AFC North Top 25: 11th-ranked player

The AFC North blog is continuing its series on the top 25 players in the division with No. 11:


Ravens linebacker

Why Lewis is ranked 11th: If the rankings were based on all-time impact, Lewis would unquestionably sit at No. 1. Because this is a projection for the 2012 season, Lewis is just outside of the top 10, which is pretty amazing considering he turned 37 in May. Lewis started off strong last season and was among the NFL's top inside linebackers in the first half of the 2011. Then, after missing four games with a toe injury, he seemed to wear down toward the end of the year.

There's no doubt that there will be times when Lewis will look like the best inside linebacker in football. The question is whether he can sustain that throughout a 16-game season. This shouldn't be considered a sign of disrespect. Few linebackers still play past the age of 35, and even fewer remain every-down linebackers. The statistic that epitomizes Lewis' impact is this: opponents have never averaged more than four yards per carry for an entire season against the Ravens in Lewis' 16 years in the NFL.