In the grand tradition of the NFL, the Ravens spent their session with the media Wednesday making the Chicago Bears sound like the greatest team in history.

John Harbaugh called the Bears "very talented" and "very well coached."

Ray Lewis said Bears quarterback Jay Cutler "can make every throw" and the Bears have "very good tight ends."

Ray Rice called the Bears defense "relentless to the ball."

Hoo, boy.

You'd have thought the Ravens were going up against the '85 Bears this Sunday instead of a reeling 5-8 team with a coach (Lovie Smith) who might be fired as soon as the season's over.

You'd have thought Walter Payton and Jim McMahon and Mike Singletary were still playing for Chicago and the "Super Bowl Shuffle" was still high on the Billboard charts.

Oh, it was all for show, all these nice things the Ravens were saying about the Bears, who've lost five of their past six games.

It was just the usual midweek mind game NFL teams play with their next opponent, the Ravens dispensing the obligatory platitudes and making sure not to say anything even remotely controversial that could end up posted in the Bears' locker room.

But the fact is this: The Ravens are 10 1/2-point favorites in this game for a reason.

And if they want to be considered serious playoff contenders, they should pound the reeling Bears almost as badly as they pounded the Detroit Lions last week at M&T; Bank Stadium.

Speaking of which, can I quickly weigh in on something? Believe it or not, a hot topic on sports-talk radio yesterday was this: Why did so many fans leave early during the Ravens' 48-3 win over the Lions last week?

Oh, let me take a guess here. Could it be because it was freezing cold? And pouring rain? And the Ravens had the game wrapped up by halftime?

Look, I felt like leaving, too. And I was nice and warm and dry in the press box.

Right now, it seems the weather could be iffy again this weekend, with a possible snowstorm already setting off the first predictable ripples of panic around here.

But the truth is, lousy weather shouldn't matter that much to the Ravens.

That's because you can bet they plan to run the ball down the Bears' throats, given the success they had doing that against the Lions.

Adding to that decision is the fact that Joe Flacco is banged up, with a bruised ankle that's the color of an eggplant.

(That was a great line Mike Preston had about Flacco limping around like Fred Sanford after the Lions game. Who writes his material? I want the guy's business card.)

And why take chances throwing a slippery ball around a wet field when you have a hot running back like Ray Rice (1,041 rushing yards) and a backup twosome like Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain?

But the other reason the weather shouldn't matter is that the Ravens finally seem to be playing hungry, playing with an urgency they seemed to lack a few weeks ago.

Sure, needing to run the table to get into the playoffs - that tends to instill a sense of urgency in most NFL teams.

But it's December, and the games are dwindling down to a precious few. And that's always been a wake-up call for the Ravens.

"Pretty much for my whole career, that's how it's been: December's when you gotta win," Ray Lewis said. "It creates something. It creates a certain buzz.

"You watched the Steelers last year. You get hot. And it's kind of hard to stop a team once they get hot. ... For us, it's always been later in the season when we play our best football."

And could the schedule-makers have been any kinder to the Ravens?

A horrible Detroit team last week. The staggering Bears this week. A bad Oakland team the last week of the regular season.

Sure, next week they play the Steelers in Pittsburgh, which is never easy. Except now, the Steelers are losing to bad teams and missing All-World safety Troy Polamalu and waiting for a Hines Ward-Ben Roethlisberger steel-cage match to break out.

But the point is, things are looking up for the Ravens and their playoff chances.

Which is why the Ravens are using that old Al Davis line: Just win, baby. And everything else will take care of itself.

"December football, you know the way Ray [Lewis] puts it, is championship football," Rice said. "When you're in a playoff push, these are the moments you cherish forever."

But only if you win.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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