The Ravens are neck-deep in national attention as they prepare for their coast-to-coast “Monday Night Football” showdown with the Los Angeles Rams, leaving coach John Harbaugh to remind everyone that his original coaching mantra is more relevant than ever.
Remember “W.I.N." — What’s Important Now?
It’s still posted all around the Under Armour Performance Center and some form of it is still the answer to any question from the media about the rest of the Ravens schedule or the team’s postseason prospects or whether Lamar Jackson really is the Most Valuable Player in the NFL.
Never mind that the Ravens have all but locked up the AFC North title with six weeks to go. Never mind that they have reeled off six straight victories and three of the past four have been convincing wins against good teams.
“I do think our guys keep it simple,” Harbaugh said after Sunday’s blowout victory over the Houston Texans. "They lock in on the task at hand. They don’t get caught up in anything. If there are going to be any bouquets thrown, they’re not going to accept them.
“We have too much in front of us. We have jobs to do. We have a mission every week and that’s what we’re thinking about.”
And that’s why his players echo the theme whenever they’re asked how good they are in relation to the rest of the league or how this promising season might end or just about anything that isn’t about X’s and O’s.
“That’s for you guys to talk about” is the usual reply, which is fair enough, so here goes.
The Ravens are very good. They have won over the national media and are being advertised as a top-tier Super Bowl contender. They might not want to talk about what it might take to get there yet, but it’s not all that hard to figure out.
They’ve got to get over one more big hump in what continues to be one of the toughest schedules in the league. They just played the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and Texans over the past month and beat all three of them by an average of 22 points.
But that was just the first half of their midseason stretch against some of the premier teams in the NFL. The Rams played in the Super Bowl last February. The San Francisco 49ers, who will visit M&T Bank Stadium the following week, are tied with the Patriots for the best record (9-1) in the league. And the Ravens will visit a Buffalo Bills team in Week 14 that currently occupies the first AFC wild-card slot.
They don’t have to win all of those games to claim a first-round bye in the playoffs, but if they stay hot, they’ll position themselves well for the postseason with their final three regular-season games against the struggling New York Jets and the decimated Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
They could even be a candidate for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, depending on how the Patriots take care of business during a similarly daunting three-game stretch against the Dallas Cowboys, Texans and Kansas City Chiefs.
If everyone else wants to speculate on just how far the Ravens can go, Harbaugh is more interested in how his team got to this point and what his players need to do right now to maintain the momentum they’ve been riding for the past seven weeks.
"To me we’ve steadily improved,'' Harbaugh said. “We improve a little bit every day because these guys come out there with that mindset. You want to improve a little bit every day and you want to keep that focus. As the stakes get bigger, the focus has to be narrower. We’ve got it nice and tight ... keep it locked in on what we have to get done, one day at time. I’m very confident these guys will do that.”