Ravens’ loss dusts off Week 17 rest-or-rust debate

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The question of whether a team with nothing for which to play should play to win in Week 17 has received another data point for when it inevitably arises again.

The Ravens, who secured the No. 1 seed with a Week 16 win over the Browns, rested key starters for the regular-season finale. As a result, said key starters went 20 days between games.

So were the Ravens rusty on Saturday night?

I don’t know,” coach John Harbaugh said after the 28-12 loss. “I don’t have the answer. It’s unanswerable. I thought our guys practiced really hard, did the best they could. But we didn’t play a sharp football game, for sure. What you attribute that to, I guess you can theorize.”

Embedded in that answer is the possibility that Harbaugh, the PFT coach of the year, made a coaching error by not keeping his guys fresh. Of course, if Harbaugh had played the likes of Lamar Jackson in a meaningless game against the Steelers and if the likes of Jackson had gotten injured by a hard-hitting arch-rival that entered the game with a playoff berth still a possibility, Harbaugh would have been relentlessly criticized.

It will remain unknown whether Harbaugh made a mistake, without finding an alternate universe in which he played all starters in Week 17 and the Ravens didn’t lose to the Titans in the divisional round. Regardless, the No. 6 seed bounced the No. 1 seed in stunning fashion, extending to two years Baltimore’s streak of one and done playoff exits. Harbaugh’s focus for 2020 surely will be to ensure that it doesn’t happen three years in a row.

42 responses to “Ravens’ loss dusts off Week 17 rest-or-rust debate

  1. This loss is on Lamar Jackson. The moment was just too big for the young QB. Only 2 Field Goals in the first half. Completed only 50% of his passes, missing wide open receivers and the two picks are just unacceptable. Vrabel got in Lamar’s head. He was frustrated. And what’s up with Earl Thomas. Looked like he was scared to tackle Henry. Awful showing by the Ravens. At home, everything on the line, playing a 9-7 team with the worst QB in football and they laid an egg. Terrible for Baltimore fans.

  2. If nothing else, I wonder if I’m the only one glad to see the Ravens go down after the endless hysteria over Jackson as if he was the GOAT.
    Lamar in the playoffs…same as he ever was…

  3. Titans were the better team period. Harbaugh did all he could with Jackson but at the end of the day they had to put the ball in the end zone and couldn’t do it. Way too many failed drives inside the Titans 40. Harbaugh still COY for how successful he made Jackson.

  4. The question of whether to rest or play starters in a meaningless week 17 game is really only answered when am injury occurs that week. Then the coach is moronic.

  5. Oh, it will NOT happen 3 years in a row, since the Ravens will NOT be making the playoffs again anytime soon.

  6. Lamar Jackson was asked to win a game with his arm and was unable to do so. Not sure too much rest had anything to do with it.

  7. I am of the opinion that you play to win, every game. Fans don’t show up or tune in to watch scrubs go through the motions. And records/stats mean less if guys skip games.

  8. Steeler fan here. I have a ton of respect for Harbaugh. When rumours were flying last year that Harbaugh should be fired, I was shocked. He is a great coach. And in this instance, which seems to get debated every single year, Harbaugh is in an absolute no won situation. If someone were to have gotten hurt in a game that meant NOTHING, then he would’ve been torched by fans and the press. When he rests his key players and is one and done, he gets asked these same inane questions. They lost to a hot team.

  9. Would be interested to see some actual win-loss stats on this. That being said, a team this good should not be beaten this badly in the playoffs. Last year it was on the road in wildcard weekend, this year at home with 2 weeks plus rest. It’s got echos of Andy Reid and the Eagles. At least Andy got to the NFC Championship game before losing for 3 straight years.

  10. It’s a very interesting debate. I’d like to see reliable data that makes the case…. one way or the other. The “rust” factor seems real.

  11. That is just a checkbox news cycle debate. They lost because everything broke perfectly for the Titans in the first quarter.

    A high pass, tipped for an interception. Down early to a ball control offense with a good defense. Tough field position for starting drives. Limiting Lamar between the hashes and no big runs early.

    Forcing Lamar to throw 40+ blew up the Ravens game plan. It exposed Lamar’s weakness, consistent accuracy. Cue the turnovers.

    Hats off to the Titans.

  12. If the Ravens beat the Titans in week 17 then the Titans wouldn’t have made the playoffs. Instead Balt sat its starters giving Tenn an easy win to get last wild card spot and were the team that beat Balt in playoffs.

  13. People will debate it, but there is debate because there is no right answer. If the Ravens had won, you would be writing about how great the week off was, wear and tear. Since they didn’t it must be or one must look at the possibility that something is bad about it..

    News flash: Every team in the NFL has a week off during the season. And plenty of teams with a first round bye have gone on the win the whole thing.

