Harbaugh: Starting Sunday, it's a '6-game season' for Ravens
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The 3-0 start, a winless October and that disappointing defeat Sunday in Dallas – none of that matters to the Baltimore Ravens anymore.
All that has transpired during this up-and-down season merely served to get the Ravens to right now: A place where all the goals they've set for themselves remain attainable.
''It's a six-game season,'' coach John Harbaugh said Monday. ''We know that everything is right in front of us.''
A 27-17 loss in Dallas dropped the Ravens (5-5) into a tie with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North. The remainder of their schedule features home and away games against Cincinnati; at home against Miami and Philadelphia; and on the road against New England and the Steelers.
The stretch begins Sunday when the injury-riddled Bengals (3-6-1) come to town.
''It's a division game, a very important game for us,'' Harbaugh said. ''In some ways, this is like our opener. All eyes are really looking forward to becoming the best team we can be over the next six games. That's our attention and that's our focus.''
The Ravens got to this point in unusual fashion. After winning their first three games, they dropped four in a row – their longest skid since Harbaugh took over in 2008. Victories over Pittsburgh and Cleveland got Baltimore back on track before the team took a step backward in Dallas.
Fortunately, a .500 record is good enough to earn a share of first place in the weakened AFC North.
''We've got everything ahead of us. It's in our hands,'' tight end Dennis Pitta said.
Just two years ago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati all made the playoffs. This year, it's very likely only the division winner will advance to the postseason.
It's shaping up to be one heck of a finish.
''We're all going to play each over the course of the next six games, so it's going to come down to that,'' Harbaugh said. ''It's probably what we knew going into the season.''
The Bengals are 1-4 on the road and will be without standout wide receiver A.J. Green, who hurt his right hamstring in a loss to Buffalo on Sunday. That might mean something to Harbaugh if the Ravens hadn't lost five straight to Cincinnati.
''We've got to find a way to beat them,'' Harbaugh said. ''If we don't start beating the Bengals we're not going to win any division championships and that's especially true this year. To me, the whole thing goes through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. We have to win a couple other games too, but it's the division and this is a division game. It's as simple as that.''
Baltimore faced Dallas without cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) and linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot). Both practiced during the week but did not receive medical clearance.
The team hopes to have both players back on Sunday.
''Down the stretch we definitely need our warriors. We need dogs,'' linebacker Terrell Suggs said. ''Not only in the secondary, but everywhere. We are going to fight for our playoff lives. You want your biggest horses running the Kentucky Derby for you.''
One of the oddities of Sunday's game was five-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda playing at left guard. The 10-year veteran usually lines up at right guard, but because he's been bothered by a left shoulder injury, Yanda figured there would less strain on his arm if he lined up on the other side.
''He played well,'' Harbaugh said. ''He kind of looked like he's played it all along. He didn't have any problems in there. Yeah, it was a good move for us.''
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