Baltimore coach John Harbaugh once asked suburban Washington fans to root for the Ravens during the playoffs. After all, many of them are Marylanders, too.

Sorry, but Washington Redskins fans weren't hitching a temporary postseason ride then, and they're sure not on Sunday when the teams meet at FedEx Field.

Past games weren't too contentious given no playoff implications. The two are in different conferences and only play every four years, so players don't feel the rivalry even if they are regional neighbors.

Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson, who played at Maryland, joked Washington already has enough NFC East rivals so no more feuds are needed. Guess he doesn't remember when the division was five teams instead of four.

But after a summer of the Nationals and Orioles reaching the playoffs that gave their two series some juice, the Redskins and Ravens now need to win for postseason hopes.

Baltimore may be 9-3, but injuries and a tough schedule make their two-game edge over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati with four games remaining no lock. Beating Washington combined with the latter two losing would clinch the AFC North, but a second straight loss would raise the tension level in Baltimore.

Washington, meanwhile, can't afford but maybe one more loss. The Redskins (6-6) have a chance to catch the New York Giants (7-5) for the NFC East or Seattle (7-5) for the final wild card, but finishing 10-6 would be far better for postseason chances than 9-7.

The rivalry isn't between teams, but fans. And maybe the owners. Redskins owner Dan Snyder once made the Ravens' bus park in a far away lot and sent Baltimore owner Art Modell a bill for lunch when visiting owners usually eat free. Current Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti isn't exactly friendly with Snyder, either.

The teams compete for suburban fans in between the cities much like the former Baltimore Colts instituted "Colts Corrals" fan clubs as close to Washington as Bowie. But it's not like there's fighting in the streets of Laurel between fans of the teams.

Forget this "Battle of the Beltways" nonsense. Baltimore fans worry about Pittsburgh. Washington backers hate Dallas.

This is for bragging rights in the standings more than the stands. Yet, the outcome means something to the public. There's always a little jealousy that spills over late-night drinks when the final insult is your team beating the other no matter the latter's success. Baltimore has won a Super Bowl since Washington took its third in 1991, but Redskins fans refuse to yield over which franchise is better.

There will be purple in the crowd on Sunday, but it will be surrounded by burgundy. Rookie sensation Robert Griffin III stopped Redskins fans dumping late-season tickets because there's something worth watching nowadays.

And maybe an old lunch tab to settle.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email