Team needs another win against Pittsburgh and a Bengals loss to lock up division titleBy Edward Lee
The Baltimore Sun
5:55 PM EST, November 27, 2012
Sunday's second showdown against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers could also bring the Ravens their second AFC North title in as many years.
A win against the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium combined with a Cincinnati Bengals loss to the San Diego Chargers — whom the Ravens edged, 16-13, in overtime this past Sunday — would give the Ravens the division crown for the fourth time in franchise history.
At 9-2 for only the second time in team history, the Ravens have a 97 percent chance to win the AFC North, according to CoolStandings.com, which uses statistics to simulate the NFL schedule and make projections.
The Ravens would seem to have a comfortable cushion, but on Monday, coach John Harbaugh showed no content about the team's playoff positioning.
"There is no comfort in football," Harbaugh said. "It's not allowed. Comfort is not the word that comes to mind. 'Competitive,' 'confront' — not comfort — comes to mind. So no, we have no comfort."
Harbaugh's sentiment was echoed by outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
"We did a good job coming to San Diego and getting a win, but next week is Pittsburgh and we'll worry about the playoffs after the last game of the season," Suggs said. "Believe me when I tell you the only thing we're worried about now is Pittsburgh."
The Ravens (9-2) own a three-game lead over Pittsburgh (6-5), which lost to the last-place Cleveland Browns, 20-14, on Sunday, and the Bengals (6-5), who defeated the Oakland Raiders, 34-10.
A victory Sunday would give the Ravens their second sweep of the series against Pittsburgh in as many years. They would lead the Steelers by four games with four to play, and by virtue of those two wins, the Ravens would hold the tiebreaker.
If the Ravens win and the Bengals lose to the Chargers, Cincinnati would also trail by four games. And even if Cincinnati won out and beat the Ravens in the regular-season finale Dec. 30, the Ravens would own the tiebreaker by virtue of a 5-1 record against AFC North opponents. The best the Bengals can do is 3-3 within the division.
The Ravens put themselves in this commanding position by rallying from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and nipping San Diego in overtime Sunday. An offense that managed just five first downs and 90 yards in the first half exploded with 20 first downs and 353 yards after that point.
And Pittsburgh's shocking loss to the Browns was not lost on the Ravens.
"It's a huge win for us, but I think even more so, you look at our division, Pittsburgh lost, and we were able to get another win," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "We go three games up and we have them at our place. For us, we're trying to win our division first and place ourselves in good position for the playoffs."
The Ravens can stamp their tickets to the postseason this Sunday, and Harbaugh conceded that the opportunity to do so could be a motivating factor.
"Our guys have positioned themselves very well," he said. "To take advantage of an opportunity, that's what you try to do. We talked. Every game you win, it makes that next game that much more important. The importance of the games builds throughout the course of the season when you're winning. So, this game is more important than last week. Of course, it's obviously against Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has their backs against the wall, but this game is the same no matter what. Our concern is with us, it's how we play and we're looking forward to it."
Sweeping the Steelers won't be easy. They barely lost the first meeting, 13-10, on Nov. 18, and several reports have speculated that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — who missed the first game because of a dislocated rib and sprained right throwing shoulder — could return Sunday.
That's why the Ravens aren't looking beyond this weekend.
"We're going to get rested up and be ready to go," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We all know how important this Pittsburgh game will be and we're going to be as focused as we've ever been, I would think."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.