Next Sunday’s season finale will be one of the most stressful games in recent weeks for the Ravens.
Not because of the game itself, but because of the anxiety that will come with ensuring the team gets out of the game healthy.
With the Ravens' 31-15 win over the Browns on Sunday, they clinched the AFC’s top seed for the first time in franchise history — with a week left in the season.
Now, the focus is on who will rest, and how much, against the Steelers.
“I’ll sit down with the leadership council tomorrow before we meet,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m going to be really interested in what the players think about that, the coaches (too). But the thing I want to emphasize is, no matter what we do, the emphasis is going to be on winning the football game. We want that 14th win. There’s no doubt about that. We’ll be forthright in how we plan to do that.”
The Ravens have gone to the wire in recent seasons, needing wins to clinch the division in the last two seasons. Now, they’re in a bit of uncharted territory.
Earl Thomas has already said that his body needs the rest, and he doesn’t expect to play in Week 17.
Other candidates to rest in Week 17 are Marshal Yanda, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Matthew Judon, Lamar Jackson, and Mark Ingram amongst a few others. Even if some of those players are active, their workloads could be significantly lightened to give reps across the board.
“We’ll figure that out, we don’t know yet,” Yanda said. “Coach hasn’t said nothing to us, we’ll diagnose that, sit through that when that comes. Right now, I don’t know.”
Should the Ravens decide to rest a majority of their starters, Yanda would likely be at the top of the list of candidates.
“We get that week off to rest and recover,” Yanda said of clinching the top seed. “We’re a heavy running team, so physical games every single Sunday. That week of rest is going to be huge. Then obviously playing at home, we don’t have to travel, we don’t have to get on an airplane. We’re right in our backyard and that’s where we want to be.”
Even with a bye week coming during the Wild Card round, a double bye week might be something too desirable to pass up as the Ravens can get close to 100 percent health.
“It’s going to help us a lot, let guys recover, we’ve been battling all season,” Jackson said. “We’ve just got to find ourselves some more. At M&T Bank Stadium, we’ve got a great fanbase, just can’t wait to see what’s going to go down.”
While no decisions have been made yet, the Ravens roster says they’ll do what they’re asked to do.
“It’s up to coach,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I be chilling.”
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