Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bye Aids Healing Process for Ravens Afc Divisional Round: Texans vs. Ravens

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bye Aids Healing Process for Ravens Afc Divisional Round: Texans vs. Ravens

Article excerpt

BALTIMORE --

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was reminded again of the importance of getting a first-round bye late in the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals as player after player walked gingerly to the sideline, unable to return to a game they knew it needed to win for the bye.

Down "six, seven, eight guys" to various injuries that occurred throughout the game, the Baltimore Ravens closed out the regular season with a 24-16 victory against the upstart Bengals. Their immediate reward was a third AFC North Division championship in team history -- their first since 2006 -- and assurance of at least one home playoff game.

But perhaps as gratifying -- and potentially as important -- is the 13-day layoff between games that the Ravens are enjoying. After a 12-4 regular season, the Ravens do not play again until they play host to the Houston Texans 1 p.m. Sunday in a divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens figure to be significantly fresher and healthier by then.

"I just think it's pretty obvious," Harbaugh said of the benefits of the bye. "It's going to help us to have a chance to get healthy. If we would have had to play this week, we would have gotten after it. In the past years, we've been in the same situation, injury- wise, going into the wild-card game. We would have dealt with it, but it's a bonus. It's earned. I think our players earned it, they appreciate it and they'll take the best advantage of it."

Of course, after a grueling 16-game season, few -- if any -- teams are healthy this time of year. And the Ravens certainly will get no sympathy from the Texans, who advanced by defeating the Bengals, 31-10, Saturday in a wild-card game.

But from a Ravens perspective, the injuries certainly have started to pile up at the wrong time. Defensive backs Jimmy Smith, Tom Zbikowski and Cary Williams and reserve linebacker Dannell Ellerbe each have received concussions in the past two games. …

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