The Ravens are fully aware just how precarious their status as a playoff contender would become if they fail to beat the Miami Dolphins on the road Sunday.
One year after the Ravens (7-5) failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time under coach John Harbaugh, they're facing what basically amounts to a must-win game against the Dolphins (7-5) at Sun Life Stadium.
"Without a doubt, there's no other way to put it than it's a game we have to win," said offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, who's never been on an NFL playoff team. "Definitely, we need this one. There are only four games left. It's crunch time."
The Ravens aren't attempting to minimize the importance of this game. If the season was over now, the Ravens would miss the AFC playoffs. If they beat the Dolphins, their playoff outlook would improve markedly.
"It's definitely crucial," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "It would go a long way to get us going in this last quarter of the season."
"We have to force our way into the playoffs," rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "We've got to win out."
The Ravens are 4-0 against the Dolphins under Harbaugh, including the playoffs, with three consecutive wins in Miami.
"It's a fine line between making the playoffs, winning the division, those kinds of things," Harbaugh said. "December football, it's where teams separate themselves. It doesn't really matter that we're playing another team that's in the hunt because [there are] so many teams in the hunt. I don't care who you're playing this week. If you're in the hunt and you lose, you're in trouble."
"It's very important," running back Justin Forsett said. "I feel like this game coming up is a playoff game for us, so will be the other games we play in December. It's important for us to get this W."
Veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said he believes the Ravens need to win out to make the playoffs.
"We understand that we have some business ahead of us," Suggs said. "We're going to approach our business like so, but we're not going to change who we are."
Quarterback Joe Flacco said this is just the latest in a long line of pressure-filled games for the Ravens.
"It's a long road ahead, and the biggest thing is to just focus on this one, focus on this team," Flacco said. "They're playing well. We're going to down to their place, and it's a big one. It's important, and I think that's all we can focus on right now. Obviously, we'd like to be sitting a little bit better than we are right now, but we're not and you have to forget about that.
"You have to put it in the past, go out there and play. When you give yourself the best chance of going out there and playing well is just putting everything else behind you and not letting it sit in your mind too often, the good, the bad. Just get past it, move on and play the way that we have been, and I think things will go our way."