The Baltimore Ravens used to own the AFC North. They have won the past two division titles. They had won 12 straight games in the division from December 2010 to December 2012, tying the longest such streak since realignment in 2002.
Lately, it seems like the division has owned the Ravens. Since that streak ended, the Ravens have lost to each team in the AFC North at least once. In fact, they've lost four of their past five games in the division.
Now, with the Bengals playing at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, the Ravens are in a must-win game in terms of keeping their faint hopes alive of three-peating in the division. Baltimore (3-5) is 2 1/2 games behind division-leading Cincinnati (6-3) and has a 1-2 record in the AFC North.
"We can't really think about how important it is and what's going to happen if we win [or] what would happen if we don't win," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "And we can't think about that, because as soon as you start thinking about that, then you're not going to play the way you should. That's what causes a lot of indecision and tentativeness on the football field is thinking about the result of something."
Flacco added, "You've just got to go out there, and you've got to play 100 percent and just be locked in when you're doing it. And at the end of the day, at the end of the game, you look up at the scoreboard, and if you've done that, you can feel good about looking up and seeing what that result is. More times than not, it's going to be in your favor if you can kind of just stay in the moment and stay in the game. As soon as you start to think about that result and how important this game is and all that, then you're going to freak yourself out a little bit, and you're not going to play the way you want to."
The Ravens are currently 1 1/2 games back of the New York Jets (5-4) for the last playoff spot in the AFC.