As mentioned here earlier today, the Ravens' postseason prospects vastly improved last week with two wins in five days.
At 6-6, Baltimore has a good handle of whether it will make the playoffs and the team would qualify as the AFC's second wild card if the postseason started today. So, of course coach John Harbaugh is pleased at the moment.
"We're excited about where we're at," Harbaugh said. "You can't really look back and say we wish this would have happened or we wish that would have happened. What's happened has happened, good and not so good. But we are in position to control our own destiny. That is what you try to accomplish going into December. So we've accomplished that. Now it's up to us to make the most of it and go ahead an control our destiny - win the games we've got to win, starting with this one. And this one is the only one that matters right now. And take it from there."
The Ravens took the weekend off and Harbaugh said he had the rare chance to watch a little football live. So the team is coming out of an uncommon late-season break after playing twice last week - beating the Jets on Nov. 24 and the Steelers on Thursday.
"Our team got a little bit of rest, which is positive - a chance to heal at this time of year going into December is a big plus for us," Harbaugh said. "A big challenge we have. We have December football in front of us. It's an important time of year. It's what we build our program around. it's where we try to be at our best, so we're going to try to prove that the next four weeks, starting this week with our most important game of the season against Minnesota."
Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have played some of their best football of the season at the exact right time. The team is 32-16 in November and December since 2008, including 12-9 in December.
That figure looked a whole lot better before the Ravens went 1-4 in December 2012, after entering the month with a 9-2 overall record. The Ravens will need a much better final month of the regular season this time with a playoff spot at stake.
Harbaugh explained why the organization builds its program around December football.
"The idea is to be at your best when it means the most," he said. "Not to say that you're not trying to be as good as you can be in September and October and November. But you're always trying to build to a position to where it means the most, you're at your best. That's what we try to do. How do you go about doing that? It's a thousand different things. We'll find out whether that is the case for this football team."
The Ravens entered last weekend in a complicated AFC playoff picture, and Harbaugh had the chance to watch the results unfold to the point that Baltimore and Miami were the only members of a six-way tie for the second wild card to improve to 6-6.
Harbaugh didn't need to do his own homework to sort through the schedule and find out which teams he wanted to win or lose.
"I've got a big advantage because our owner, Steve Bisciotti, that's a big part of what he does. He tells me who we need to be rooting for, who we need to be rooting against. He takes all the emotion out of it so I knew exactly who to root for this weekend," Harbaugh said.
"The interesting thing is, everybody is playing everybody right now. With so many teams involved, it's going to be the way it's going to be. One team wins, another loses. A lot of times, it helps us either way and it hurts us both ways. It doesn't really matter. That fact of the matter is, what matters is us. We just have to win. If we win games, things are going to work out for us. If we don't, things are going to be tough. We have to take care of ourselves."
The Ravens can only hope the adversity they faced early in the season with their 4-6 start will have strengthened them up for a much-needed final flourish.
"I think everyone faces adversity in this league. It's a very tough league," Harbaugh said. "But you definitely are a product of your experiences and adversity is definitely a strength-builder, a character-builder. What we've been through has made us what we are right now. I'd like to think it's made us strong emotionally, mentally. And I think our hard work has made us strong physically."