Not only do the Ravens need to win today, they need to win big.
The Baltimore Ravens usually "protect this house" when they play at home in M&T Bank Stadium. They've won their past 14 games at home and expect to make it 15 in a row when the Oakland Raiders come to town. However, just winning the game is just not going to be enough today.
Of course, in the NFL, a win is a win, whether it be by two points or 22 points. It counts in the standings the same and that's part of the reason the Ravens enter the game with a 6-2 record, the second best in the AFC and tops in the AFC North.
Surprising, despite this record and the standings, most analysts, be it the ones on TV and radio or the ones in front of their TV's, are just not sold on the Ravens being a playoff contender. They have been winning, but winning ugly. In order to return to the conversation about the best teams in the league with a shot at winning the Super Bowl, they do not only need to beat Oakland, but blow them out of the stadium and send them back across country with their collective tails between their legs.
A win similar to the season opening 44-13 blowout of the Cincinnati Bengals would be just what the doctor ordered. No more down-to-the-last-play victory this time, just an old-fashioned butt whipping. A return to dominance from the defense and a cool, calm and collected performance from the offense, specifically QB Joe Flacco. Control the trenches, put pressure on Raiders QB Carson Palmer, seeing the Terrell Suggs we all know and love from last season, and stuffing the run like this team has built its reputation on.
Protect Flacco so he has time to utilize one of the strongest arms in the game, open huge holes for Ray Rice to rack up the yardage and spread the ball around to the bevy of receivers the Ravens have accumulated to open up the passing game. Own the time of possession battle and when Baltimore gets the lead, put their foot on the throat of the Raiders and: Press. Down. Hard.
Yes, a win keeps the Ravens atop the division pending their battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers next week on the road. However, a dominating performance along with a blowout gives the team the respect it needs and the confidence to hold their heads up and go into Heinz Field next week with that chip on their shoulders that they had last year when they swept the Steelers.