As Ravens players talked about Sunday's upcoming matchup against the Cleveland Browns, the message was clear.
The Ravens need to win.
"It's critical. Crucial," outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "We need it. For sure."
After a 3-4 start to the season, the Ravens have to play catch-up in the second half of the season.
The back-to-back AFC North champions find themselves 2.5 games behind the first-place Bengals after the first eight weeks.
They have a thin margin for error in the second half of the season.
"Every game is a must win game to me, honestly, but in the eyes of everybody and the players, I could say this is a must-win game," running back Bernard Pierce said.
Head Coach John Harbaugh stressed during his press conference Monday that the Ravens have to treat every one of their remaining games with a must-win attitude.
"Every one of these games is critical," Harbaugh said. "I don't care if it's division, not division, they're all linchpin games as far as I'm concerned."
The Ravens head into Cleveland to play a Browns team riding a three-game losing streak and on their third quarterback this season. The Browns have one winning season in the last 10 years.
The Ravens are coming off a bye – they have never lost coming out of the bye under Harbaugh – and they have won 11 straight games against the Browns. Beating the Browns Sunday would end the Ravens' current two-game losing skid and keep them from falling any further behind in the division race.
"It's November football, so at this point they're pretty much all big after the bye," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "They all count. Not to say that the ones before didn't [count], but these decide whether or not you get a chance at greatness."
While the Bengals have a grip on the division race, the Ravens are still very much in the hunt. Here* *are the AFC North standings:
Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
Baltimore Ravens (3-4)
Cleveland Browns (3-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5)
The Bengals take on the Miami Dolphins (3-4) Thursday night, so the Ravens will know their place in the division heading into the weekend. A loss by the Bengals would put the Ravens in a spot where they could cut Cincinnati's lead to 1.5 games before the Ravens-Bengals Week 10 matchup in Baltimore.
"We've just got to channel our emotions as a team, and not hit the panic button, and go out there and just play football, man," running back Ray Rice said. "We're a resilient bunch."