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Super Bowl Favorites, Ravens Starting Playoffs With Fresh Mentality


In the postgame locker room after Sunday's regular-season finale win over Pittsburgh, Head Coach John Harbaugh allowed himself and his players a minute to look back on what they had just accomplished.

Nobody in the NFL had a better regular season than the 2019 Baltimore Ravens, winners of 12 straight and owners of the best record in football at 14-2.

"At this point in time, right now today, who's got it better than us?" Harbaugh shouted.

It's a much different feeling than the last time the Ravens won the Super Bowl. In 2012, the Ravens lost four of their final five regular-season games, including a 34-17 shellacking at home from the Denver Broncos – that year's No. 1 seed.

That year, the Ravens entered the playoffs as the AFC North champs, but they were a little bruised and battered, and expectations were mixed. That is, until Baltimore got hot, riding Joe Flacco's hot hand to Super Bowl XLVII glory.

This time, the Ravens have the target squarely on their back. They're the odds-on favorite in Vegas to win the whole thing. According to Ceasars Casino & Sportsbook, Baltimore has the best odds at +200.

"We've been hot in the regular season now for weeks on end," Yanda said. "So that's a big difference going in to where we have much higher expectations for sure."

So how does that change their outlook?

"It doesn't change things," Yanda said. "The name of the game is getting into the playoffs because now everybody is 0-0. Everybody understands that everything is much more important. Turn the ball over one or two times, a penalty here or there in the game, and all it takes is one loss and we're done. All that 14-2 stuff does not matter."

The Ravens beat three of the five other teams in the AFC playoffs – No. 3-seeded New England Patriots, No. 4 Houston Texans and No. 5 Buffalo Bills. Baltimore lost to the No. 2-seeded Kansas City Chiefs.

"Every team can beat anybody on Sunday," Yanda said. "It takes execution every single Sunday. No matter what we did the week before, you've got to prove it again. If we don't, there's no room for error. Records are gone now."

The Ravens have off for New Years Day, a chance to reflect on a magical run to end 2019 and get ready for a clean slate ahead. New year, fresh outlook.

"It's going to be in the history books that we went down 14-2, but we're not finished," outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. "We're not going to just stand on that. I feel like this locker room is greedy and hungry, and we want more, and more is obviously the Super Bowl.

"We can't relax because if we want to be the best team in the NFL, we have to win the Super Bowl. That's how you become the best team in the NFL. It's doesn't matter what you do in the regular season."

But before the Ravens can get to the Super Bowl, they have to take care of business at home. Baltimore lost at M&T Bank Stadium in the wild-card playoffs last season. They're already beyond that point a year later, watching from their couches this weekend to see who they'll face in the divisional round.

Once Monday hits, it's back to business.

"Just stay focused, stay in the moment. Don't worry about the Super Bowl," Yanda said. "We've got to worry about one game at a time right now. Everybody wants to get ahead of ourselves, but we're ready and locked in for our first playoff game, whoever that might be."

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