Ravens to field sub-par defense without Lewis or Webb
After more than a decade of sheer dominance, the Ravens' defense has been uncharacteristically struggling this season, and the fact that outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has been sidelined all season with an Achilles injury has certainly played a part in that. Unfortunately, they will now be without two more of their top playmakers on defense for an extended period of time.
Their top cover cornerback, Lardarius Webb, has been confirmed to have a torn left ACL and is an extreme long shot to return to action at any point this season. It's a tough spell of bad luck for a player who tore his right ACL back in 2009. Recently signed to $53 million contract, the Ravens made it obvious that they highly value Webb's presence. The league's 23rd ranked pass defense now loses its top cover man, which will make it very tough for them to improve on their low ranking.
The more troublesome blow is the loss of future Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who doctors believe will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn triceps. Though he's believed to have avoided a full tear of the muscle, doctors still fear that the tear is too deep to recover by season's end. Lewis has been noted by many to be in a state of decline this season, but he still leads the Ravens in tackles by a large margin and brings an intangible presence to the heart of the defense that simply can't be described. The Ravens' 26th ranked run defense (though they do rank 13th in opponent yards per carry) has lost its MVP.
On a lesser note, the Ravens' best defensive lineman, Haloti Ngata, is awaiting a second opinion on his sprained knee, though the Baltimore Sun reported that it "isn't expected to sideline him."
The Ravens' defense has not been close to what we're used to seeing so far this season, as they're ranked 26th in total defense. However, they have done a good job of bending and not breaking, ranking 11th in scoring defense, but how much more can they bend?
The loss of a top linebacker and top cornerback could allow opponents to put that little bit of extra pressure on the Ravens to break them, and that may result in big numbers on the scoreboard. A bad Ravens defense sounds as fictional as Harry Potter, but it just may become a reality with the injuries they're facing.
Remember the days of benching the running back you selected in the first round of your fantasy draft because he was going up against the Ravens? Those days are very much over. The Cowboys, 21st in the league in rushing, absolutely mauled the Ravens on the ground, racking up 227 rushing yards. When was the last time Felix Jones had a good game? He came in for 92 yards and a touchdown on only 18 carries. Most of that damage was done while Ray Lewis was still on the field.
The Ravens aren't just a matchup that you should no longer fear in fantasy - they're a matchup you can look forward to. It's a strange change for a defense that was consistently ruthless and dominant for over a decade.