Without Lamar Jackson, Ravens set for major underdog role vs. Bengals

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have heard the outside perception this week: If they don’t have Lamar Jackson, they don’t have much of a chance to beat the Cincinnati Bengals.

With Jackson officially ruled out, the Ravens are currently 8.5-point underdogs for Sunday night’s wild-card game at the Bengals (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC), which would make them one of the biggest underdogs in the franchise’s postseason history.

The only other time Baltimore was a bigger underdog was in the 2012 AFC divisional game in Denver, when the 9-point underdog Ravens upset the Broncos, 38-35, in the “Mile High Miracle” game. This time, the Ravens players don’t feel like they need any divine intervention to knock off Joe Burrow and the Bengals.

"Obviously, when Lamar is on the field, we’re at our best. When he’s not, we’re not as good as we could be,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. "I don't know if everybody's going to believe in us outside the locker room, but we're for dang sure going to believe in ourselves here. We're going to give it our best shot.”

Baltimore is very comfortable in this role. The Ravens have been favored in only 10 of the franchise’s 27 playoff games.

In fact, Baltimore is 2-0 when it’s an underdog by more than 7 points. In addition to beating the Broncos, the 2012 Ravens upset the New England Patriots, 28-13, despite being an 8-point underdog.

"It’s a great thing to have Lamar out there. I hope he’s doing great things with his recovery,” Ravens running back Gus Edwards said. “But we can’t let that be an excuse. We’re professionals, and as part of being professionals, it’s the next-man-up mentality.”

Without Jackson for the final five regular season games, the Ravens averaged 13 points with Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown as their quarterbacks. That was the fewest points by any of this year’s playoff teams (the Seahawks averaged the second fewest with 17.8 points).

Ravens coach John Harbaugh did not name a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game. According to ESPN Analytics, Baltimore had a 40% chance of winning with Jackson as its starting quarterback, but its chances drop to 19% with Huntley and 11% with Brown.

"Obviously, Lamar is Lamar,” Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Queen said. "You can’t replace that kind of guy, but I do still think that we have quarterbacks who can go out there and get the job done and play at a high level. I feel like we have everybody on this team that we need to be able to go up there and get a ‘W.’”

Harbaugh has thrived in situations like this before. His eight road victories in the postseason are the most of any coach in NFL history.

Just don’t expect Harbaugh to use the underdog role as a rallying cry.

“There really is no need to use anything as motivation right now,” Harbaugh said. "There’s nothing that we would even need. Our guys are ready to go; we’re excited for the game. We understand what kind of game this is and what the opportunities are, and that’s where we stand.”