It’s safe to say that Lamar Jackson’s regular season debut will be happening earlier rather than later. As our own Jason LaCanfora has stated repeatedly on the pod, Lamar should be fully expecting special packages where he will be on the field as early as week one.
But as a fun early-June thought exercise, I’ve been thinking about exactly when we, as Ravens fans, could realistically expect Lamar’s first start under center.
Yes, yes, I too have heard the loud company line that this is still Joe’s team. I heard Joe Linta as we recorded last week’s show say that Flacco is as fully behind the wheel as ever, and could even still retire as a Raven.
I could not be more confident that will not happen.
Now, there are at least a couple things standing in the way of this happening.
First off, as mentioned, Joe Flacco is the clear incumbent. There is still a scary amount of Ravens fans, in the form of radio show callers and otherwise, who feel indebted to Joe for the unforgettable 2012-13 Super Bowl run.
To those people, I have one thing to say: The most awesome thing about something being unforgettable… is that you won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. No one will ever be able to take away from you the feeling you had when this happened. Or this.
It’s now time to start looking towards the future.
The other thing standing in the way of this happening is the Ravens schedule. According to Bovada’s projections, Baltimore currently has the 25th toughest schedule heading into the 2018 season (based on projected wins.) For you math wizards at home, that also comes out to the 8th-easiest schedule.
Barring a Flacco injury (real or phantom), it’s safe to say Lamar will not be making his first start while the Ravens are over .500. So when would be the earliest chance for them to fall behind?
Let’s go a trip to hell and assume the worst for a second, shall we?
Imagine, after the Ravens gifted the Bills with their first playoff berth since before SpongeBob even had its first episode, the Bills come out fire’s blazing in a rebuilding year of their own. While many expect a year of growing pains for Buffalo, I can’t be the only Ravens fans who — after watching the last three years — fully expects the Ravens and Joe Flacco to play down their opponents. Ravens lose Week 1, say, 17-16.
The next week, on the road in Cincinnati, you cannot tell me there’s an implausible chance the Ravens lose that game. Or the next week at home to the Broncos! Everyone close their eyes and imagine a late, heartbreaking interception in Cincy, then Joe eating 6 sacks against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb…. It can happen! You know it can!
As we sit at 0-3, you still won’t see Lamar lining up under center against the Steelers. But what about at 0-4? Following the game in Pittsburgh, you finally reach the (up-and-coming? maybe?) Browns in Cleveland. Here, in Week 5, is the earliest possible window for Lamar to steal a start. But let’s be real, even at 0-4, John Harbaugh will see this game as a chance for Joe to bounce back. One more chance?
The following week is in Tennessee. Another team trying to find an identity. At 1-4 or 0-5, we will be comfortably 4 or 5 weeks into fan fervor. People will be calling for heads to roll! Who could John Harbaugh turn to in this circumstance to save his own rear? Why, how about top draft choice Lamar Jackson?
All of this is tin-foil-hat, eternal pessimist fantasy-booking on my end. I acknowledge that. But assuming everyone stays healthy, the offensive line not over-performing, and the Ravens scuffle out of the gate with that brand new revamped offense that simply needs someone to buy the O-line some time…. BAH GAWD THAT’S LAMAR’S MUSIC!
Again, this is purely my doom-and-gloom fanboy prediction for the Ravens season. I would imagine, as a betting man, the smartest prediction for Lamar’s debut would come in December, perhaps against the Falcons or Chiefs. However, even in a world where Joe Flacco stays healthy (which, let’s be real, is a huge questionmark with the uncertainties at offensive line), I don’t think a scenario where Lamar Jackson takes the first snap under center as early as Week 5 in Nashville is out of the question.