Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he expects injured quarterback Joe Flacco to increase his workload in practice this week, but he wasn't about to offer any information about whether Flacco or rookie Lamar Jackson will start Dec. 9 when the Ravens visit the Kansas City Chiefs.
Harbaugh likened the Ravens' unconventional offense under Jackson -- who has led the Ravens to a 3-0 record in Flacco's absence -- to that of Navy or Air Force in that it's problematic to prepare for.
"It's tough when you see something for the first time," Harbaugh said at his weekly news conference Dec. 3. "You can go back to the old Air Force offense, or what Navy does down there with Ken [Niumatalolo]. When a team sees that for the first time and doesn't have a chance to work on it throughout the year, it's going to be challenging for them, of course, and all of the coaches in the last three weeks have said that."
Led by Jackson's run-pass threat and the punishing downhill running of rookie Gus Edwards, the Ravens (7-5) have won three straight to take a one-game lead for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. They are also now just a half-game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1) in the AFC North.
Jackson ran 17 times for 75 yards and a touchdown during the
Ravens' 26-16 win at Atlanta Dec. 2
, and he also threw for 125 yards. Edwards ran 21 times for 82 yards, and for the third straight game the Ravens topped 200 yards in rushing, embracing a run-first approach that has dominated time of possession and kept the opposing offense off the field.
That is certainly going to be the goal when the Ravens visit the Chiefs (10-2), who lead the league in scoring (37.0 points a game) and yards per play on offense (7.03).
That has led to speculation that the quarterback job will be Jackson's regardless of Flacco's health, as the Ravens' ball-control approach might be the best bet to neutralize the Chiefs' offense.
Harbaugh said Flacco, who hasn't played since suffering the hip injury against the Steelers Nov. 4, wasn't cleared to play in the Falcons game, and any such decision for this week would be made later in the week. But Harbaugh said, "We expect to ramp him up in practice a lot more this week ... and we'll just see how it goes."
In addition to their ball-control offense, the Ravens hope to neutralize the Chiefs with a defense that is coming off perhaps its best game of the season, holding the Falcons to 131 yards of offense -- their lowest total since 1999. All-Pro Julio Jones was held to two catches for 18 yards.
Harbaugh said the team gave a game ball to the secondary after the win.
"The secondary played at a high level," Harbaugh said. "Coverage was excellent, tight coverage. We have a lot of good players who play tight coverage. The communication was very good."
The Chiefs, though, have taken offense to another level this year with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and it figures to be the stiffest test of the year for the Ravens' No. 1-rated defense.
"We're going to face, arguably, the best offense in the league on Sunday," Harbaugh said. "We just have to go to work, ... learn as much as we can about them, be as good as we can be in practice on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then do everything we can do to take those things to the game on Sunday and play. I know that's what you always hear, but that's really got to be the focus."