OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP)Looks like the Baltimore Ravens are going to have to care of the business of clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC all by themselves.
After capturing their second straight AFC North title on Thursday night by beating the New York Jets, the Ravens (12-2) could have wrapped up the top seed in the conference Sunday if New England lost to Cincinnati and Kansas City either tied or lost to Denver.
Neither of those things happened, so now Baltimore must beat either Cleveland this Sunday or Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl.
”We expect to have to do it ourselves. You’re not sitting there, counting on anybody to do anything for you,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. ”That’s the way it needs to be done. We plan on winning both the next two games. That’s really our job, to go out there and earn whatever we get.”
A victory over the Browns would make the Pittsburgh game irrelevant and give Harbaugh the opportunity to rest quarterback Lamar Jackson and several other starters before the postseason begins. Jackson has taken several hard hits in recent weeks and faced the Jets with a sore quadriceps, but Harbaugh skirted the issue when asked if he would consider resting his regulars in Week 17.
”No plans have been made. I’ll just decide that when the time comes,” he said. ”We’re not there. When we get there, we’ll be there and we’ll go from there.”
Baltimore put itself in this position by winning 10 straight, the longest streak in the NFL this season. After earning the division crown with a 42-21 rout of the Jets, the Ravens were given four days off by Harbaugh before being scheduled to return on Tuesday.
Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and special teams ace Chris Board remain in concussion protocol after missing the New York game, but the rest of the team took full advantage of the mini-break.
”It’s good to get those extra days rest and all that,” Harbaugh said. ”It’s a plus to get a little bit of time to get healed up, rested up a little bit. All in all, it’s a benefit.”
The Ravens haven’t lost since Sept. 29, when the Browns scored 30 second-half points in a 40-25 rout. At the time, it appeared as if the preseason hype that Cleveland received was legitimate, and that the Ravens needed plenty of help to become a contender.
Since that sobering defeat, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta added linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, star cornerback Marcus Peters and defensive tackle Domata Peko.
”We’re clearly a better defense,” Harbaugh said. ”How we do against them this time remains to be seen. That will be up to us. We’ll have to play a lot better than we did in that game.”
There was speculation the Ravens would make another addition to the defense Monday by welcoming back linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was cut by Arizona last week. The 37-year-old is the Ravens’ career leader in sacks and a leader in the locker room, but Harbaugh would not give a clue whether Baltimore was interested in making a waiver claim.
”Why don’t we just wait and see what happens with that,” Harbaugh said. ”There’s really nothing to comment on.”
He was right. Suggs was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs.
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