By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens enter uncharted territory on Sunday as they battle against the Cincinnati Bengals with little at stake. But based on what Harbaugh has told the media, it looks as if Baltimore will play to win. The Ravens are getting healthy at the right time and any injury would really hamper the team. But coach John Harbaugh is focused on improving as a unit and not so concerned with the risk of injury.
“That’s how you improve, that’s how you get better,” Harbaugh said. “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.”
If the Ravens are looking to improve, they’ll do so by getting Ray Rice the football more often. Baltimore got the ball in the hands of Ray Rice over 25 times last week and the Ravens looked more balanced than they have all season. Last season, Ray Rice ran for over 191 yards against the Bengals defense. Rice has the ability to make big plays once again. When asked, it was a no brainer what the approach to this game should be.
“We want to go there and win,” said Rice. “Once you start something you got to finish it. Our goal was not just to win the division but also control it.”
Joe Flacco will have another week to work with the new wrinkles associated with Jim Caldwell’s offensive scheme. Last week, Flacco looked like he couldn’t be stopped as he made big plays in bunches against the former Super Bowl Champions. Flacco needs to get in a rhythm early to be effective on offense. It makes sense for Harbaugh to keep his foot on the gas and give this game a playoff feel.
Defensively, Baltimore may be better served to keep a majority of the banged up unit on the sideline. There is no reason to risk further injury to Bernard Pollard and Dannell Ellerbe. But it would be a great litmus test for the secondary against one of the best receivers in the league. A.J. Green has taken the league by storm and continues to make big plays for the Bengals. Baltimore will face a multitude of great receivers in the postseason. The Ravens will focus on containing the big time wide-out as he will be the biggest threat for the defense.
It will be very interesting to see who actually suits up on Sunday. The Ravens have practiced all week with the intention to win the game in Cincinnati. But with the playoffs a little over a week away, Baltimore will have to make big decisions on who plays and who doesn’t.
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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.