Every game is important in the NFL, but the Ravens' matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend has a tinge of extra mojo riding on it.
Sunday marks the second of two meetings between the teams, and with the Bengals one game ahead of Baltimore in the AFC North race, a win for the purple and black would keep the Ravens' division hopes afloat.
"The motivation is the fact that we're in a really hotly-contested divisional race, and we have an opportunity to go in there and be a factor in the division," said head coach John Harbaugh. "And the fact that they won puts the pressure on us to have to win to be a factor in the division."
The Bengals took the first meeting in this series back on Oct. 11, when they came into M&T Bank Stadium and shocked a capacity crowd – and maybe the home team, as well.
Cincinnati's defense was stifling, allowing a red-hot Joe Flacco-led unit that had not dipped below 300 total yards in a game all year to only 257.
Running back Cedric Benson racked up 120 rushing yards, marking the first time since Dec. 17, 2006 that an opposing runner topped the century mark.
And a defensive meltdown allowed Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer to march 80-yard in 11 plays to clinch a 17-14 victory with a 20-yard touchdown pass as time wound down.
This was a Bengals team that finished a putrid 4-11-1 in 2008.
Several Ravens admitted that it was somewhat of a wake-up call.
"They humbled us a little bit," linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs said. "We came off a disappointing loss against New England, and we thought we would just bounce right back. We kind of took that [first] game for granted. But, we don't feel like we're gone.
"We just know that this is a division game. This is a very important game for all parties involved. We better play some good football, otherwise Carson is going to have one of those kind of days."
The Ravens are not dwelling on the revenge factor, however.
They realize that this contest is important because of the playoff implications.
The Bengals stand at 5-2 to share the AFC North lead with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are also 5-2.
Baltimore still must face the Steelers twice and its fellow division rival Cleveland Browns, not to mention the undefeated Indianapolis Colts and the talented Green Bay Packers.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are coming off their bye, which followed a convincing 45-10 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 7.
"They're on a little hot streak," running back Ray Rice noted. "They did a great job against the Bears, but when you play in divisional games, these are like playoff games. If we split the series with them, we'll still be fine. So, that's our goal, to go in there and split the series."
The Ravens feel like they could have won the first battle in Baltimore, in which Cincinnati was on the ropes late in the game.
Baltimore held a 14-10 lead well into the fourth quarter, but Palmer conjured some trademark late-game heroics to mount the clinching march, his 10th-career comeback in the final period.
On the series, he carved up the Ravens' secondary and had help from three defensive penalties to get down the field in 1:53, finally hitting wideout Andre Caldwell with 22 seconds remaining.
The fact that the Ravens faltered against such a familiar opponent hurt even more.
"They played good, but we had some opportunities here and there that we didn't capitalize on," said receiver Derrick Mason. "They did what they needed to do as a team, and that was to get one away. And at the time, it meant two games, because it's a divisional game. So what we have to do, our mindset now, is we have to put it back on the even playing ground. We have to go down there and figure out a way to pick up a win in their house."
After dropping their third straight loss the following week against the Minnesota Vikings on a missed last-minute field goal, the Ravens bounced back after their bye to beat the Denver Broncos 30-7 last week.
That day, Baltimore's run defense was stifling, the special teams were on point and the offense was prolific.
The Ravens are determined to make Bengals Round II go more like their Broncos performance and not like Round I.
"It's another football game, that's it," safety Ed Reed stated. "We're ready to play. We know who's on the schedule. We know what's at stake. They know what's at stake. So, let's go."