Listening to John Harbaugh field a question today from Brett Hollander on WBAL-AM about whether the head coach should rest his regulars against Cincinnati on Sunday…I was struck by how much has changed for the Ravens psyche in just a week, and how differently the question would be framed today if the favored Giants had beaten the Ravens last Sunday.
The Ravens (10-5) have clinched the AFC North Division title. That much hay is in the barn. They really can't improve their playoff seeding by beating the Bengals. So what would you do about resting your regulars if you were HC?
I'd definitely rest OLB Terrell Suggs (torn biceps)…I think that's a no-brainer… but you'll have to convince Suggs yourself!
Harbaugh actually added a great point in the radio interview. He said even if you do decide to rest some of the regulars, you've still got to play the game at full-speed and try to win the game. Nobody tanks a game by merely playing at half-speed. Someone could get killed or maimed doing that.
The Ravens are currently the No. 4 seed in the AFC, but they would move up to the No. 3 spot with a win over Cincinnati and a Patriots loss at home to the Dolphins. The Ravens play at 1 p.m. and the Patriots play at 4:25 p.m., so the Ravens won’t have the luxury of knowing the result of the New England game when they take the field.
I don't think anyone has to really worry about the Patriots losing to the Dolphins, though. Yes, having the No. 3 spot would mean the Ravens would play the Bengals in Baltimore again in the first round of the playoffs. Finishing with the No. 4 seed would mean that the Colts come to M&T Bank Stadium in the wild-card game.
The benefit to getting the No. 3 seed is that the Ravens would have a better chance to host a second home playoff game in the event that the top two seeds both lose. But I don't think it will happen.
The Ravens are also dealing with a handful of injuries and some players could benefit from an extra week of rest.
Right guard Marshal Yanda and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe both played through ankle injuries Sunday, and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is fighting through a biceps injury.
Safety Bernard Pollard (chest), linebacker Albert McClellan (thigh/shoulder) and wide receiver Tandon Doss (ankle) all sat out Sunday, and they could possibly benefit from some additional rest. The Ravens have also ruled veteran linebacker Ray Lewis out for Sunday to give his torn triceps additional time to heal.
Other players like Vonta Leach (ankle), tight end Ed Dickson (knee), safety Ed Reed (shoulder) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (sports hernia procedure) have been dealing with injuries, but were able to suit up last week.
It’s unknown whether Harbaugh will rest those injured players, or if they will suit up and try to build some momentum with a win heading into the playoffs.
I say rest 'em…let's get a good look at guys like Tyrod Taylor and Anthony Allen in the second half, too. The confidence level of the Ravens is at a season high right now— they can handle the personnel changes and possibly still beat the Bengals, and they know it.