John Harbaugh has coached in plenty of high pressure games during his career and on Monday he’ll add another one to the list. Harbaugh is preparing the Ravens for their first home Monday Night Football game since 2007 and the first of his head coaching career.
“Monday Night Football, that’s kind of a big deal right?” Harbaugh joked as the Ravens held their first pregame press conference of the season. “It’s going to be a big challenge, we’re excited about it and we’re looking forward to it.”
For the Ravens, history says that winning their first game sets the tone for future success. Of the franchise’s eight postseason appearances, the Ravens have only made the playoffs once when not winning their first game.
Luckily for the Ravens, the odds are stacked in their favor. Harbaugh has been flawless during the first week of the season, winning the season opener in all four of his attempts as the Ravens’ head coach.
The stakes are even higher for the Ravens as they face a divisional foe in the Cincinnati Bengals, a team they swept in two meetings last season but who have a lot of young talent that is now a year more experienced.
“I know the Bengals are going to be ready for it, they’re fired up,” Harbaugh said. “They’re an excellent football team, one of the most talented young teams in the league.”
After the Ravens made their necessary cuts on Friday to get the roster down to 53 players, Harbaugh is happy with where the team stands.
“I think we’ve done everything we can do and we’re as good as we can be coming out of training camp,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve been in these games before and I think our guys will be very comfortable in that environment.”
With the regular season officially kicking off Wednesday when the Super Bowl champion New York Giants host the Dallas Cowboys, fans will be even more anxious to see the Ravens on Monday night after waiting nearly a week for their turn. For Harbaugh, it’s the preparation deadline that he’s had circled all offseason.
“You’ve got to be ready, it’s coming,” he said. “Time stops for no man. Monday night at 7 o’clock is going to be here and we’re going to have to be ready.
Regardless of the outcome of the game Monday night, the Ravens will have a shortened week to prepare for their first away game of the season when they travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles in week two. Even with the odds stacked against him for the next week, Harbaugh likes his team having the opportunity to host a game on Monday Night football.
“It’s worth it but definitely you’re at a disadvantage playing the next week, especially when you’ve got to go on the road,” said Harbaugh. “It’s just a statistical fact. We’ll have our hands full in that game and we’ll have our hands full in Philadelphia.
The road won’t get any easier for the Ravens, but a significant key to their (hopeful) future success will be to focus on this first game and get history on their side early.
If they can manage to start fast at 1-0, chances are that things will ultimately work out in their favor.