE
RB Mark Ingram (ankle)
TE Mark Andrews (ankle)
CB Marcus Peters (chest)
On the other side, this is a big game for the Steelers; they are playing for a playoff berth. Here are the potential playoff scenarios for the Steelers:
- Win + Titans loss/tie
- Tie + Titans loss
- Loss + Titans loss + Raiders loss + Colts win
- Loss + Titans loss + Colts win + Steelers tie Raiders in strength-of-victory tiebreaker
As you can see, losing to the Ravens would make their path to the playoffs much more difficult. The Ravens could essentially send their division rivals home on Sunday. Here are 5 players to watch.
Robert Griffin III
With Jackson out, Robert Griffin III will be the starting quarterback. This will be Griffin's first NFL start since 2016. He has been solid in his limited action this season. Against the Dolphins on Week 1, Griffin played a season-high 23 snaps. He completed 6 out of 6 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball 4 times for 9 yards.
Nevertheless, this will be without a doubt his biggest test of the season. The Steelers defense is 4th in the NFL in total yards allowed, and they will be playing to keep their season alive. Griffin's performance will likely be the biggest factor in the game's outcome.
According to reports, we could see the NFL debut of rookie quarterback Trace McSorley.
It's possible Trace McSorley will play at QB in addition to Robert Griffin III on Sunday, per Harbaugh.— Aaron Kasinitz (@AaronKazreports) December 23, 2019
Interestingly, McSorley could even be on the field on special teams.
Ravens reserve QB Trace McSorley could see time on special teams for 1st time this season, special teams coach Chris Horton said. McSorley is expected to be active Sunday with Baltimore resting Lamar Jackson and handful of starters.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 26, 2019
“He loves football,” Horton said of McSorley.
The Ravens drafted McSorley in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He had a strong career at Penn State where he holds school records for single-season passing yards and passing touchdowns. His athleticism, in particular, makes him an intriguing prospect. His 4.57 40 yard dash led all quarterbacks at the NFL combine. With low stakes, it’s smart for the Ravens to give McSorley game action to aid his development.
With Ingram out, Gus Edwards will take over as the lead running back. Edwards has been great within his role once again this season. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry for the 2nd consecutive season, which is 2nd in the NFL among running backs. The Ravens have a strong offensive line, and without Jackson, Edwards could see a lot of carries.
Like McSorley, Miles Boykin is a rookie with upside. The Ravens selected him in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He has not been a huge part of the offense in his rookie year with only 20 targets this season. Nevertheless, the Ravens want him to eventually develop into a starter. In his limited action, Boykin has shown flashes, which included a 50-yard reception against the Seahawks.
Without some of their offensive weapons, Boykin could see his biggest workload of the season.
The Steelers have only allowed 1 team to score 20+ points in their last 7 games. In addition, 7 out of their past 8 games were decided by single-digits.
Justin Tucker is unquestionably the best kicker in football right now. He is hitting 96% of his field goals this season. In a game like this, Tucker could be the difference.