Ravens seek to charge their way into playoffs
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh isn’t interested in the complicated tiebreaking procedure that will ultimately determine the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
His focus, and that of the team, is solely on Sunday night’s game against the San Diego Chargers. With a victory, Baltimore (10-3) will be assured a fourth straight trip to the postseason.
“The object is just to win the next game, more than anything probably,” Harbaugh said Monday. “If that happens, we pretty much know where the chips are going to fall.”
The immediate goal is to get into the playoffs, but the Ravens want more. Locked in a four-way tie for the best record in the conference, Baltimore has a chance to receive a first-round bye, followed by two home playoff games.
If the Ravens win out, they are expected to become the top seed in the AFC — regardless of how the Steelers, Patriots and Texans fare. Although it’s too early to determine, if all four teams finish 13-3, it appears Baltimore will win the tiebreaker based on strength of victories.
The Ravens don’t care about that right now.
“We have to play the San Diego Chargers. That’s the next task at hand,” running back Ray Rice said.
Minutes after Baltimore completed a 24-10 victory over the winless Indianapolis Colts 24-10 on Sunday, Houston rallied past Cincinnati and New England held off Washington. The results did not go unnoticed in the Ravens locker room.
“It’s out there, so you always see it,” Flacco said. “It looked like there were a couple close games, couple of shots, looked like Houston might go down and they didn’t. Looked like New England might go down, and they didn’t. But I’m not really banking on that anyway. I’m looking at the rest of the season saying we’ve got to win the rest of our games.”
Baltimore’s only defeats this season have been on the road against teams that entered with losing records (Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle). San Diego is 6-7. But the Ravens have won four straight by a combined 55 points and are riding a crest of confidence.
“You’re always trying to gain momentum, you’re always trying to be as good as you can be and improve,” Harbaugh said.
The Ravens are clicking on defense, offense and special teams. Baltimore has allowed only 36 points over its last three games — and that’s without injured middle linebacker Ray Lewis. Baltimore got two touchdown passes from Flacco against the Colts, Rice has run for 307 yards over the past two weeks and Lardarius Webb has rejuvenated the punt return unit.
And yet, the Ravens aren’t satisfied.
“Championship teams, they don’t settle for what’s happening right now. Every week, they try to get better,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had three sacks against the Colts. “We’re doing a lot of things good, but we have to correct things and get better at the things we’re not doing so well. We’re still not satisfied. This team is hungry.”
After the Chargers, Baltimore hosts the Cleveland Browns and concludes the regular season at Cincinnati. Even if they don’t get the top seed in the AFC, the Ravens can get a home game by winning the AFC North. And playing at home is no small advantage, given that Baltimore is 7-0 at M&T Bank Stadium and 3-3 on the road.
No matter how it turns out, the Ravens intend to be at their best once the postseason gets under way.
“Keep working hard. Keep getting better,” center Matt Birk said. “We can get where we want to go, but all the stuff, all the external stuff, about playoff scenarios and what ifs, it doesn’t matter. All we have to do is focus on our opponents this week.”
Harbaugh said Monday he’s “very hopeful” of having Lewis back as soon as Sunday night. The 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker has missed four straight games with an injured right toe, and although Baltimore is 4-0 without him, he remains the team’s leading tackler.