The Cincinnati Bengals may be sitting at 1-9-1 and the only AFC team currently eliminated from the playoffs, but the Ravens know this weekend's game will be no easy win.
Baltimore has not won in Paul Brown Stadium since 2004. The Ravens have not swept the season series with Cincinnati since 2002.
And even though the Ravens took the season-opening meeting between these two teams 17-10, both clubs are quite different at this point in the year.
Head coach **John Harbaugh** will leave such speculation about Sunday's outcome to others.
"They have everything to play for," Harbaugh said. "They're an NFL football team playing on Sunday. We've all been in those shoes at some time or another in this league, if you've been in this league for any amount of time. They're going to play their hearts out just like they always do.
"The media can say what they want about who has what to play for, but I think the guys playing the game understand what kind of game it's going to be on Sunday."
In fact, the Ravens know they are in the playoff hunt with a 7-4 record. Those lofty aspirations only steel the team's focus even more, and that especially goes for an AFC North rival.
"I just know the next team on our schedule is the Bengals, and that's the way our guys are approaching the game." linebacker Ray Lewis!(/team/roster/ray-lewis/1c6d5ed3-fe49-4a89-a6b5-9e358e906ae7/ "Ray Lewis")!View his Pro Bowl Bound? Page stated. "We're just fighting and not taking anybody lightly. Also, they're in our division, bottom line. So any time you come up on a division foe, it's always extra attention that you pay to your opponents and just keep going from there."
One thing the Ravens may draw from is that Week 1 contest, which featured the first starts for rookie quarterback Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco") and rookie running back Ray Rice!(/team/roster/ray-rice/9d941a20-0c76-412d-85fd-165a029d59e6/ "Ray Rice"), not to mention Harbaugh's initial game as head coach.
That doesn't mean Baltimore is shirking its due-diligence.
"Teams do change, I think," Flacco said. "The more I get to play them throughout my career it might help more and more. Playing for a second time, it should be a little bit of help, but they change a little bit so we're going to go execute our game plan that the coaches made up for us this week.
"There are some similarities from the Week 1, but we've just got to focus on this week."
One of the biggest differences is under center, where quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been filling in for Pro Bowler Carson Palmer since Palmer injured his elbow seven weeks ago.
Fitzpatrick, a Harvard graduate, offers another wrinkle to Cincinnati's offense.
"They're different," Harbaugh affirmed. "Palmer's more of a 'sit in there' and makes all the throws. Fitzpatrick can make the throws, but he does a little more with his feet. So like any time you change the quarterback, the style, the way it's operated, changes a little bit, but it's the same offense."
Similarly, there are also notable changes on the Bengals' defense. Five of the players that started the season on that unit are now on Injured Reserve.
But despite the depleted ranks, Flacco thinks having the consistent coaching of respected defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer keeps Cincinnati's defense competitive.
"They're still playing some young guys, some guys that were backups, but they're still playing hard," Flacco said. "They're still making it difficult for offenses to score. I don't see, necessarily, any big changes in their philosophy or their defense, what they're trying to do against other team's offenses."
In other words, the Bengals are a little different, but also somewhat the same. It is of no consequence to the Ravens, who will prepare regardless.
Baltimore attempted to ease their top three offensive tackles back into action, however.
**Adam Terry**, who was knocked out in the first quarter of last week's win over the Philadelphia Eagles with a concussion, was limited in the session and wore a red non-contact jersey.
That differently colored shirt was also donned by **Jared Gaither**!View his Pro Bowl Bound? Page and **Willie Anderson**, who made up the starting tackle tandem during the portion of practice open to the media.
Gaither is nursing a right shoulder injury, while Anderson has foot and ankle injuries.
"It'll be day-to-day up until Sunday," Harbaugh said of the tackles' game-time status. "We want to make sure we don't have any setbacks."
Season Flying By
One year ago, Flacco was preparing his Delaware squad for the Division I-AA postseason. Since the Blue Hens were beaten in the championship by Appalachian State in mid December, Flacco has been the 18th-overall selection in the NFL Draft, taken the starting quarterback's job in Baltimore and then embarked on his 2008 campaign.
From Week 1 to now, Flacco admitted that time has passed in a hurry.
"We've gotten to Week 12 pretty fast," said Flacco, who has thrown nine touchdowns and only two interceptions over the last six games. "I can't say I remember Cincinnati, playing against them, like it was yesterday, but getting to this point has definitely felt pretty fast."
But with five games left in the regular season, Flacco is eyeing the end of his rookie season.
"I look at it like, 'Wow, we only have five games left,' because it just comes so quickly," he continued. "I don't really think that we have a long ways to go. We have five games left, and then we're hoping we have four more, or three more, whatever it takes. But yes, our goal is right now to do the best we can in the next five and earn a 17th one."
Dating back to the 2000 season, the Ravens are 22-15 in the month of November, including 3-1 this season. … Talented Cincinnati wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a 2007 Pro Bowler, praised Ravens safety Ed Reed!(/team/roster/ed-reed/89ece203-7de4-4b40-9651-f16f4c3b7699/ "Ed Reed")!View his Pro Bowl Bound? Page as the NFL's best at his position, to which Reed responded, "It's an honor and it's a respect thing because I respect Houshmandzadeh's game also. He's one of the best receivers in the league. He's proven that week-in and week-out with his consistent play. So definitely, I want to say] thank you right now.” … Former Ravens owner [**Art Modell** was one of 27 finalists for this year's Hall of Fame Class.