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The Ravens would have loved to have a first-round bye and host a home playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium.
But their playoff road will be more difficult than that, starting with a wild card matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
And the Ravens are fine with that.
“We think we match up great against everybody,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said following Sunday’s game. “We feel good about our chances.”
As Harbaugh said, the Ravens are at ease with their playoff path because they’ve traveled it before.
Baltimore has played five straight road playoff games under Harbaugh the past two years – in Miami, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, New England and Indianapolis. They’ve gone 3-2 in those games.
“The bottom line is you have to win one at a time, for four games, and that’s how it works,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve won two and lost the third one. We’ve won one and lost the second one. So, our goal is to win four.”
With plenty of talent on the roster, Baltimore’s players and coaches have been clear about the team’s Super Bowl aspirations this season. Now that they’re officially dancing, that conviction grew in the postgame locker room following the Ravens’ 13-7 win over the Bengals.
The Ravens completed one of their finest seasons in franchise history with a 12-4 regular season record. The Ravens had only one other 12-win season (2000) and one 13-win year (2006).
But that won’t be enough for some of Baltimore’s outspoken veterans.
“Why should we be proud if we make the playoffs?” wide receiver Derrick Mason said. “If you don’t win the Super Bowl, nobody remembers you.”
Mason is making his eighth playoff trip and went to the Super Bowl as a Tennessee Titan in 1999. Linebacker Terrell Suggs is making his fifth postseason visit. Neither has won the Lombardi Trophy.
“We don’t get satisfied on moral victories,” Suggs said. “There’s been years around here when we’ve been number one in defense, number one in turnovers, but we have no hardware to show for it. Nobody even knows that because we didn’t win the Super Bowl that year. So definitely, anything less than Dallas is a failure.”