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Jan 15, 2024 3:39 pm

Rested Ravens prep for multiple opponents, could have reinforcements

Back from a bye to start the postseason, the Baltimore Ravens are keeping their focus tight.

Part of the welcome challenge as the No. 1 seed under the new playoff schedule: the Ravens opponent is a TBD until late Monday night.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said the staff put together game plans for two teams. As the top seed in the AFC, Baltimore matches up with the lowest remaining seed at the completion of all wild-card games.

First, the Houston Texans, who throttled the Cleveland Browns on Saturday afternoon, and highly familiar No. 7 seed Steelers knowing Pittsburgh beating Buffalo would bring the AFC North rival back to Baltimore for the second time in three weeks.

“Since Houston (won), we have been dialed in on Houston since the end of that game,” Harbaugh said. “Until about 7:30 tonight, we’ll see if we have to pivot to Pittsburgh.”

There is loose familiarity with the Texans from the Ravens’ 25-9 victory in Week 1, the first game of quarterback C.J. Stroud’s career.

The Ravens are also peeking ahead at potential AFC opponents on the periphery with the conference championship in the back of their minds. They’ve done “preliminary work and analytics” on all remaining teams.

“We will look at the two teams playing in the other divisional game this week, coaches and staff that are assigned those jobs, and we’ll have all that information organized if we have an opportunity to play those guys,” Harbaugh said.

Moving parts were everywhere for the Ravens last week.

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken interviewed to be head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Monken and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald interviewed with the Carolina Panthers, and Macdonald was among candidates to meet with the Tennessee Titans. Defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson interviewed to become defensive coordinator of the Giants.

Harbaugh, who has been in the position of an assistant coach prepping for an interview with other teams, wants all of his coaches back to tunnel vision.

“‘Lock in.’ That’s my advice, but they are. Those guys are locked in,” Harbaugh said. “They’re excited about where we’re going as a team, and I think they just take the opportunities as they come. These are preliminary-type interviews, get-to-know-each-other-type interviews. It’s great experience for those guys. I’m really happy for them, really proud of them.”

Ravens tight end Mark Andrews and cornerback Marlon Humphrey will be the critical injury concerns this week. Andrews did individual practice work for the first time on Friday and Harbaugh said it would be late in the week before the Ravens know where their three-time Pro Bowl target stands.

Andrews missed the final six games of the regular season and was thought to be out for the season with an ankle injury Nov. 16 against the Bengals. The Ravens opened his window to return to practice Jan. 12.

Humphrey is recovering from a calf injury, but Harbaugh said the Ravens are “optimistic” he will play this week.

The divisional playoff round could also mark the debut of running back Dalvin Cook, who signed with the Ravens after being released by the Jets. Quarterback Lamar Jackson couldn’t contain his grin last week when asked about his first workout with Cook, saying, “I’m really excited.”

Whether Cook is active on game day remains a decision the coaching staff plans to discuss later in the week.

“We’ll just look at it and say from a game-plan standpoint, what makes our team the strongest at this particular time based on what we’re going to try to do offensively,” Harbaugh said.

–Field Level Media

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