By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens did what they had to do on Sunday and clinched the AFC North title for the second straight season. But with Week 17 quickly approaching, the question remains whether the Ravens should play this game with the gun fully loaded. Baltimore has been hampered by injuries and the game against Cincinnati bears no significance in the overall playoff picture. If New England loses to Miami and Baltimore wins, the Ravens will be moved into the 3rd seed. But is that enough reason to risk further injury to players that may be on the mend? Harbaugh doesn’t seem to be too concerned as he is about building momentum.
“That’s how you improve, that’s how you get better,” stated Harbaugh on Monday. “Momentum, sure it’s a good word, [but] what does that mean exactly? It means that we’re improving. We always say that you either get better or you get worse. Sometimes, you are getting better and it doesn’t show up in the results all the time, but I think we see it. We’re recognizing when we see it, so the idea is that there are plenty of things to work on. We have to continue to improve to be at our best that we can in the playoffs. This week is an opportunity to do that.”
The Ravens haven’t faced this kind of dilemma before. The Ravens always have something to play for in the final week of the regular season. But the Ravens know they’ll be playing on Wild-Card weekend in M&T Bank Stadium next week. This could be an opportunity to rest stars like Yanda and Suggs before beginning a playoff run. But it appears as though Harbaugh will go for the win regardless of what the consensus around the league is. And that may not be a bad thing.
New York faced a similar situation a few years ago when they played the Patriots in the final week of the 2007 NFL Season. The Patriots were on the brink of perfection and Tom Coughlin decided to play everyone in an attempt to snap the streak. Though they were not successful, the team learned that they could stand toe to toe against any opponent. Their momentum and confidence carried over to the Super Bowl where they would face off against New England again. They would get the better of the Patriots and win a Super Bowl title.
Harbaugh and Tom Coughlin have very similar coaching styles. They’re both old school coaches. You’ll seldom see the Ravens sub players out during a one sided victory because of his belief that you get better with every down you play. Baltimore snapped a 3 game losing streak before getting their act together against New York. A good victory against a quality opponent may be just what the doctor ordered against a team that has been inconsistent this year. If they can build on a Week 17 win, Baltimore can make a lot of noise in the postseason.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.