The Ravens want to leave M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday with the AFC North title, the No. 2 seed in the AFC and an increasing amount of momentum heading into the playoffs.
They would need help from the Cleveland Browns to capture the division and a first-round bye. But continuing a positive push into the postseason is certainly in their grasp as the Ravens (11-4) end their regular season against the last-place Cincinnati Bengals (4-11).
"If we put it all together in this next week or two, then we're going to be a team that a lot of teams don't really want to see, and we'll be a tough matchup for them," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "So hopefully, we can go into the playoffs a 12-4 football team and a team that is very confident. And I think if we go out and play confident, we can do anything."
By sundown — or perhaps earlier — the Ravens will know whether they will be seeded No. 2 or No. 5 in the AFC. In order to gain a first-round bye, the Ravens have to beat the Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers have to lose at Cleveland.
The Ravens are an overwhelming 9 1/2 –point favorite over Cincinnati, which comes to town with its top two wide receivers sidelined and a head coach possibly on his way out. But the Ravens desperately need the 5 ½-point underdog Browns to upset the Steelers.
Since both games kick off at 1 p.m., there could be plenty of scoreboard watching by the coaches, players and fans. Ravens coach John Harbaugh insisted he wouldn't stop updates from being shown throughout the game, although he acknowledged that he didn't know he had the power to do it.
"I'm not worried about our players one bit," Harbaugh said. "I know our guys will be focused and play the game."
If the Ravens lose or the Steelers win, the Ravens will enter the playoffs as the No. 5 seed. But they won't know where they're headed in the first round of the playoffs until later because Indianapolis and Jacksonville play at 4:15 p.m.
The Ravens would head to Indianapolis if the Colts beat Tennessee and Kansas City, which plays at 1 p.m., defeats Oakland.
They would be traveling to Kansas City if the Chiefs lose to Oakland and the Colts beat Tennessee.
And they would go south to Jacksonville if the Jaguars win at Houston and the Colts lose. But Jacksonville, which has put quarterback David Garrard on injured reserve and already scratched running back Maurice Jones-Drew, seems to have conceded the AFC South to Indianapolis.
Regardless how the playoff picture comes into focus, the Ravens still consider Sunday's game against Cincinnati a "must win" despite clinching a postseason berth last week. The Ravens, who have won their past four season finales, realize the importance of putting the finishing touches on the regular season.
"I think guys understand that we're in the playoffs but we want to go into the playoffs full-steam ahead," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We have enough veteran guys and young guys that have been in playoff games to understand that you have to be clicking on all cylinders going into the playoffs."
Here's a checklist of what the Ravens want to get accomplished in the final game before heading into the playoffs:
•Finish off games as an offense. The Ravens offense hasn't scored a fourth-quarter touchdown in six games. During that stretch, the Ravens have been shut out four times in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens can't afford to let off the brakes against high-scoring offenses like the Colts and Patriots.
"The bottom line is we want to play well for 60 minutes," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "The good news is it's nice to be in a position where you feel like you're — probably offensively in some ways — starting to become as healthy as we've been this time of year in the last two or three years. And you just get a gut feeling that you've got an opportunity to continue to improve, and we haven't flattened out yet."
•Stop big plays. The Ravens have given up a team-record seven drives of 90 yards or more, including three in the past three games. Most of those marathon series have been sparked by a deep pass or a long run.
"I think if you charted us throughout the season, I don't know if anybody has driven the entire field without a big play or penalty," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "And if we don't give them that free one in there somewhere, our guys make it pretty tough for them to go all that way and do it. We want to eliminate any big plays and any stupid penalties. And when you're going into the playoffs, that's critical."
•Get Anquan Boldin more involved. The Ravens' No. 1 wide receiver only had three catches for 17 yards in his past two games. He's been held to 50 yards receiving or less in seven of his past eight games.
The attention that Boldin draws has opened up space for Mason and running back Ray Rice. But getting the ball to their top playmaker in the passing game should be a priority.
"You're really targeting guys and then the defense takes it away," Cameron said. "There's still ways for us to get guys open and I think you'll see that down the stretch."
•Avoid injuries. The Ravens want to reach the playoffs as healthy as possible. Still, even if the Steelers have an insurmountable lead over the Browns — which would end the Ravens' hopes of a first-round bye — Harbaugh has said repeatedly that he's unlikely to pull his starters from Sunday's game.
"I hate to get into that because I don't think you ever know," he said. "No, I won't do that based on Pittsburgh's score. We'll just play it like we always play it, and we'll try to win."
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis backed Harbaugh's decision.
"The easiest thing to do is just go in and play the game out as a full team," he said. "Finish the game and see what happens after that."