On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens will play the most crucial game of their 2018 season when they host division rival Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11 of the 2018 NFL Season.
Sitting at 4-5 and third in the AFC North, playoff contention and job security have filled the headlines of local media outlets. Mix in an injured quarterback to the equation, and suddenly this below .500 Ravens team has the attention of the nation.
The unwanted attention is something the Ravens have experienced before, having missed the playoffs each of the previous three seasons. However, the unwanted attention Baltimore is getting 11 weeks into the season is more potent than ever.
Head coach John Harbaugh isn't here for any of it.
"We’ll write the story of the Ravens’ 2018 season by how we play in the next seven weeks," Harbaugh said Monday via the team's website.
"That’s what our guys are juiced up for. All the other stuff is just fluff; it’s just noise; it’s just banter. It’s barroom talk. Turn on the TV, it’s two guys talking in the bar, supposedly – except it’s all choreographed, you know? ‘You take this side, I’ll take that side.’ It’s all B.S. We don’t care! We have to go play."
The Ravens enter this matchup with a fresh mentality and a fresh set of legs after spending Week 10 on their bye.
Three straight losses is enough to invade anyone's headspace after starting their season 3-1. But with seven games to play, Harbaugh is reminding his team they're in control of their own destiny.
"I told the guys, ‘Have you watched the NFL? It’s week-to-week. This is how it goes. Crazy things happen.’ We’re right there. We’re in the hunt just like everybody else. We’re fighting."
Mathematically, the Ravens aren't out of the hunt yet. Despite their record, they are just one game out of the final wildcard spot in the AFC.
The 27% chance they have at the moment of making the playoffs is certainly nothing to write home about, but a win on Sunday makes January football look less far-fetched.
"It will be determined over the course of the next seven games who is going to make the playoffs," Harbaugh said. "It won’t be determined by what’s gone before. It will be determined by what goes forward. If we want to be one of those teams, then we have to go earn it – make it happen. There are those who write history and those who make history. Well, you know what? If you have a chance to make history, then you write the history, too"
The head coach will be writing his own history over the next seven weeks as well. The reports that his job status is on the line after 11 seasons can be added to the laundry list of things Harbaugh's not worried about.
"Again, it’s just noise; it doesn’t matter; it means nothing. It’s not something that I’m going to think about or concern myself with. Neither are the players, neither is Steve [Bisciotti], neither is Kevin [Byrne], or Ozzie [Newsome] or anybody else. You know what we want to do as an organization? We want to win – that’s what we want to do. We want to win. We’re fighting as hard as we can – coaches, players – as an organization to win. That’s it. All the other stuff – who cares?”
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