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Baltimore Ravens

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, after missing 3rd straight practice, questionable for game vs. Packers

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missed his third straight practice Friday, dimming hopes that he can recover from a sprained ankle in time for Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

Coach John Harbaugh said after Friday’s walk-through practice that Jackson’s injured right ankle has improved, and that he “has a chance” to return Sunday despite missing the week of practice. The Ravens will monitor Jackson’s progress before kickoff and determine his availability; offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday that a decision could “go down to the wire.”

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If Jackson isn’t fit to play — he was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report — backup Tyler Huntley is expected to start. Because of illness, he stepped in for Jackson in a dramatic Week 11 win over the Chicago Bears, his first career start, and took over in the second quarter after Jackson was knocked out of Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns. But Sunday’s game, which has significant playoff implications and a national TV audience, would be Huntley’s biggest yet.

“It’s just one of those things where it’s an ankle sprain where if [Jackson] starts feeling good and everything’s all right, we’ll check him out probably pregame,” Harbaugh said. “He’s in all the preparations and all that, and we’ll see where we’re at. But if not, we’ve got Tyler, and he’ll be ready to go also.”

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Jackson has never missed a game because of injury in his NFL career. He sat out two practices before the Ravens’ Week 4 game against the Denver Broncos with a back injury but was a full participant in the team’s Friday walk-through and passed for 316 yards and a touchdown two days later in the 23-7 win.

Huntley, who on Sunday posted the second-highest passer rating this season by a Ravens quarterback (99.7), said Friday that he had “three good days of practice” this week, “so we’re on a good track.” As he reviewed his performance in Cleveland, he rued his two fumbles — the first of which the Browns returned for a touchdown in the 24-22 win, the second of which denied the Ravens at least a field-goal attempt — but appeared confident and care-free before Sunday’s matchup with the NFC’s current top seed.

“I feel like I don’t prepare any different than any other week,” said Huntley, who went 27-for-38 for 270 yards and a touchdown and added six carries for 45 yards Sunday. “I just got way more reps this week and, yeah, that’s about it. I just got way more reps this week, and I feel like that makes it a little bit more comfortable.”

Amid a two-game losing streak, Sunday’s game in Baltimore has taken on new urgency for the Ravens (8-5), who lead the Browns (7-6) and Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) by just a game in the AFC North. According to FiveThirtyEight’s playoff projections, the Ravens’ chances of reaching the playoffs would rise from 75% to 91% with a win over Green Bay and fall to 63% with a loss.

The Ravens’ Week 16 trip to Cincinnati, however, might ultimately prove more consequential. Because of the Ravens’ earlier loss to the Bengals, a head-to-head tiebreaker for Cincinnati could be decisive in their divisional race. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Ravens would have a better chance of making the playoffs (87%) with a loss to the Packers and a win over the Bengals than with a win over the Packers and a loss to the Bengals (81%). A win in Cincinnati would also boost their hopes of securing a division title, which guarantees a top-four seed.

But Harbaugh said Wednesday that the Ravens’ divisional race would not affect how they manage Jackson’s availability for Sunday’s game. Jackson, one of the NFL’s most dynamic quarterbacks, has struggled in recent weeks with his accuracy and decision-making as a passer. If his ankle injury proves too painful, he could also be limited as a runner.

”I would say [the schedule] factors in 0%, because we’re trying to win this game,” Harbaugh said. “You want to try to get every win you can right now.”

The Ravens, already ravaged by season-ending injuries, could be down several other starters Sunday. Along their offensive line, Ben Powers (foot) was ruled out, likely paving the way for rookie Ben Cleveland to start at left guard, while right tackle Patrick Mekari (hand) is considered questionable after a limited week of practice. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva (knee) and right tackle Tyre Phillips (illness) returned Friday after missing two straight workouts, lifting hopes that they can start against Green Bay (10-3).

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“I feel very confident” in the offensive line, Harbaugh said Friday. “You do miss a guy; you add a guy. You miss a guy; you add a guy. That’s kind of how it goes. So we practiced all of those guys, and they’ll be ready to go.”

Also questionable for Sunday’s game are wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (illness), tight end Nick Boyle (knee) and fullback Patrick Ricard (back/knee). Boyle and Ricard, who were inactive Sunday, could be crucial in helping to contain a strong Green Bay pass rush. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the Packers lead the NFL in pressure rate since Week 10 (39.1%), and on Sunday pressured Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields on 19 of his 35 drop-backs.

On defense, the Ravens will likely face one of the NFL’s most efficient attacks without defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who left Sunday’s loss with a thigh injury and missed this week of practice. Campbell is considered doubtful, while cornerback Chris Westry (knee) is questionable.

In Green Bay, the Packers ruled out star left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), starting right tackle Billy Turner (knee) and reserve tight end Dominique Dafeny (ankle). Reserve wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion) is doubtful. Starting wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (back) and reserve wide receiver Malik Taylor (abdomen) are questionable.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (toe), like Jackson, didn’t practice all week but was not listed on the team’s injury report and will play Sunday. Starting defensive lineman Kenny Clark is not expected to be available after being placed on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list.

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On Friday, though, after a topsy-turvy week around the NFL, Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur acknowledged that a lot could happen before kickoff inside M&T Bank Stadium. “Obviously, as we’ve seen,” he said, “things can change in a hurry.”

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Notes: Under the NFL’s updated return-to-play protocols, safety Chuck Clark, who was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, could be activated if he tests negative for the coronavirus Saturday. Harbaugh did not say who might wear the green dot, given to the defense’s signal-caller, if Clark is unavailable Sunday. … Harbaugh said he expects rookie Daelin Hayes (ankle) to return to practice “pretty soon.” Hayes was working out Friday with fellow outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee), who’s also expected to return this season.

Week 15

PACKERS@RAVENS

Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

TV: Chs. 45, 5 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Packers by 6 ½


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