OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens are the kings of the preseason, and it's not even close.
The Ravens are looking to wrap up their third consecutive perfect preseason on Thursday night when they play host to the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Baltimore's 12-game winning streak is the longest since the Ravens won a dozen in a row from 1998 to 2000, which was the franchise's first Super Bowl season.
So, is it important to win in the preseason?
"Well, there’s a coach, a very good former NFL coach [Herm Edwards], who said, ‘You play the game to win,'" coach John Harbaugh said. "We all remember that, right? I would say that that’s always the case. You play the game to win. I don’t care when you play, where you play -- there’s a scoreboard up there and they keep score."
No team has dominated the summer like the Ravens, whose last loss in the preseason came on Sept. 3, 2015. The second-longest current streak is a modest three games, which is held by the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals.
Recent history says success in the preseason doesn't equate in the regular season. Of the 14 teams that went undefeated in the preseason the past five years, four went to the playoffs and six finished with losing records, including the winless Cleveland Browns last season.
Tight end Maxx Williams, who has been part of the Ravens' current preseason streak, believes a team does build confidence by how it performs in what are ultimately meaningless games.
"If you go out there in preseason and you lose every game by 40 points, you’re not going to be feeling pretty good going into Week 1," Williams said. "It’s important to go out there and win. We’re here to play football. Hey, if you’re going to go out there and lose, then why are we here? You can say it’s preseason, it doesn’t matter towards the regular season -- but really, you gain a lot of momentum and feeling good about yourself through all these preseason games. So, you want to go out there and play the best ball you can."
The Ravens have become Baltimore's real boys of summer. In August, the Ravens (4-0) nearly have as many wins as the Orioles (7-19).
Safety Eric Weddle sees the victories as a testament to how hard the Ravens practice in training camp.
"Anytime you put your jersey on, you are representing your name, you are representing your organization, you are representing yourself as a man," Weddle said. "When people say they don't go all-out, that's fine. But when we're out there, we go."
This isn't a situation where the Ravens are putting out their top players in order to win games. A bulk of Baltimore's starters didn't play in the Hall of Fame game or Saturday's preseason game in Miami.
The Ravens' backups have been the biggest reason for this string of victories.
"I think over the past couple of years our depth has really shown," Weddle said. "Our twos and threes are light years better than everybody else we play."
This preseason, the biggest triumph has been Baltimore's health. The Ravens have had only one starter suffer a significant injury. Tight end Hayden Hurst could miss a couple of games with a stress fracture in a foot. The only other notable injury to a starter is defensive lineman Willie Henry, who had surgery for a hernia.
"We’re trying to stay healthy; we’re trying to get guys what they need to play in the regular season, the ones that count for the regular season. These don’t count for the regular season -- we understand that," Harbaugh said. "So, you have certain parameters built around that and we stick to that. We haven’t really played our starters all that much in this preseason, and yet we’ve won games. So, you’re kind of proud of that. I was proud ... I told you yesterday. I was really proud of the way the guys played, in the second half especially [at Miami]. It was Ravens football and that’s what you want to see."