The Ravens have four games left – the final quarter of the regular season. And now they have to finish off their opponents if they’re going back to the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
“Because of what you men have done in the last five days, the fight is now even as we head into the championship rounds,” Harbaugh told his team in the locker room after beating the Steelers last Thursday night.
“The last four rounds are the championship rounds that we head into, starting with Minnesota right here.”
December football is something Harbaugh and the entire team hangs their hat on.
“It’s the most important time of the year,” Harbaugh said. “It’s what we build our program around. It’s where we try to be at our best.”
The Ravens have long been a very strong December team. But they struggled last season.
Before last year, the Ravens had a December mark of 12-5 overall during the Harbaugh era.
Then Baltimore lost four of five down the stretch in December last season. The Ravens had such a lead in the AFC North that one win in December over the Giants was enough to secure the division crown.
The Ravens can’t afford that this year. They are holding onto the final wild-card playoff spot due to a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Miami Dolphins, who are also 6-6.
The Ravens ended November with two straight wins over the Jets and Steelers, and they must carry that momentum through the remainder of the regular season.
The trends are in the Ravens’ favor when it comes to pulling off a third straight win. Baltimore has won 13 of its last 14 home games versus teams from the NFC. They’ll square off against the NFC North’s Vikings Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Harbaugh said the hard work the Ravens continue to put in during the season sets them up for a good December. Unlike some teams, Baltimore still frequently practices outside in the cold temperatures, and while preserving players’ health, they still put a lot of emphasis on practice.
“I just think you work hard. We work hard from beginning to end,” Harbaugh said. “The idea is to be at your best when it means the most – not to say that you’re not trying to be as good as you can be in September, October, November – but you’re always trying to build to a position where, when it means the most you’re at your best. That’s what we try to do. How do you go about doing that? I mean, that’s a thousand different things, right – things that you see here every day. We’ll find out whether that is the case for this football team.”
Taking his one-game-at-a-time approach, Harbaugh called Sunday’s game against Minnesota, “the most important game of the season.”