“A win is a win” is something any team in the NFL will say any given Sunday, but when all of the wins for a respective team have been in that fashion the fan base and those around the organization crave at least once convincing victory before season’s end.
The Baltimore Ravens have won ugly eight times during the 2013 season and have lost just as ugly in close games and blowouts. The defending Super Bowl champions are a team that is 19th in passing offense (227.7 yards per game) and 28th in rushing offense (85.4 yards per game) as they have relied on their defensive unit and team MVP Justin Tucker to carry them to the promised land that is the postseason.
While the 2000 Super Bowl-winning Ravens had a similar outlook, this defense is a far cry away from what that unit led by Ray Lewis was. Most games have been roller coaster rides from start to finish, and this team is about as unpredictable as their offensive yardage totals from week to week.
So what do the fans and Ravens want to see? Domination — a no doubt victory where the opponent was never remotely in the contest. They have one more chance for a such a game, and it just so happens to come when the stakes are essentially a win-or-go-home scenario.
The Cincinnati Bengals have already clinched a playoff berth and the AFC North Division title. They are playing for positioning and nothing more the final week of the season, but make no mistake about it — they will be trying. Head coach Marvin Lewis will be trying to lead his team to an undefeated regular season at home as he welcomes in the team where his career spring-boarded.
The last time these two teams played on Nov. 10, the Ravens allowed the Bengals to hang around and overcome a 17-point deficit via a Hail Mary to A.J. Green in order to make it to the overtime period. However, Baltimore was able to emerge the victors 20-17 off the foot of Tucker as they have several times this season.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh won’t say it, but a noteworthy win over a quality opponent would mean the world for this team’s confidence if they are fortunate enough to continue their season next week. A team always wants to see how they stack up against the best in the league because every team playing in the postseason belongs for one reason or another. There are no bad teams left. Baltimore has to overcome the monkey on their back that is a combined 56-point difference in their two contests with the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.
How does a team do that against a Bengals team coming off of a big 42-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings — who took the Ravens all the way until the bitter end before they fell in defeat — and not try to over-complicate things by keeping it simple?
Baltimore has to do what they do best: Play as if they aren’t respected and they have a chip on their shoulder to prove the critics wrong.
Do they want to be a team that fell victim to the ‘Super Bowl hangover’? Absolutely not.
And if you know anything about the Ravens, even though they may not be the most talented team, the effort will not be lacking Sunday. Like Terrell Suggs said following his team’s blowout loss to the Patriots:
“[Stuff] happens. That’s all I can say. We have to move on to next week. We can still get in. You will have to look at the tape. Actually, you could burn the tape. It’s not even worth looking at.”