Ravens can't afford to coast into playoffs

Published December 27, 2010

| Associated Press

The Baltimore Ravens intend to play their final regular season game with the same intensity as the first one.

The Ravens clinched a third successive trip to the postseason by defeating Cleveland on Sunday, but they can't afford to coast into the playoffs.

If Baltimore (11-4) beats the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and the Pittsburgh Steelers lose in Cleveland, the Ravens will trade in their wild-card berth for the AFC North title and a first-round bye.

"We're very pleased with the 11 wins and pleased with the opportunity to compete in the playoffs," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "But the regular season is not over. There's still something to be accomplished. We're going to take a run at it and see what happens."

The Ravens have the same record as the Steelers, but Pittsburgh owns the tiebreaker because of a better record in the division — which can be traced to Baltimore's loss to Cincinnati in Week 2.

There's nothing the Ravens can do about that now except attempt to extract a measure of revenge on Sunday and hope the Steelers get tripped up by the Browns.

"It's the situation we face. We're playing for something, so we'll play," Harbaugh said. "It would be great to have the No. 1 seed all wrapped up and be able to rest some guys, but we're not that in that situation."

At least they're in the playoffs.

"The only thing you can ask for in this business is to get in the dance," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Now we have to take care of our business against Cincinnati, a team that beat us earlier in the year, a team in our division."

A victory over the Bengals (4-11) would give Baltimore a four-game winning streak, which would create the proper mindset headed into the postseason.

"There probably are some plusses. You continue to play, you keep momentum going and you continue to improve," Harbaugh said. "If you can stay healthy, it's a big deal. It should be a plus."

The Ravens and Steelers both play at the same time. If Pittsburgh takes a big lead over the Browns, it won't change the way Harbaugh coaches the game on Sunday.

"I'm sure we'll be watching the scoreboard to see how the game is going, but we're not pulling anyone out of the game," Harbaugh said. "We're going to try to win the game."

Beating Cincinnati is the top priority, but the coaching staff is also peeking ahead to the first round of the playoffs. The Ravens aren't sure who they will face in the opening round, but they're already breaking down tape of possible opponents based assessing on probability (if the season ended tomorrow, Baltimore would open in Indianapolis).

"That work is done behind the scenes," Harbaugh said. "The Cincinnati Bengals will be the focus of the players and the position coaches."

After that, everyone's attention will turn toward the playoffs. Baltimore made it to the AFC title game two years ago and reached the second round last season.

"There's only 12 teams that get a chance to play for the Super Bowl," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Hopefully, we'll learn from our mistakes these past two years and get ourselves a legitimate run at this thing."

The Ravens lost rookie long snapper Morgan Cox in the 20-10 win over Cleveland. Cox tore the ACL in his left knee and will be lost for the season. There will be an audition Tuesday to find a replacement.

Harbaugh also said it's unlikely safety Tom Zbikowski (back) will be ready for the Bengals, but the coach is reluctant to put him on injured reserve because the Ravens hope to have Zbikowski back for the playoffs.

Off the field, the Ravens are taking a wait-and-see approach with rookie linebacker Sergio Kindle, who was arrested over the weekend on charges of driving while intoxicated.

"We're disappointed, obviously," Harbaugh said. "I had a chance to meet with him this morning. He's very remorseful about it, but he made a big mistake. He's better than that. He knows that."

Kindle missed the entire season after fractured his skull from falling down two flights of stairs at a friend's house in July.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2010/12/27/ravens-afford-coast-playoffs/