NFL Football

Flacco ailing, so Ravens QB Jackson might start vs. Bengals

The Baltimore Ravens, despite struggling this season, will present a problem this week for the Cincinnati Bengals, who have extra work to do in preparation.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is nursing a right hip injury that could keep him from playing on Sunday in Baltimore, even though he had the bye week to recover after being injured against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That would mean rookie first-round draft choice Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner at Louisville, probably would make his first pro start.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated that Flacco would be a "game-time decision," but really didn't want to get into discussion with the media about the quarterback decision this week.

"I don't feel like we owe anybody answers," Harbaugh told reporters. "We're just getting ready to play the game. We'll just see how it goes.

" ... Let's go play the game. They took care of us last time (34-23, in Week 2 in Cincinnati), and that's the good thing about this division -- you get to play each team twice."

Jackson wouldn't exactly becoming in cold.

The rookie has taken part in 84 offensive plays at several positions this season, including quarterback, completing 7 of 12 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for 139 yards and another score.

"I feel like I'd be very prepared," said Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner from Louisville. "I'm trying to sponge everything in. Whatever happens, will happen.

"Before I had to ask coach 100 times, 'Say it again, say it again.'

Now, he'll say it one time to me. Sometimes, don't get me wrong, if it's longer, I have to say, 'Say it again.' But, other than that, I'm getting better at that."

With Jackson at quarterback, the Ravens offensive personality would undoubtedly chance because of his running ability. He probably would run the read-option to avoid the pass rush in addition to throwing down the field against the Bengals' secondary, which has the league's 30th-ranked pass defense.

However, the Ravens will have to find a way to protect Jackson from defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who had two sacks as the Bengals took down Flacco four times and forced three turnovers earlier.

If Flacco is unavailable, the Bengals also will have to prepare for Robert Griffin III, who most likely would be activated for the first time this season to back up Jackson.

"If I get that opportunity to go out there and play, I'm going to make the most of it," said Griffin, who has passed for 8,983 yards and 42 touchdowns in his career with the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns. "Show these guys not only how hard I've been working but how much I believe in them. It's been awesome."

Figuring all that out will fall to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who this week fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and will assume those duties.

The Bengals (5-4) are allowing 456.5 yards per game, the most in the NFL, and are on pace to break the league record set by the New Orleans Saints in 2012.

"We will turn it around," said Lewis, who also hired fired Browns head coach Hue Jackson as a special assistant. "We have to install with our players better. We have to understand how to get them to do their jobs better. And no matter who is in the game they have to do a better job of executing. That's the important part.

"It's unfortunate that Teryl has been the casualty of this. It's not all his fault. It's my fault. Any time anything happens wrong around this building it's my fault and I accept that.

"As I told the entire building, we had to make a change."

The Bengals also a problem on offense, as wide receiver A.J. Green is expected to miss his second straight game because of a toe injury, although Lewis is holding out hope that he might be able to face the Ravens.

If he can't play, that would take a major weapon from Andy Dalton, who completed 24 of 42 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns -- three to Green -- against the Ravens last time.

The would put more emphasis on running back Joe Mixon, who has rushed for 570 yards and four touchdowns this season.

However, that could turn out to be a plus if the Bengals can control the ball and keep their struggling defense off the field.

Updated November 16, 2018

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