Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh will be faced will an age-old question this week.
Should he rest players in the regular-season finale against the Bengals and get as healthy as possible for the postseason? Or should the Ravens go all out for the win and try to improve their playoff seeding?
Expect some combination of the two approaches.
“The thing we’re going to do for sure is we’re going to try and win the game,” Harbaugh said after Sunday’s win over the Giants. “That’s the No. 1 thing we’re going to do. That’s what we do, and we’re going to try to win the game.
“We’re also going to try and make sure we are as healthy as we can be going into the playoffs. So, I think we’ll merge those two considerations.”
The Ravens are currently the No. 4 seed in the AFC, but they would move up to the No. 3 spot with a win over Cincinnati and a Patriots loss at home to the Dolphins. The Ravens play at 1 p.m. and the Patriots play at 4:25 p.m., so the Ravens won’t have the luxury of knowing the result of the New England game when they take the field.
Having the No. 3 spot would mean the Ravens play the Bengals in Baltimore again in the first round of the playoffs. Finishing with the No. 4 seed would mean that the Colts come to M&T Bank Stadium in the wild-card game.
The benefit to getting the No. 3 seed is that the Ravens would have a better chance to host a second home playoff game in the event that the top two seeds both lose.
The flip side of the equation is that the Ravens are also dealing with a handful of injuries and some players could benefit from an extra week of rest.
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It’s unknown whether Harbaugh will rest those injured players, or if they will suit up and try to build some momentum with a win heading into the playoffs.
Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis is faced with a similar predicament, as the Bengals are locked in to the No. 6 spot and can’t improve their standing with a win this weekend. The Bengals could opt to rest some of their players considering they don’t have anything to gain in terms of playoff seeding.