The Ravens may understand the Jacksonville Jaguars better than they would for just another opponent.
Jacksonville (5-10) head to M&T Bank Stadium this weekend in a game that some would say has no implications at all for the Jaguars.
The team that many tabbed as a trendy Super Bowl pick in the preseason - especially after an 11-5 campaign last year - has been officially out of the playoff hunt for weeks.
But the Ravens know better, because they were in a similar boat last year.
Baltimore had high expectations going into the 2007 season. Led by a typically-solid defense and quarterback Steve McNair, the Ravens went 13-3 the previous year, prompting many to paint the purple and black as a championship contender.
Entering the final game of 2008, however, the Ravens were mired in a nine-week losing streak to play the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. The Steelers had already clinched a January contest, but Baltimore was playing to build momentum entering the offseason which they did with a 27-21 win.
Now, with a chance to punch their own postseason ticket by beating Jacksonville, the Ravens are not taking their opponent lightly.
"We know we have to take care of business," said linebacker Terrell Suggs!(/team/roster/terrell-suggs/ad26be43-1380-45f1-b047-a91e850d9761/ "Terrell Suggs"). "We know they're men on a mission. This is actually their first game for next year. And they're anxious to put this season behind them and they want to get started for next year right away. Sure, they're disappointed that their season didn't particularly go how they wanted it.
"I mean, we had the same feeling last year. Our last game of the season last year was pretty much, 'This is the start of our new season.' We know they're going to come here and they're going to play to win. They have more power on their hands than any other team did in the first 15 weeks, so this one is definitely a big one."
In that Steelers matchup, the Ravens rallied to close out their 5-11 campaign on a promising note, one that continued into a coaching overhaul, the drafting of a rookie quarterback and what eventually became an unexpected shot at a wild-card spot.
"We have to understand what their motivation is," new head coach **John Harbaugh** explained. "They have nothing to lose. They have everything to gain. They're a prideful team. I think we understand the personality of their football team. They are a rough, tough football team, and they've proven that they can win in tough elements - the playoff game last year, the games they've won this year.
"When you watch them on tape, you understand that they're very capable of beating anybody in the NFL. We just can't allow it to happen, and that's our responsibility."
What's more, the Jaguars are coming off an impressive showing against the surging Indianapolis Colts. Last Thursday, they held 17-7 and 24-14 leads over the Colts before Indianapolis scored 17 fourth-quarter points for the victory.
On the legs of 409 yards of total offense - second-best for the team this year - and the NFL's 12th-ranked defense, it is evident that the Jaguars are capable of playing spoiler to the Ravens' playoff hopes.
Baltimore controls its own destiny with a win Sunday at 4:15 p.m., or could get in if the New England Patriots lose to the Buffalo Bills.
The Ravens don't want to let New England do their work for them.
"As long as we come out and play like we want to and let them know that we're here to play," said quarterback Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco"). "Hopefully we can do that and let them know that they have no business coming to Baltimore and trying to ruin our chances.
"It's all up to us, going out there and playing the way we want to and the way we have all year and the way we're capable of. As long as we do that, we'll be all right."