The Ravens are a better defense with Ray Lewis in the middle of it. But Baltimore can win without him.
That might sound strange after the Ravens gave up 483 yards to the Bengals in their first game without Lewis since 2007. Most of those yards, however, came from Andy Dalton playing catch with his receivers on the outside. Lewis would have had a minimal impact on those plays other than dropping back into coverage over the middle or blitzing.
Lewis' influence is felt mostly in the running game. With Dannell Ellerbe filling in, the Ravens limited the Bengals to four yards per carry. The only time you thought that Baltimore missed Lewis was on Cedric Benson's first touchdown run, which came right through the spot usually occupied by the 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
The Ravens can play strong defense with Ellerbe, who lacks experience but has NFL starter ability. Ellerbe was injured Sunday, which limited his play, but he should be ready for Thursday.
The Ravens' next generation of leaders -- Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata -- can also fill the void until Lewis returns. Plus, Lewis isn't ever far away. He was almost standing on the field giving instructions during Sunday's game.
Baltimore has had success without Lewis in the past and are 4-1 in the past five games without him.
How long will he be out? Coach John Harbaugh won't say.
When a reporter asked if Lewis would play Thursday, Harbaugh replied, “Is that something I really want to share right now, you think? Would there be any value in me doing that?”
STAT THAT STICKS: Ray Rice has rushed more than 100-yards in game 11 times in his career. The Ravens are 9-2 in those games, including Sunday's win over the Bengals.
OVERHEARD: "We're 7-3, and if we were to pick three teams we were to lose to, we probably would have picked those three teams. You don't like to hear that, you don't like to look at it that way, but the bottom line is you've got to put those losses in the past and move on. We've played good football this year, and we've got to continue to do that." -- Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in assessing the season.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Ravens play the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, where they have won seven straight games (second-longest current streak behind the Packers).