The Return of Ray Lewis?
The 9-4 Baltimore Ravens head home to face their longtime enemy, Peyton Manning, who is now with the 10-3 Denver Broncos.
Over the first few games, the Ravens had very few players on the injury report, and when they were, they were probable. Now, the entire team, especially the defense, has been ravaged by injuries. On the offensive side, All-Pro G Marshal Yanda is questionable with a sprained ankle. If he can’t go, then veteran Bobbie Williams is expected to take his place. Another All-Pro, FB Vonta Leach is questionable with an ankle injury. Backup TE Ed Dickson is doubtful again this week with a knee injury. The defensive side is much worse. The top three ILBs either out of questionable. Star ILB Ray Lewis will be talked about later on, but Dannell Ellerbe is questionable after missing the last two games and Jameel McClain has already been ruled out. If none of these three can play, the Ravens will be left with a player who started the season on the practice squad, Josh Bynes, a 36 year old career special teamer, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and an OLB in Albert McClellan. Interestingly, none of these three were drafted, but then again, Ellerbe and McClain are also undrafted. Reigning defensive player of the year, Terrell Suggs, is questionable, again, after missing last week with a torn bicep. Starting S Bernard Pollard is questionable with a rib injury and hasn’t been able to practice all week. Backup James Ihedigbo will take over if Pollard can’t play. Ihedigbo was cut by the Patriots after training camp this year. Lastly, CB Jimmy Smith is questionable with a sports hernia that he had surgery for after the November 4th game against the Browns. Overall, that is more starters who are out or questionable, 7, than the entire Broncos injury report, 5.
2. Joe Flacco
There are two reasons to watch Flacco on Sunday. The first is to see how he plays under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. Caldwell has said he won’t change much at all. He also has a better relationship with Flacco than Cam Cameron did. The second reason to watch Flacco is to see how he plays against Peyton Manning. With how banged up the Ravens defense is, Flacco will have to bring his “A” game to give the Ravens a chance against the Broncos. Over the last 7 games, Flacco only has two games with more than 200 passing yards. To complicate matters more, the Broncos rank 7th in the NFL in pass yards per game allowing only 216 per game. They also rank 11th in the NFL is opposing QB rating, with 80.5. I can see Flacco having a big game against the Broncos now that he has Caldwell as his offensive coordinator. However, I can also see him struggling against this tough Broncos defense.
3. Offensive Tackles
Another thing that the Broncos defense excels at, is rushing the passer. They rank tied for 2nd in the NFL with 39 sacks. A whopping 16 of these come from OLB Von Miller. That is 41% of their sacks. The Ravens have allowed 31 sacks this year, which ties them for 18th best in the NFL. To complicate matters even more, the Ravens offensive tackles have struggled recently. Rookie RT Kelechi Osemele has given up 1 sack over the last 2 games. Michael Oher, the LT, has been part of 3 turnovers in the last 2 games. In the Steelers game, he gave up a strip sack which led to the Steelers tying the game. He also allowed pressure on an INT that game. In the Redskins game, he also gave up a strip sack which gave the Redskins the ball around midfield. They will both have their hands full with Miller. Miller switches sides a lot so there is no way to say who he will be facing for most of the game. All we know is that if Miller isn’t blocked, the Ravens will have a long day.
4. Ray Lewis
As of right now, nobody knows if Lewis play. For him to be able to, he must be activated from the IR/Designated the Return List. Due to this, he isn’t listed on the injury report but, if he was, he would be listed as questionable. Normally, I would say the Ravens shouldn’t let him play as they will need him healthy for the playoffs. However, the Ravens have lost their 2 games and have looked awful recently. The return of Ray could give the team a boost. Another thing is the depth the Ravens have at ILB. As stated above, the two player who have started at ILB with Lewis gone, are out and questionable. Lastly, the Ravens won’t want a very inexperienced Josh Bynes to be the person matching up against Peyton Manning in audibles. This would be a complete mismatch. While Lewis hasn’t beaten Manning much, he has always been able to keep up with Manning’s audibles and knows exactly what defense to go to based off of Manning’s calls. In the end, nobody knows if Lewis will play, but he is exactly what the Ravens need right now.