Leaders can't be replaced just like that. It just doesn't happen that way on a good team and especially where someone's been a leader for almost 17 years.
That's what Ray Lewis has been on the Baltimore defense, and now that he's gone for the season, the Ravens need someone to step up.
Here's guessing that this opens the door for someone like Jameel McClain to step in. McClain played very well when Lewis missed four games last year. The defense was stronger last season, but if McClain can do now what he did then, he'll go a long way towards helping the Ravens wake up on defense.
This defense needs someone to be the player that everyone looks to because, if nothing else, that's what Lewis did so well. He put everyone in the right spots, got them doing the right things. That's just as important as making big plays. If someone is in the place they're supposed to be in, then it can help make it harder for opposing teams to find their own big plays.
It's something that doesn't show up on a stats sheet, but every team needs it.
McClain is starting to blossom in that way. The more he plays, the better he gets. Plus, McClain now knows that the job is his for the rest of this season. He's not coming out -- unless injured -- so he's got the time to kind of learn on the fly. The Ravens need him to settle into the job fast.
Game 1 for the depleted defense comes this weekend against a Houston team that's going to be ticked after Green Bay embarrassed them last week. That's not good for the Ravens. Baltimore did play them twice last year and should remember a few things.
The biggest thing the Ravens will need Sunday is for McClain and others to help the defense stay somewhat stable. How far that can be taken is anybody's guess.
Their record and performance over the last month may not show it, but the Baltimore Ravens are just one game out of the No. 6 playoff spot in the AFC.
The Kansas City Chiefs (9-1), Los Angeles Chargers (7-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2), New England Patriots (7-3), Houston Texans (6-3), Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), Tennessee Titans (5-4) and the Miami Dolphins (5-5) all rank above the Ravens. But a win Sunday against the Bengals would push the Ravens to the No. 6 spot as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Titans.
Beside remaining in playoff contention, a win Sunday is crucial considering head coach John Harbaugh's job is in question with his team sitting at 4-5, quarterback Joe Flacco is reportedly dealing with a hip injury and the possibility of rookie Lamar Jackson getting his first NFL start.
After getting blown out 51-14 by the Saints, the Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday. Cincinnati's defense ranks last in the league in passing yards allowed (313.3) and total yards allowed (454.6). A rested Ravens team will have to take advantage of the first team in the Super Bowl era to surrender 500 yards in three straight games as they are among five teams within one game of the final wildcard spot.
Getting shutout by the Bengals this season would give Andy Dalton and co. a two-game lead over the Ravens as well as possessing the tiebreaker.
According to the New York Times' NFL Playoff Simulator, the Ravens have a 27% chance of making the playoffs heading into Week 11 with their remaining strength of schedule ranking at No. 27.
After hosting the Bengals on Sunday, the Ravens host the Oakland Raiders (1-7), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) and Cleveland Browns (3-6), but have tough road games against the Atlanta Falcons (4-5), Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) and Los Angeles Chargers (7-2).
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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III is the team's nominee for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.
Presented annually by USAA and the NFL, the award honors a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.
The Robert Griffin III Foundation supports Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), that helps aid those grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military; Luke's Wings, which united wounded warriors, veterans and heroes with their loved ones; and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, that helps ensure injured veterans and their families are thriving when they return home.
Griffin III was born in Okinawa, Japan where his parents were stationed as U.S. Army sergeants. The quarterback spent time living in Fort Carson, Colorado, Seoul, Korea and Fort Hood, Texas as a military kid. His family then settled in Cooperas Cove, Texas, an hour drive from Baylor University where Griffin III attended college.
Finalist for the award will be announced in January. The recipient will be recognized at the NFL Honors award show Saturday, Feb. 2, on the eve of Super Bowl LIII.
RGIII's head coach, John Harbaugh, received the honor in 2013.
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