Ravens will lay it all on the line versus Bengals

I was only able to catch the final quarter and a half of last night's Saints-Falcons game, but that little one-hour snippet was enough for me to realize that I'm ready for the postseason.

These division games against the Browns and Bengals are weak sauce. It's time to get the big boy matchups - like the one last night - going.

Unfortunately, we've got a week to go until we can start the tournament.

Still in the hunt for the AFC North title, the Ravens won't lay off the gas pedal heading into Sunday's matchup with the Bengals in the regular-season finale.

John Harbaugh's team might have already secured a playoff spot, and their chances of edging out the Steelers for the division appear slim (Baltimore would need a win over Cincy coupled with a Pittsburgh loss to the 5-10 Browns), but the Ravens are still taking Sunday's game quite seriously.

"We were very pleased with the win and very pleased with the 11 wins and pleased with the opportunity to compete in the playoffs," Harbaugh said yesterday. "That's been clinched, and that's a big plus for us, and we're excited about that. But the season is not over yet. The regular season is not over.

"There's still something to be accomplished in the regular season, which we're going to take a run at and see what happens this weekend."

The Ravens will play Cincinnati at the same time that the Steelers are squaring off against the Browns, so there will be plenty of scoreboard watching going on, both at M&T Bank Stadium as well as at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

One might think that if Pittsburgh gets out to a big lead and the Ravens' chances of a division title shrink from slim to none, Harbaugh would be wise to pull his starters and give them a chance to rest.

The Ravens head coach disagrees with that line of thinking, and says pulling his key players won't be part of the plan going into Sunday.

"Not for me, I don't look at it that way," Harbaugh said. "I'm sure we'll be watching the scoreboard to see how the game's going, but we're not pulling anybody out of the game. We're going to try to win the game."

Why does Harbaugh think that way? He says that playing another game against a physical division opponent and letting the starters play the full 60 minutes could work in the Ravens' favor.

"Heck, it'd be great to have the No. 1 seed all wrapped up and be able to rest some guys, but we're not in that situation," Harbaugh said. "We've got something to play for, and you know there probably are some pluses. I think you continue to play, and you keep momentum going, and you continue to improve. If you can stay healthy, it's a big deal. It should be a plus."

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