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QB Jackson raises Ravens playoff chances

The Sports Xchange logo The Sports Xchange 12/17/2018 By Todd Karpovich, The Sports Xchange

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Just over a month ago, the Ravens were mired in a three-game losing streak, putting their playoff aspirations in jeopardy.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to throw on the run during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. © Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to throw on the run during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Enter Lamar Jackson.

The rookie quarterback has won four of five games since taking over the starting job for Joe Flacco, who suffered a hip injury Nov. 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now, Baltimore (8-6) can earn a spot in the postseason by winning its final two games -- a road matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday and the home finale with the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 30.

The Ravens can leapfrog into first place in the AFC North if they beat the Chargers and the Steelers (8-5-1) lose at the New Orleans Saints.

"We know all the different issues," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. "We have guys here; (senior football analyst) Eugene Shen and some of the other guys do a great job with all of that, and these guys are brilliant people, and they figure all that out for me and explain it, probably twice, so I can understand it.

"But we know what we need to do, and we know the percentages on ties and different things like that. So, it's something you really need to know strategically going into a game, I think, to understand where you stand. And, that's been that way for the last three, four, five weeks."

The Ravens overtook Buffalo as the league's No. 1 overall defense with a 20-12 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15. Baltimore also ran for more than 200 yards for the fourth time in five games with Jackson as the quarterback.

The Ravens will need to be dominant on both sides of the ball to take down the surging Chargers (11-3). Compounding the challenge, Baltimore has to fly across the country on short rest while Los Angeles has an extra two days to prepare after beating the Chiefs on Thursday night.

"We're going to use this as motivation. It's stacked up against us," safety Eric Weddle said. "We're going to be the underdog. No one is going to think we're going to win. This just adds to the game. Would we like to have 10 days to prepare for one of the best teams in the league? Of course, but we don't. Why worry about it or use it as an excuse,"

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Joe Flacco was active for the first time since Nov. 4 and served as the backup to rookie Lamar Jackson. It was the first time Flacco served as a backup in his 11-year NFL career, a span of 163 games. Flacco did not play a snap.

--CB Marlon Humphrey (groin) was able to play Week 15 against the Buccaneers despite missing practice most of last week. Humphrey played 39 snaps and managed his first interception of the season. "It was a little kind of touch-and-go. I felt a little bit better than what I felt the previous Monday after the Atlanta game," Humphrey said. "So, I felt even if I wasn't 100 percent, I was going to play regardless, kind of similar to the Chiefs game. It was never really a doubt. It just was, how good I was going to feel, was more the question."

--RB Ty Montgomery was a healthy scratch against Tampa Bay. He was acquired from the Green Bay Packers for a seventh-round draft pick in October. Montgomery has nine carries for 56 yards in four games for the Ravens.

--SS Tony Jefferson (ankle) was back in the lineup after missing the last two games. Jefferson played 49 snaps, or 98 percent of the time the defense was on the field. "It's been a while. It felt like two years, but it's been two games," Jefferson said. "I'm glad to be back out there with my guys. And to come out with the win. It took a lot of hard work in the training room. I love the training room, but I have to stay out of there."

--LG Alex Lewis (shoulder) missed his second straight game. As a result, Bradley Bozeman, a rookie sixth-round pick from Alabama, got the start at left guard. Lewis has struggled with injury over his three-year career.

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