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Rest or rust: Will the Ravens’ extended bye week prove be helpful or hurtful?

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Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

When the Ravens defeated the Browns in Week 16, they clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC and therefore had nothing to play for - other than pride - against the Steelers in Week 17.

As a result, John Harbaugh chose to rest several of his team’s key starters on both sides of the ball: Lamar Jackson, Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Brandon Williams and Earl Thomas III, among others. In addition, Mark Andrews was also absent due to an ankle injury and Mark Ingram II did not take the field after suffering a calf injury in the second half of Week 16. However, he’s expected to be ready to go against Tennessee. In addition, several other starters that did suit up played limited snaps.

Essentially, it boils down to this: we haven’t seen the Ravens at full-go since they beat the Browns, which means that when Jackson and other starters take the field on Saturday night against the Titans, it’ll be their first time doing so in nearly three weeks.

Before Harbaugh announced that the aforementioned players wouldn’t be suiting up in the regular season finale - and even after he did so - debate ensued regarding whether or not it was the correct decision. Many believe that the extended absence for these players is bad because they’ll be rusty after not having played for so long. Others think that the extended rest is a positive because Jackson, Yanda and company will be fresh and well-rested.

Thus, the question begs: which outcome is more likely?

It’s impossible to know for sure until we see the Ravens actually take the field on Saturday night, but it’s hard to imagine that nearly three weeks of “rest” won’t prove to be helpful against a physical, hard-nosed Titans squad. “Rest” is put in quotation marks because although some starters haven’t played since Week 16, they’ve still been practicing and preparing for their eventual playoff opponent - which we now know is Tennessee.

That’s the biggest factor being overlooked in this discussion. Three weeks - not one or two, THREE weeks the Ravens players and coaches have had to dive deep into the books and study up on the Texans, Bills and Titans.

Nobody knew that the Titans would be their opponent until this past Saturday night, but you can be sure that everyone in the organization was doing their homework on Tennessee throughout the past three weeks - especially considering they were the only potential foe that the Ravens hadn’t faced earlier in the regular season.

When you finish the season with a 14-2 record and clinch home-field advantage before the last game of the year, you earn the right to rest some players - and the Ravens did just that. Jackson, Yanda, Thomas and others played hard and gave maximum effort for 15 straight games. Without their efforts, no way the Ravens win 12 games in a row.

In the unlikely scenario that the team comes out completely flat and out of sync on Saturday night, don’t blame “rust” and don’t fault John Harbaugh and the organization’s decision to rest multiple starters in Week 17.

It was a no-brainer of a decision.

The more likely scenario on Saturday night is that the Ravens appear energized, recharged and prepared from the opening kickoff until the fourth quarter.