OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- If the Baltimore Ravens are going to make the playoffs this year, John Harbaugh has to play psychologist as much as coach this week.
From Harbaugh's point of view, the Ravens can't dwell on the fact that their playoff chances took a significant hit Sunday, when they lost to the Houston Texans. They can't think about how control of their playoff destiny slipped through their fingers.
Their focus has to be on what they can do this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and how they can reclaim one of the final two wild-card berths. And, if you don't think the Ravens can do this, Harbaugh believes that should motivate his players even more.
"We're excited about the opportunity," Harbaugh said Monday. "It gives us an opportunity to do something even greater. Surprise everybody even more. That's what we plan on doing, that's what we're going to try to do."
This is a familiar situation for the Ravens -- for all the wrong reasons. A year ago, the Ravens lost control of their playoff destiny with a loss to the New England Patriots in Week 16.
In the regular-season finale, the Ravens tied the Cincinnati Bengals in the third quarter and looked at the scoreboard to see the Miami Dolphins losing to the New York Jets, a scenario they needed to happen to clinch a postseason berth. Instead of closing out the game, the Ravens watched the Bengals score the last 17 points and failed to reach the playoffs.
This year, there is one scenario where the Ravens can earn a playoff spot: If they beat the Browns at home and the San Diego Chargers lose at the Kansas City Chiefs. With both games being played at 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Harbaugh was asked if he and his players will glance at the scoreboard.
"I'm sure they'll flash the score up there and I'm sure we''ll see it," Harbaugh said. "But we're not going to be immersed in any other game. That's a recipe for disaster. We will be wholly and fully engaged on the task at hand."
The last time the Ravens (9-6) didn't make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons was 2004-05, when Kyle Boller was the starting quarterback.
"We will be very determined. This is a determined football team," Harbaugh said. "It's a football team that has put a great deal of effort, has been through a lot of adversity. You learn from adversity. I guess I don't feel as somber about it as you all do. There's no success without failure. You don't improve and grow. There's a process to it all. And you come up short sometimes. We came up short in this game. But that's how you improve and get better, and that's what we plan on doing."