The Baltimore Ravens will be without their top tight end Mark Andrews when they host the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round on Saturday. Andrews, who has been sidelined since suffering an injury in Week 18, did not get activated from injured reserve in time for this weekend’s playoff opener. However, there is optimism he could return if the Ravens advance further in the postseason.
Andrews Officially Out for Divisional Round
The Ravens made it official on Friday that Andrews would not suit up on Saturday. The two-time Pro Bowler hyperextended his knee in the regular season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals and was placed on injured reserve as a result.
Despite returning to practice this week and being listed as questionable, Andrews did not demonstrate enough progress in his recovery to gain clearance for game action. With Baltimore’s season on the line, the team opted not to rush him back.
|Ravens Skill Players Ruled Out vs. Texans
|TE Mark Andrews (knee)
|WR Marlon Humphrey (calf)
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh explained the thought process behind holding Andrews out this week:
“He looked good in practice and he wants to play, but we just couldn’t get over that last hump in terms of explosion and cutting that would put him in a position to play the way he needs to play.”
Andrews was Lamar Jackson’s favorite target this season, compiling 73 catches, 847 yards, and 5 touchdowns prior to the injury. His absence leaves a big void in the passing game that veterans Devin Duvernay and Demarcus Robinson will attempt to fill.
Hopeful for a Postseason Return
While Andrews won’t be on the field this Saturday, he has not ruled out returning later in the playoffs should the Ravens advance.
Baltimore is heavily favored over the Texans at home. If the Ravens move past the wildcard underdogs, they would face either the Buffalo Bills or Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game.
Andrews is reportedly targeting that game for his postseason debut provided Baltimore gets that far. While his status would undoubtedly remain questionable, his return would give Jackson a major weapon against a tougher playoff opponent.
Teammate Patrick Queen gave an optimistic assessment of Andrews’ progress:
“He said he’s feeling real good and confident about coming back…He looked like the old Mark out there, making plays and getting open.”
The Ravens also designated rookie TE Isaiah Likely for return from injured reserve this week. So if Andrews remains sidelined, Jackson would have another dynamic option at the position going forward.
How Andrews’ Injury Occurred
Andrews initially suffered the knee injury that has sidelined him for the playoffs in Week 18 against the AFC North rival Bengals. On a second quarter reception, Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson delivered a tackle that bent Andrews’ leg awkwardly and forced him out of the game.
Video Review Showed No Malicious Intent Behind Hit
While the tacklelooked ugly at full speed, reviews showed that Wilson did not intend to injure Andrews on the play. Andrews himself absolved Wilson of any malicious intent:
“He’s not a dirty player. He’s a good player, wasn’t trying to be malicious or anything.”
The Ravens went on to lose that game 27-16 with backup tight ends filling in for Andrews. They still qualified for the postseason as a wild card team though.
What This Means for Ravens’ Playoff Run
Without Andrews on Saturday, the Ravens will rely more heavily on their run game and defense to try defeating a Texans team that snuck into the playoffs with a losing record. The game plan will be to control the clock and set Jackson up to make plays with his arm and legs.
If they can beat the Texans and Andrews returns the following week, Baltimore’s Super Bowl aspirations remain intact. But it will be challenging to make a deep run without their top playmaker soon returning to form.
At tight end, Likely and Josh Oliver will see increased roles beginning this week in Andrews’ absence. Baltimore will need them to produce in the passing game along with Duvernay and Robinson at wide receiver.
The Ravens have thrived in high-pressure games behind Jackson’s brilliant playmaking ability. But the former MVP faces a difficult path this postseason overcoming injuries to Andrews and top cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
If Jackson can carry his team past Houston and potentially Buffalo, then get Andrews back against the Bengals or Chiefs in the AFC Championship, Baltimore’s odds of finally reaching the Super Bowl improve dramatically. But they must first handle business against an underdog Texans squad hungry for a monumental playoff upset on Saturday.
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