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BALTIMORE – There's a natural, incorrect assumption one could make about the Baltimore Ravens' mindset heading into today's game against the winless Buffalo Bills. It goes something like this: Days removed from a bye week, the Ravens' suitcases are already packed. The plane tickets are booked for quick vacations to exotic locales.

And the Ravens are precariously poised to fall into the dangerous trap of overlooking a hapless team careening toward an unprecedented season of failure.

Of course, that would probably be an erroneous take on how the Ravens (4-2) are actually approaching this contest with the Bills (0-5) today at M&T Bank Stadium.

In the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens have hardly ever come up wanting against an inferior opponent. The Ravens are 13-1 against teams with losing records. Installed as 13-point favorites over Buffalo, the Ravens are 8-0 against teams when favored by double digits.

In the past three seasons, the Ravens have never lost to a team that didn't make the playoffs. "I just can't imagine our guys taking anybody for granted in this league," Harbaugh said. "Do we have a history of taking guys lightly here? I don't think we do. There are too many good players.

"We talked about it a couple of times. When you watch the tape, you see a good football team. In football, you recognize that. That's what we see, and that's what we're getting ready for." The Ravens have legitimate Super Bowl ambitions. To lose to a Bills team with its worst record in a quarter-century that cut starting quarterback Trent Edwards, unloaded running back Marshawn Lynch and had safety Donte Whitner label his team the "laughingstock of the National Football League," is practically unthinkable. That's why the Ravens are expected to take the Bills seriously.

"We know this is a must-win," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "Nobody's freaking out, but we think we have to win the game. If we don't, we've missed out on a huge opportunity. "If we head into the bye at 5-2, we're setting ourselves up pretty good. You go into the bye at 4-3, losing to Buffalo at home, you kind of have to start rethinking things."

The Bills have the NFL's worst run defense, allowing 182.4 yards on the ground per contest. And Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice has rushed for 221 yards over the past two games, darting around the field with his superior quickness and cutting ability. Is Rice primed for a breakout game? "You got to take it as a normal game," Rice said. "Those guys are professionals over there. Whenever a team plays against us, I try not to look their stats. They're playing for their jobs. Every week is different.

"We've got a lot of respect for them. I definitely look forward to the opportunity to play against them. Week in and week out, it's different. You never know who you're going to see. I'm sure they're going to play their butts off."

The Ravens have essentially scheduled the Bills for Homecoming, though They're bringing back the Super Bowl team to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the best team in franchise history.

The players and the coaches have nothing to do with that, but it does seem to indicate what the organization thinks of this week's opponent. "We prepare every week as if this is must-win game for us," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We understand that in this league, any team can be beaten in any week. We take every opponent very seriously. It doesn't matter if you have a winning record or not." Nonetheless, the Bills' defense is ranked 29th overall.

They've allowed 34 points or more in four consecutive games.

"They're trying to knock us off," fullback Le'Ron McClain said. "We've got to take it to the max." The offense is ranked 30th overall. And the Bills have been outscored 63-14 in the third quarter.

"I don't care what their record is," Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "You're talking about talent all the way across the board there on the Buffalo Bills." On paper, this should be an easy victory for the Ravens. Right?

"Even though they haven't won a game and are 0-5, they're still doing good things," offensive tackle Marshal Yanda said. "If we take them lightly, they could come in here and beat us. That's how close this league is. They're all grown men over there.

"We won't take them lightly and we'll be ready. All people do is look at their record and think they stink and we should kill them. That's not the case. They're hungry. They battled with New England. We can't relax against anybody." The Ravens are stinging from a 23-20 overtime loss to the New England Patriots where they squandered a 10-point fourth quarter lead. They figure to be sufficiently motivated. "We want to get a win before our bye week and have a good taste in our mouth before we go," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said.

Harbaugh, whose lone loss to a team with a losing record was a 15-10 defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals that was 0-1 at the time earlier this season, hasn't noticed any danger signs of not treating the Bills game with the proper amount of seriousness.

He called this one of the best weeks of practice the Ravens have had all season, possibly their best of the year. And he's expecting an emotional Bills team to provide a challenge today.

"I think they're going to be highly motivated," Harbaugh said. "They're very prideful. They've got a lot of guys that we just know their history as players and coaches. They're going to want to make a statement."


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