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AFC North Will Be A Dogfight


If the Ravens are going to three-peat as AFC North champions, they have their work cut out for them.

With Sunday's loss to the Steelers, the Ravens dropped to 3-4 on the year and two games behind the Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) in the division race. As the Ravens looked at the division standings following Sunday's game, there was still optimism heading into the bye week.

"I still have a lot of confidence," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "It's going to be a dog fight just like it always is in this division."

The Bengals have jumped to an early lead in the division with close wins over the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots.

But the Bengals have yet to take on the AFC North champs of the last two seasons, so the Ravens can still control what happens in the division.

"They probably have a little bit of a stronghold on it right now, but we haven't played them yet," Flacco said. "We still have a lot of games to go. We just have to continue to look forward and continue to be confident."

Head Coach John Harbaugh has had the Ravens competing for the division every year since he arrived in 2008, and he still sees the Ravens being in the thick of the hunt.

"We're in the chase for the AFC North," Harbaugh said. "Cincinnati has the edge. They're the team that everybody is going to be trying to chase down now and we're going to try to go get them. We've got to do that. To do that, we have to become good enough to do it and we have to win these games along the way."

The AFC North often comes down to the final weeks of the season.

The Ravens clinched the division in Week 16 last year. They sealed the division crown in 2011 with a Week 17 win over the Bengals. In 2010, the Ravens and Steelers both went 12-4, but Pittsburgh had the tie breaker to give them the edge.

This year's title could again come down to the final weeks, possibly even the final week when the Ravens conclude the regular season in Cincinnati for the third straight year. The Ravens have had some tight games with the Bengals over the years, and Baltimore is 6-4 in those games over the last five seasons.

"Like I said, it's a dog fight. It always is," Flacco said.  "We just have to try to win as many games as we can."

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