Ravens have plenty of incentive to beat the Browns

Given a second chance to earn a home playoff game, the Baltimore

Ravens hope to put a rousing finish on a topsy-turvy week by

defeating the Cleveland Browns on Saturday.

Baltimore clinched a playoff berth last Sunday afternoon shortly

before taking the field on the road against the San Diego Chargers.

The Ravens then lost control of the top seed in the AFC with a

clunker of a performance in a 34-14 defeat.

The setback dropped Baltimore to the fifth-seed position and put

Pittsburgh atop the AFC North. Just 24 hours later, however, the

Steelers lost to San Francisco to throw the Ravens back in command

of the race for the division crown.

And now, the Baltimore will finish a whirlwind seven-day stretch

at home against the Browns (4-10). If Baltimore wins its final two

games, it will capture the AFC North, get a first-round bye and

play at home in second round.

That’s a pretty sweet scenario, given the desperate situation

the Ravens were in after Sunday night’s defeat.

”The fact that if we win both games now, we will win the

division, that means a lot,” coach John Harbaugh said. ”Of

course, we have to control what we have to control. And the beauty

of that is, we can control a lot.”

Running back Ray Rice put it more succinctly: ”We don’t got to

take our show on the road if we take care of business.”

The last thing the Ravens need is to hit the road for the

playoffs. Baltimore reached the postseason as a wild-card team in

each of the previous three seasons, and although the Ravens went

4-3 overall, on each occasion their quest to reach the Super Bowl

died on foreign turf.

That path might be even more difficult to follow this year,

because the Ravens are 7-0 at home and 3-4 on the road. So beating

Cleveland on Saturday and winning at Cincinnati next Sunday is

imperative for Baltimore’s upcoming playoff run.

The first order of business is knocking off the Browns, which

would enable the Ravens to go unbeaten at home for the first time

in franchise history.

”It’s going to be a great accomplishment if we get it done,”

Rice said. ”The fans get to say, `Look, the Ravens gave us a sight

to see at home this year.’ But I’m sure they would even appreciate

it more if the playoffs were here as well.”

It’s all there for the Ravens. But what are the Browns playing


”We have a two-game season here,” coach Pat Shurmur said.

”We’re looking to do what we can to try and string a couple

victories here at the end of the season.”

Beating the Ravens wouldn’t take the sting out of another

last-place finish, but it sure couldn’t hurt.

”We’re not throwing in the towel just because we’re not in

it,” rookie wide receiver Greg Little said. ”We’re trying to take

somebody down with us. That takes a very big guy to stand up and

say we’re not going to back down because we’re not in the


Cleveland has two games left, against Baltimore and Pittsburgh,

which means the Browns will have the final say in who wins the AFC


”Yeah, at this point, the playoffs are out of the picture,”

linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. ”But if we can knock one of those

guys off, we definitely want to play the spoiler.”

The Browns have additional motivation: They’ve lost seven

straight to Baltimore, including a 24-10 defeat earlier this month,

a game in which Rice ran for a career-high 204 yards on a soggy


”We got embarrassed, and every guy on this team on the

defensive side is aware of it,” Jackson said. ”They came out and

ran the ball down our throat, so we’ve got another good challenge

ahead of us. That first meeting was not the identity we want to put

out versus the Ravens. We have to face them twice a year. They’re

aware of it that, and they came in and basically just bullied


Even if the Browns stop Rice, there is some question as to

whether they can put a dent in a Baltimore defense that yielded

only 13 first downs, 233 yards and just one meaningless touchdown

in that first game. And that was without middle linebacker Ray

Lewis, who returned last week from a right toe injury.

The Browns will likely start Seneca Wallace at quarterback ahead

of Colt McCoy, who is still feeling the effects of a concussion.

But the key to Cleveland’s offense is running back Peyton Hillis,

who rambled for 144 yards last season in Baltimore.

”We talk about how you have to stop the run first and foremost,

and now you’ve got a veteran,” Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck

Pagano said.

Baltimore is favored by nearly two touchdowns, but after what

happened Sunday in San Diego, nothing is being taken for


”We’ve got Cleveland coming in. I describe them as the

brawler,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. ”They’re going to come

and they’re going to fight. We expect nothing else.”

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this