Harbaugh makes the right call by playing to win in Cincinnati

December 25, 2012 | Drew Forrester

Forget about trying to guess what’s going to happen in New England at 4:25 pm.  As a bunch of teams proved last weekend, the league is the ultimate game of “heads or tails”.  San Diego wins in New York a week after getting blown out by Carolina.  The Cowboys posted back-to-back wins over AFC North contenders Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, then got beat at home by a New Orleans team with nothing to play for except draft position.  Seattle just ran roughshod over San Francisco six days after the 49’ers humiliated the Patriots for 35 minutes before winning a huge game in New England.

Just flip a coin.  Most times, you’ll pick the winner by accident.

You can’t send the Ravens to Cincinnati on Sunday and say, “OK men, I know you played the first fifteen weeks at full speed with little regard at all for getting injured.  Today, though, you’re going to go out there and play it safe, not to get hurt.  We have the playoffs next week, you know.”

It doesn’t work that way.

Now, if the game meant absolutely nothing at all — if no playoff spot or seeding was on the line — I’d be fine with the Ravens treating the finale like it was pre-season game four.  Let the starters break a sweat and then go ahead and give some of the 3rd and 4th stringers a couple of quarters of duty.

But something is at stake.  It’s called, potentially, HOME FIELD.

Could someone get hurt playing the game on Sunday?  Absolutely.  Could that injury affect the game in January?  Sure, perhaps. That’s the chance you take when you’re 10-5 and playing for January, instead of 5-10 and playing for nothing.

But, if you have the chance to finish ahead of New England, you play that opportunity to the max.  If it turned out to be New England vs. Baltimore in the AFC title game, would you feel better about the Ravens chances in Baltimore (where they’re 34-7 in 41 games under Harbaugh) or New England?

Let the chips fall where they may between the Dolphins and Patriots.  Don’t get into the game predicting business if you’re John Harbaugh.  You might look awfully foolish if you play the JV in Cincinnati and Miami gets the bit between their teeth and does what every team in the league wants to do — wipe that smile off the faces of Brady and Belichick.

If you’re the Ravens, you win the game and worry about New England a little later on in the day.  Put the pressure on the Patriots and see how they respond.

You might be happy that you did.


7 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve from Sandpoint Says:

    Drew, as we all know the Ravens are not a very good road team. With that said, if Flacco & Co. can win big in Cincy I think it would be a huge momentum building game going into the playoffs.

  2. jpetrosino Says:

    If you look at Cincy’s perspective they really have no reason to try hard at all since they are locked-in as the #7 seed win/lose. I agree with Dreq, a win for the Ravens is more meaningful for us b/c of the potential to host a AFC champsionship game is greater as a #3 seed than #4 seed. The other part I am torn with is that I feel we have a easier first round matchup against the Colts (#4 v. #5) and the Patriots play a better team in the Bengals (#3 v. #7). Interesting matchup scenarios as we head into the playoffs.

    Do you play an easier opponent as the #4 seed or take a chance as the #3 seed against a better team in the hopes of hosting the AFC Championship??

  3. P-dubs Says:

    Stupid call rest The players (DF: Thankfully you’re not the coach.)

  4. The Armchair QB Says:

    Look what the Giants did last year. They were 7-7 with two remaining games and no one even gave them a chance to get to the playoffs, but all they did was win through the Super Bowl! This game Sunday may not seem like much, but from where I sit, if the Ravens thought last week’s game with the Giants was the beginning of the playoffs, every game from hereon out is the same!

  5. unitastoberry Says:

    No rest for the weary! New OC they have to play and gel with him.

  6. Brian Says:

    According to your logic Brian Billick is a goof. Why didn’t you tell him that during the interview ? (DF: I told him I disagreed with him on the air.)

  7. Brian Says:

    Brian Says:
    December 26th, 2012 at 4:45 pm
    According to your logic Brian Billick is a goof. Why didn’t you tell him that during the interview ? (DF: I told him I disagreed with him on the air.)

    But you stopped well short of calling him a goof.

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