By Trevor Woods
The Baltimore Ravens earned a first round bye in the NFL Playoffs and they have the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Although most pundits are now picking the Ravens to be Super-Bowl bound, the team realizes they're a long way from being crowned anything at all. The steepest part of the mountain is ahead, and in order to reach the summit on top, they'll have to power through the rough terrain.
"They’re locked in. They’re focused. They’re excited. They understand, this is it. This is what you work for," head coach John Harbaugh said this week.
The Ravens are set to face the Tennessee Titans, a fundamentally sound team with talent on both sides of the ball. A team that went into Gillette Stadium last week and beat the New England Patriots in a physical manner, led by NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry.
There aren't any bad teams left on the schedule for the Ravens, and in a win or go home environment, each and every play can prove to be the difference as to whether a team advances to the next round or is eliminated.
A new season is upon the Ravens. A one game season. For Harbaugh and the Ravens, they hope to continue with the same habits they built throughout the regular season. The habit of being intense all the time and trying to be the best version of themselves each time they step onto a football field.
"It’s a new season, and there’s an intensity. There’s an intensity all the time, but the other part of it is you want to have your best practice every single time out," Harbaugh said. "We always talk about our best Wednesday, our best Thursday, our best Friday, better than anybody else in football, better than anybody in the history of football.
"And we’re chasing all those things every single week. You have to do that to be able to perform at a high level to give yourself a chance. And that is the thing that stays the same. You try to carry that over into the playoffs.”
The Ravens realize the magnitude their game against the Titans has, but instead of expanding their focus, the team is narrowing it and zeroing in on the current task.
"We worked so hard to get to this point, and now it's just about narrowing your focus," tight end Mark Andrews said. "Coach Harbaugh talks about that. That's so important right now, to be able to focus in, know what's important in your life, and right now it's football. So, just lock in and get ready for the Tennessee Titans.”
Locking in appears to be a theme in the Baltimore locker room, with coaches and players all preaching the same philosophy.
“We’re locked in," safety Earl Thomas said. "I don’t think we need to do too much talking. I think we already understand what our goal is. We’ve been talking about it all year. We’ve been playing lights out. No reason to change now. Just lock in and fine tune what we’ve been messing up on, and I think we’ll be really good."
For the Ravens, being "locked in" can be defined as the team continuing to do what they've been doing. They've been locked in all season long when the lights have shined the brightest with big time wins against the Houston Texans, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Buffalo Bills.
The Ravens have shown they can be locked in, but the playoffs are a different kind of animal. The hope is the type of mentality the team has built remains fluid in the playoffs.
One game at a time for Baltimore, with no game more important than their showdown against the Titans on Saturday.