The Baltimore Ravens captured the AFC North Division title and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs with a 24-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on the final weekend of the regular season on Sunday.
With the victory, the Ravens (12-4) also secured the No. 2 seed in the AFC and will begin their postseason with a game at home, where they went undefeated all season.
“To win this division, and I think it is the best division in football, that’s a statement,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after his team won a division that includes the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Steelers and Bengals. “Our team swept the division and were undefeated at home.”
“This [division championship] is just one championship. There are two more we are shooting for, a conference championship and a world championship. That’s a tough road,” he added.
The Ravens finished with the same record as division rival Pittsburgh, but earned the division crown on a tiebreaker after beating the Steelers in their two meetings this season.
Baltimore’s Ray Rice opened the scoring with a 70-yard run in the first quarter and put the game away out of reach with a 51-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Despite the defeat, the Bengals (9-7) also advanced to the playoffs with a wild-card berth thanks to losses by the New York Jets and Denver Broncos.
“[The win] means a lot, it gives us that bye and a chance to get a little healthy and gives us a game in front of our home fans,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said.
“We haven’t won a division since I’ve been here and doing it the way we did going undefeated in the division that has three playoff teams is pretty impressive,” he said.