Baltimore Ravens Are Priming Themselves for Their Best Game of the Season

Stephen GillamContributor IIIOctober 18, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 14: Running back Felix Jones #28 of the Dallas Cowboys scores a touchdown in front of  Bernard Pollard #31 and Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on October 14, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

If you're a fan of the Baltimore Ravens, you've got to be wondering if things can possibly get any worse.

To start the season, Terrell Suggs tears his Achilles tendon. That's a tough break for a hard-working player who doesn't spend his preseasons on the couch putting back donuts.

Beloved defensive co-ordinator Chuck Pagano packed up and left for Indianapolis, taking Cory Redding (and others) with him. Seriously, trust Baltimore to find something amazing only for Indianapolis to steal it.

To make things worse, there was the small matter of Jarrett Johnson leaving in free agency.

Within the last week, and as you've no doubt been thoroughly saturated with, Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb are now out for the season with injuries.

Throw in Haloti Ngata not practising and you have six out of the Ravens' 11 best defenders from last year either not playing or not at 100 percent.

Actually, make that seven. Ed Reed has apparently been playing with a torn muscle in his shoulder, though he won't say which one.

This got me thinking: just how seriously is he really hurt?

What I will say is that the timing of his announcement is peculiar, to say the least. Think about it from Reed's perspective: if your shoulder is a weakness, why would you go public with it a few days before what could be the most important game of the regular season?

Now take a few seconds and think about how Matt Schaub must be receiving the news. One of the Ravens' best defensive players still standing is hobbled.

The Texans' plan is probably going to involve rather a lot of Arian Foster, but I think Ed Reed is daring Schaub to air the ball out and attempt some big passing plays, but more importantly to drift ever-so-slightly away from their potent running game (and possibly away from a banged-up Ngata).

Gary Kubiak will be wanting Foster to receive a lot of carries, but Schaub must surely be tempted to try a few big passes and test out Reed's shoulders.

Even if Reed isn't busting out his jedi powers, he's creating his own headlines. And let's be honest, the team would much rather see media speculation about his shoulder than pundits talking about how their season is finished.

It's not like it's the first time he's done this, either.

Shortly before last season's AFC Championship Game, he publicly criticised Joe Flacco in a move that received mixed reviews.

Some were disgusted by the lack of faith shown in his quarterback, but others said he was giving Flacco the motivation to have a big game.

Reed's a smart man, and if he feels his shoulder injury might cost his team the game then the last thing he'll do is advertise the fact.

Another Raven making big headlines is Bernard Pollard, who said the team "should be pissed off" about how their last three games have gone and challenged the defense to improve their performances.

Ngata issued the same challenge, labelling the run defense "disgusting."

What I'm reading into all of these comments, and the interesting silence of the offense, is focus.

These guys aren't stupid. They're veterans who have chosen strong words they know journalists will pick up and run with (and it worked on me), and a few days before an especially big game.

The reality is that they're not happy about the way they've played, and they want the rest of the NFL to realise that.

Watch for the Ravens to rally around their injured teammates and to bring a new level of intensity to Houston when they take the field.

Psychologically, this is their year. Ray Lewis wants to go out a champion. Ed Reed deserves a ring, and the team knows it. Better yet, they can do it all for the late Art Modell.

They're hit by injuries, to the extent that no-one gives them a chance this week. This week, they're the biggest underdogs they've been since last year's Championship Game against the Patriots

This game against the Texans is the most important game of the season for both teams, and the Ravens have been underwhelming in the last three weeks.

My big call for the week is that we will see the best game out of this Ravens team that we will see until the post-season. Will that be enough to head into the bye week at 6-1?

I honestly have no idea. All I can say is stay tuned.


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