Every Game Counts In December

Baltimore hasn’t been able to secure the division or home games in December recently.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

The Ravens had a loss in September, one in October and one in November.

Heading into December, Baltimore may not be able to afford another if it’s going to reach its goals.

It’s a month in which the Ravens have earned themselves playoff berths in recent years, but haven’t been able to claim the division title and home playoff game they’ve been searching for.

“December football, every game counts,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs told the NFL Network. “You drop one, you can go from the No. 2 seed to the wild card and you don’t know whether you’re going to be in.”

A closely-contended AFC race didn’t get any separation this weekend.

Every division leader (Baltimore, New England, Houston and Oakland) won. The top wild-card contenders (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, New York, Tennessee and Denver) were also all victorious.

Baltimore didn’t get any more breathing room in its own division, as they still have the same record (8-3) as Pittsburgh and are just a game ahead of Cincinnati.

“We expect it to be a tight race,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We just want to uphold our end of the bargain.”

The Ravens were in a similar position last year, but weren’t able to hold on.

They could have buried the Pittsburgh Steelers in a home game on Dec. 5, but suffered a heartbreaking 13-10 loss, which ended up being the difference in deciding the division champion.

In 2009, they lost twice in December and thus couldn’t catch up with the Bengals even though Cincinnati lost three of its final four games. The Ravens fell to Pittsburgh in Week 15 of 2008, which left them one game behind the Steelers.

Baltimore won’t face the Steelers in December this year, but they will see AFC North divisional foes in three of their final five games.

It starts Sunday against Cleveland, who the Ravens haven’t played yet this season. They’ll play the Browns twice in the span of 20 days and the Bengals to close out the year.

“I like the way the schedule worked out for us this year,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “It’s something to fight for. That lets us know our work is not done.”

“We’ve got a strong division this year, as always, so every game is critical,” outside linebacker Jarret Johnson added. “It’s good to be in the lead and have the wins we do, especially against our divisional opponents, but if we don’t handle ourselves well going down the stretch, it means nothing.”

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