Sunday, November 20, 2011
Warm-up: Is Ray going to play?
By Jamison Hensley
Here's your game-day warm-up:
BALTIMORE -- Will Ray Lewis play today or will the Ravens linebacker miss his first game since 2007?
That's a big question heading into today's Bengals at Ravens game. There was a report that Lewis will be sidelined by a toe injury, but coach John Harbaugh said he wouldn't rule out Lewis because of his history of overcoming injuries. Lewis is officially questionable.
If Lewis can't play, the Ravens would go with Dannell Ellerbe. While the Ravens would miss Lewis' experience, Ellerbe has always had NFL starter talent but his work ethic has been a question mark. That would mean the Ravens' two starting inside linebackers (Ellerbe and Jameel McClain) are undrafted players.
Baltimore would have missed Lewis' leadership if this was a few years ago, but the Ravens are starting to rely on their next generation of leaders in Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.
As far as ESPN's expert picks, all but one selector had the Ravens over the Bengals. They were split over whether the Browns would beat the visiting Jaguars.
Here are some storylines heading into today's AFC North games:
- BENGALS: Who replaces Leon Hall? Cincinnati is expected to go with Kelly Jennings, who has good speed but can struggle against bigger receivers. Adam Jones will likely be the third cornerback. Another possibility to replace Hall is Brandon Ghee, who was promoted from the practice squad. He was a third-round pick a year ago and could work himself into some major playing time.
- BROWNS: The offense would get a big boost if running back Montario Hardesty can return from a calf injury. He is considered a game-time decision. Hardesty, who has starter ability, is a major upgrade from marginal NFL talents in Chris Ogbonnaya and Thomas Clayton.
- RAVENS: Tom Zbikowski could get a chance to replace struggling David Reed on kickoff returns. The Ravens are looking for someone who will take care of the ball after watching Reed fumble three times in the past two weeks. Chris Carr is another option.
- STEELERS: The Steelers are at their bye with a 7-3 record, the same mark they had last year when they advanced to the Super Bowl. "I wouldn't necessarily say I'm pleased," head coach Mike Tomlin said of the record. "I'd be pleased if we were 10-0, but we're not. We are what we are."