The Ravens may have already knocked their chief rival out of the playoffs.
Baltimore’s win over the Steelers was a heavy blow to Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes, and now the Ravens have a chance to squash any late-season momentum from another AFC North foe. The Bengals are already guaranteed a playoff spot as the division champs, but a Ravens win Sunday would eliminate their hopes of having a first-round bye.
So how much do the Ravens relish the idea of playing spoiler again?
“We’re definitely going out to ruin anything they’ve got going on,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said.
Since the Ravens were eliminated from playoff contention with the Week 14 loss to the Seahawks, they have played three straight teams against teams in the playoff hunt. Head Coach John Harbaugh and many players have downplayed the motivation in ruining their opponent’s season, and they have instead drilled in the message that the Ravens*’ *plan to finish on a high note regardless of circumstance.
“Spoiler? That’s a great question,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “This is my first time, so I really don’t know how to answer that question. We’ll see. Like I said all along, we will finish strong, and we will finish. You can book it, you can count on that – however you want to categorize it. We will finish strong.”
That mindset from Dumervil has been the attitude from the Ravens all year. Even when the playoffs seemed out of reach early in the season, the Ravens consistently kept themselves in games and avoided the trap of quitting on the season.
“It says a lot about our players,” Harbaugh said. “I wouldn’t even for one second think that that would happen with our guys. We have a lot of character. We have really good leadership in the locker room.”
The fight-to-the-finish mantra the Ravens have embraced has also caught the Bengals’ attention. Cincinnati’s Head Coach Marvin Lewis knows the Ravens are capable of pulling off the upset – especially with Bengals starting quarterback Andy Dalton sidelined – and he has emphasized that they wont’ take the Ravens lightly. “This is a division football game in a very tough, physical division, year-in and year-out,” Lewis said. “So, we know this is a football team that has been 4-4 over the last eight weeks. We know they’ll be ready to play, and we’ve got to play good football to have an opportunity to be successful.”