Harbaugh Is Fan of Thursday Night Football Despite Challenges
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — There are obvious challenges for NFL teams preparing to play on Thursday night.
There's a short week of preparation.
The players don't get a chance to fully heal from the previous game.
There are sometimes traffic issues with fans trying to get to the stadium.
Despite those inconveniences, Ravens coach John Harbaugh enjoys the fanfare of the game. Baltimore (11-2) is looking to extend its winning streak to 10 games and clinch the AFC North with a victory over the Jets in the Week 15 Thursday night matchup.
"Oh, yes. I like it. All the other stuff and all the other arguments about it … I like it," Harbaugh said. "You get to do it once a year, and it's different. We have a different week of practice like we have out here, different timing. You go play. Everybody is watching. I go home on Thursday night and watch the game. Don't you guys? You're supposed to. It's your job. You cover football, right? Most of the time, right? Depends on the game maybe, but we watch it.
"And we know that everybody in the league will be watching it. The guys know that all the players are watching. Most of the fans are watching. It's a big deal. It's a real big deal."
The Ravens already earned a spot in the postseason with a 24-17 victory at Buffalo in Week 14. Baltimore has now reached the postseason in eight of Harbaugh’s 12 seasons in Baltimore.
The Ravens rank No. 1 in points (33.1) and rushing yards (200.9) per game, while they’re No. 2 in total yards per game (408.2). Baltimore is on pace to become the first team in NFL history to average 200 passing and 200 rushing yards per game in a season.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson has accounted for an NFL-high 35 total touchdowns (28 passing and seven rushing), while, with three games remaining, Baltimore has already set a single-season franchise record for total touchdowns (52) and points (430).
However, the short week has provided some adversity.
Tight end Mark Andrews (knee), linebacker Chris Board (concussion), safety Anthony Levine (ankle) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (concussion) did not practice Monday.
Stanley and Board would be challenged to play Thursday because of the concussion protocol. James Hurst would be a candidate to take Stanley's spot. Harbaugh declined to get into specifics with Stanley's injury. Stanley did play every snap in the 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills the previous day.
Jackson was limited with a quad injury. He did walk onto the practice field just as the open portion to the media ended. While Harbaugh would not get into specifics, he did not think Jackson's injury was too serious.
Jihad Ward was also limited with an elbow injury.
The Ravens are 14.5-point favorites over the Jets (5-8). Baltimore needs to win two of its last three games (at Cleveland and home against Pittsburgh) to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Once the Ravens get through this game against the Jets, they will have a few extra days to get healthy. Another bonus of playing on Thursday night.
"The reward after that is you get a weekend," Harbaugh said. "You get to watch everybody else play, and you get some time to heal up and rest. It works a lot better when you win; I can tell you that. It's a way better experience when you go win that Thursday night game, and that's probably why are guys are so focused.
"There's really not that much to talk about, because we really have to go to work and get ready to go try to win the game, because it makes it so much more valuable to do that. So, that's what our guys are thinking about. They have to go to work.”