It's debatable whether the Baltimore Ravens need linebacker Ray Lewis to hurry back from his torn triceps injury. They're 4-1 without him and the defense has allowed an NFL-best 14.5 points the past four weeks.
What you can't dispute is Lewis is at his best when running the defense. His experience and film study allows him to anticipate what the offense will run, and Lewis tells his teammates where they should line up. There's a reason why Terrell Suggs refers to Lewis as "The General."
That's why it's timely that Lewis is expected to be back for the Dec. 16 game against the Broncos. Peyton Manning is constantly audibling at the line of scrimmage, and Lewis is perhaps the best defensive player who knows how to counter that. If you've ever watched Lewis versus Manning, they're constantly shouting and signaling before the ball is snapped. It's a very vocal chess match.
Even though the Ravens could wrap up a playoff berth and possibly the division with a win over the Steelers on Sunday, Baltimore still will have a lot to play for in the next month. There is motivation to have Lewis back in the regular season. A veteran team like the Ravens is seeking a top-two seed and a first-round bye. A game against the AFC West-leading Broncos could determine whether the Ravens are playing in the first round or getting a much-needed week off.