Reed's suspension is tough hit to Ravens

Ed Reed's repeated shots to the head and neck area of defenseless players have resulted in a tough blow for the Ravens. The one-game suspension of Reed comes when the Ravens can't afford to lose another valuable starter in their secondary.

Baltimore is already without two of its top three cornerbacks: Lardarius Webb (season-ending knee injury) and Jimmy Smith (sidelined for five weeks after having groin surgery). Now the Ravens might have to face Philip Rivers and the Chargers' deep passing attack without their eight-time Pro Bowl safety.

This is exactly what the Ravens don't need during their most challenging three-game stretch of the season. Sandwiched in between their grudge matches against the Steelers, the Ravens are going cross-country this week while trying to maintain a two-game lead over Pittsburgh in the AFC North race and a one-game advantage for the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

Reed plans to appeal the NFL's suspension, and the team expects to hear a decision by Wednesday. If Reed is out, the Ravens will go against Rivers just one year after he threw for 270 yards and averaged 15.8 yards per completion against them. With James Ihedigbo or Sean Considine roaming deep instead of the dangerous Reed, the Chargers likely will test Baltimore's depleted secondary.

It's hard to believe that Reed will win his appeal because this is his third strike. According to the league, Reed has been fined twice previously for hitting a player in the head and neck area: $10,000 in 2010 for striking Saints quarterback Drew Brees and $21,000 two months ago for hitting Patriots receiver Deion Branch. Reed was flagged for unnecessary roughness Sunday night for a hit on Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

For some reason, Reed has chosen to take shots high on players instead of wrapping them up. He had been criticized earlier this season for not being aggressive in tackling. Reed later hinted that a torn labrum in his shoulder might have been affecting his play. Because he wasn't listed on the injury report, the NFL fined the Ravens $20,000 for violating rules.

That fine is extremely minor compared to this latest incident. Reed will be docked one game check, which will cost him $423,529. But considering the state of the secondary, the loss of Reed is more costly to the Ravens at this point in the playoff race.