The Baltimore Ravens are one of just two teams in the AFC with a winning record after the first six weeks of the regular season.
That's where the good news ends in Baltimore. Because the Ravens will have to play the next 10 games and perhaps the postseason without defensive playmakers Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb, who have both been lost for the season to a triceps and ACL injury, respectively.
Both were injured in Baltimore's 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6.
Losing their best cornerback for the year is certainly terrible news, considering the Ravens rank just 22nd defending the pass this season, but by far the most devastating loss is that of Lewis, who has been the heart and soul of the Ravens franchise for nearly two decades since he was drafted in 1996.
Here we examine which aspects of the Baltimore Ravens defense will be impacted most by Ray Lewis' season-ending injury.
Although most will argue that the loss of Lardarius Webb on the outside is the most crippling to Baltimore's defense and Super Bowl hopes in 2012, the loss of Ray Lewis for the year is almost a death sentence for the Ravens' run defense.
Even with Lewis at middle linebacker, Baltimore ranked just 26th in the league defending the run, giving up more than 136 yards on the ground per week. They even surrendered a franchise-record 227 rushing yards to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6.
Now defensive coordinator Dean Pees must find a way to improve Baltimore's atrocious rush defense without its leading tackler on the field. Lewis' 57 tackles this season are 14 more than any other Ravens defender in 2012.
Expect interior linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain to step up in Lewis' absence. Their tackling numbers should increase with more opportunities, but that doesn't guarantee the quality of run defense will improve in Charm City.
Ray Lewis is the poster child for both leadership and motivation. From his pregame speeches to his constant communication on defense, there isn't a single NFL fan out there who doesn't get riled up listening to Ray Lewis talk about football or life.
Lewis has been inspiring teammates for 17 seasons in Baltimore, and he's helped players like Adalius Thomas and Jim Leonhard reach their full potential and ultimately earn top contracts with other teams.
Although the 2012 Ravens will hear plenty from No. 52 on the sideline and in the locker room as the season wears on, they will surely miss Lewis' boisterous voice out on the field on Sundays. It struck fear into the opposition and gave Baltimore's defenders a sense of invincibility.
Whether its Lewis' experience and direction or his simple motivational tactics to get the most out of each and every player on both sides of the ball, his intangibles will be missed perhaps more than what he brings to the field physically.
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