The Baltimore Ravens are entering a season without Ray Lewis for the first time in their franchise history. In the previous 17 seasons with Lewis, the Ravens grabbed 14 playoff wins, two Super Bowl trophies, and nine playoff appearances. It’s safe to say the Ravens were an elite team in the NFL over that time – and still are – but can the Ravens win in the playoffs in the 2013 season without Lewis? Yes they can, but it will have to be a collective effort more than ever.
During the regular season since 2006, the Ravens have been well-equipped to handle their business without Lewis. Over the last eight seasons, the Ravens have a record of 12-6 without Lewis during the regular season which is pretty impressive. But the problem is, the Ravens haven’t experienced a playoff game without Lewis.
I have always said in recent years that the Ravens are used to playing without Lewis during the regular season because he has been nicked with injuries so it isn’t foreign territory. So the problem for me was the fact that Lewis needed to play in the playoffs if the Ravens wanted to knock out elite quarterbacks in the AFC like Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. Lewis always stepped his game up in the playoffs, no matter what. It is always the little things that helps teams advance, and Lewis provided a lot of that. If we are going to see any major impact of Lewis leaving the Ravens, we will see it in the playoffs.
The intelligence Lewis had in his career could never be understated. He is the defensive version of Manning and Brady. He can play a chess-match with the best of them. That is the challenge the Ravens will face when they make a playoff run.
But I expect players like outside linebacker Terrell Suggs,and nose tackle Haloti Ngata to pick up the slack, take what they learned from Lewis, and translate it on the field.