Dennis Pitta

Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta looks on as the Patriots celebrate a turnover on downs after Pitta fails to make a catch on fourth-and-10 in the fourth quarter. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun / December 22, 2013)

Some of the Ravens either didn't know or didn't care about all that needed to happen — at least not at that moment — for them to make the playoffs. A 34-point loss to one of your biggest rivals has a way of making everything else seem insignificant.

Other players asked team officials or reporters about the various scenarios before concluding that the only thing that really mattered was beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

By the time the Ravens reported to the team facility Monday morning for meetings and film review, their path to the playoffs had been dissected and discussed. A Ravens' win over the Bengals on Sunday, coupled by either a Miami Dolphins' home loss to the New York Jets or a San Diego Chargers home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, would get them in, or losses by the Dolphins, Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

But with the way the Ravens played Sunday in a 41-7 loss to the New England Patriots — the worst loss in the John Harbaugh era and the most lopsided home defeat in franchise history — there was no sense in focusing on anything beyond bouncing back and beating the Bengals.

"The guys know the scenarios," Harbaugh said Monday. "They're not living in a vacuum, so they understand what else has to happen. But our job and our task is one single-minded purpose, to win the next game. Obviously we have everything at stake and Cincinnati's got much at stake, too. Not everything — they've got the division and they're in the playoffs — but they've got some seeding issues that they're playing for. So it's going to be a highly-contested game. It's going to be a tough fight."

The Bengals, who won their first AFC North title since 2009 when they beat the Minnesota Vikings and the Ravens lost to New England, are 7-0 at home this season and they've outscored the opposition, 241-117, in those games. They have home victories over the Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Steelers and Green Bay Packers on their resume and they've scored more than 40 points in four straight games at Paul Brown Stadium.

With a victory Sunday followed by a Patriots' loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Bengals could get the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, so Marvin Lewis' team has plenty of incentive to win. The same can't be said for the Chargers' and Dolphins' opponents on Sunday.

The Chiefs are already locked in as the No.5 seed, and their head coach, Andy Reid, said Monday that he hasn't decided whether he'll rest his starters for the game, though he did that in similar situations when he was the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets, meanwhile, are playing to save coach Rex Ryan's job but their season will end Sunday regardless.

"We've never had to rely on anything else," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said following Sunday's game. "I don't know what those scenarios are. I'm not going to worry myself now. We're just going to worry about getting a win."

The Ravens traditionally get Tuesday off but they'll practice Christmas Eve and get Wednesday off for Christmas. Their focus this week will undoubtedly be on trying to jump-start an offense that has just one touchdown in its past eight quarters.

Against a Patriots' defense that came in ranked 24th in the NFL, the Ravens didn't advance past midfield until the second half and they didn't score their first points until the 9:21 mark of the fourth quarter. Flacco scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, but he also threw two interceptions and never looked completely comfortable playing on a sprained left knee.

Harbaugh acknowledged that Flacco is definitely not 100 percent, though the Ravens stopped well short of using the quarterback's lack of mobility as an excuse.

"We don't make excuses for anything," tight end Ed Dickson said. "We're going to go watch the tape and move on from there. It doesn't matter how much we lost by or what happened in [the Patriots] game. We just got to get it corrected and move on to the next game. The next game means everything. It's our livelihood, it's our playoffs. It's going to get us in the dance."

Needing a win in the final week of the regular season to get into the playoffs is not exactly unfamiliar terrain for the Ravens, though needing help is a new wrinkle.

In 2008, Harbaugh's first year at the helm, the Ravens beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in their final regular-season game to qualify for the playoffs. A year later, under the same circumstances, they beat the Oakland Raiders on the road in Week 17 to qualify for the postseason. Then, in 2011, they went to Cincinnati with an AFC North title and a first-round bye on the line, and they prevailed.

But in those scenarios, they knew that if they won, they were going to the postseason. On Sunday, even if they win — and sweeping the Bengals would be quite a feat on its own — they may have to wait until late afternoon for the result of the Chargers-Chiefs game.

"I'm not going to lie, it's awesome when you know three weeks out that you're going to make the playoffs," Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "That's not this season, so we really can't worry about that now."

As tenuous as their playoff hopes are, the Ravens insist that their only worry is beating the Bengals.

"It's a one-game season as far as we're concerned," Harbaugh said. "We've kind of been in this mode for a few weeks now, so we've been in a lot of tough fights over the last four, five six weeks. This will be an extension of that."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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