When the Ravens lost to the Browns in Week 4, the season seemed to be trending upward for the Browns and downward for the Ravens.
The Browns seemed to have rectified their offensive issues that plagued them through the first three weeks, and the Ravens couldn’t get right defensively for the third straight week.
Since that day, however, both teams have gone in completely separate directions.
The Ravens haven’t lost since that game on Sept. 29 and are a win away from home-field advantage. The Browns have gone 4-6 since that day, and are playing out the stretch of yet another season without the playoffs.
“We’re not looking for pats on the back right now,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Maybe that’s a bad way to say it, but it’s really not something we’re thinking about. Of course, the coaches are important, the players are important. I’m proud of all of those guys. As a head coach, I’m very proud of all those guys. But the season is still going on. So, the rest of the story isn’t written yet.”
Baltimore has averaged 33.7 points per game since Week 5, and has allowed just 15.7 since the first Cleveland game, too.
At a moment when the season could have gone either way, for both the Ravens and Browns, it turned in the best way possible for the Ravens.
“That was our last loss, and it wasn’t good,” Mark Ingram said. “I don’t think we’re that team anymore. We’re a better team. We kind of grew a lot from that moment. We were 2-2, and we pretty much said that our season could go one of two ways: We can change it and we can have success, or we can fold and fail. So, we came together, and we just went back to the drawing board.”
This week, in addition to getting a small amount of revenge for their earlier season loss, home-field advantage is on the minds of the Ravens. A win clinches the top seed in the AFC playoffs for the Ravens for the first time in franchise history.
A win would guarantee the Ravens a week off, not including Week 17, in the first week of the playoffs.
“Just the importance of rest, giving the body and mind time to rest, it just frees up a little bit and allows you to go on that run,” Orlando Brown Jr. said. “This will be the first time ever in my career that we may have a bye week — like I said, we’ve got to take care of business — but I’ve never really experienced it. I just know that giving your time to rest you mind and body will help out a lot.”
Now the top team in the AFC will look knock off the only team in the AFC that hasn’t had a winning season this decade.
And if the Ravens can clinch the top seed, the hype around the organization will reach a fever pitch.
“I try to block out all the noise, whether it's a positive or negative,” Jackson said. “I don't try to get caught up into it, just like I didn't at the beginning of the season. People are hopping on our bandwagon now, but we all knew what we had with ourselves in the building. But, like I said, I block it out. I play ball. That's all I'm here for.”
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