  14. Anybody bringing it up is an idiot. Most of the starters played that week. They just got beat. Harbaugh coached a terrible game, and Jackson’s turnovers gave the Titans half their points. The end. Playing week 17 wouldn’t have changed that.

  15. The insufferable and pompous Ravens fans got what they deserved. Rest is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that you have a running back playing QB. Lamar is great throwing 6 yard slants to wide open receivers in the regular season, but when it comes time to play a game that matters all his flaws are exposed. He’s inaccurate with terrible throwing mechanics and he can’t read a defense.
    We’ve been saying it all year long. But Ravens fans had all the answers and they were adamant Lamar was the GOAT.
    The truth hurts. 0-2 in the playoffs. Gimmick high school offense with a high school QB. Enjoy your humble pie.

  16. This had nothing to do with rest/rust. I had the Ravens pegged as a disappointing playoff candidate team since early in the season, so that naturally had nothing to do with me expecting them to rest and potentially end up rusty.

  17. Hardly a “debate”. Give a team a three week bye and they play at a totally different speed that invites for a beating. Happens a lot when teams play after two weeks of no games. This is why some teams should be faded after bye weeks, regardless of who they face. Look at New Orleans losing to Atlanta at home a few months back.

    Not like this is the first time the upset scenario played out after a team who watched wild card weekend from sidelines had rested their players in week 17. And shame on Baltimore coach for admitting “I don’t know” and suggesting “it is unanswerable.” It most certainly is answerable, and there is a tone of history to draw from!

  18. The Titan’s were basically in playoff mode the last 5 weeks of the season, their mindset was already established with the mentality of their head coach..The arrogant Raven’s maybe ate just a bit too much cheese and like the rest of America (outside those in the Titan’s locker room and fan base)were looking to see who they would be playing the following week..

    I thouroughly enjoyed watching The Raven’s getting beat in the fashion they are known for beating teams by and even better getting it handed to them on their own field for the home crowd to see,,


  19. The game that meant nothing injury debate is absurd. Players can get injured stepping off the bus whether they play or not. And the suggestion isn’t related to making players play the entire week 17 game, it has to do with prepping for week 17 in business as usual and putting on the pads and competing on game day. If key players are giving a seat on the bench come quarter two of week 17 game there is nothing wrong with that, if the game plan in week 17 is conservative, nothing wrong with that. But historically the teams that go from week 16 to division championship week without pushing the players at all play at an inferior level while getting their butts kicked. FACT!

  20. Here is a novel idea! Give guys time off in week’s 15 and 16 while still keeping the competitive juices flowing so that you don’t come out flat in week 19! It sure seemed to work for Tennessee as to Derrick Henry this year!

  21. Why the Lamar hating here? Guy made one bad throw while playing a really good game. He did not make the decision to go for fourth and one twice, he did not call either of those plays! Hate on the guy when he plays a bad game, if you must. Not when he makes the plays and the throws he did yesterday.

  22. towniesman says:
    January 12, 2020 at 9:07 am
    Bill Belichick never rests players

    Given how they played against the Dolphins and the Titans maybe he should have

  23. Rest or no rest, after watching that game I don’t see how the Ravens win. They got beat badly, in every phase of the game – coaching, scheme, offense, defense, special teams, etc. And at home!

  24. Jackson throws a wobbly spiral – not bad, but not Brady or Wilson. Bigger issue: He doesn’t know where to throw it. He put a number of throws – including the second interception – on the receiver’s body, where the DB had a chance to make the play, rather than out front where only the receiver could get it.

  25. And PS: Ingram was hurt all game and it obviously affected the Ravens O. So resting players in Week 17 doesn’t guarantee anything about their health.

  26. They were done before the opening kickoff! Playing or not playing their “stars” had nothing to do with it!

  27. The real question is did the Ravens try to over coach the game? did they try to create a “playoff” plan instead of staying loose and playing their game? Something definitely changed from the regular season to this debacle.

  28. Harbaugh got outcoached. He allowed his team to deviate FAR from the offensive game plan that got them 14 wins this year. You don’t need to get pass-happy unless and until you’re way behind in the fourth quarter. For the first three quarters, you stick to what works. Yes, having Ingram at less than 100% hurt them, but that’s why you have depth on your team, so you don’t need to make wacky adjustments like making your RB pass 50 times or more in the game. They got outsmarted and outmuscled and you could see it coming earlier in the week when the Ravens defenders criticized the Patriots for not being able to stop the Titans offense.

  29. Its simple, they peaked too soon. 12 straight wins, then a bye week to read their press clippings and absorb the pats on the back…A veteran team might have been able to prevent a letdown but this team has a lot of youth that played bad at the worst time.

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