BALTIMORE — Knowing a win will clinch their second straight AFC North title, the Ravens face the tall order of knocking off the red-hot Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
A laundry list of injuries has depleted the defense as the Ravens try to beat opposing quarterback Peyton Manning for the first time since the 2001 season. Baltimore will be without inside linebackers Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, and Ray Lewis as well as starting strong safety Bernard Pollard, who missed practice all week with a rib injury.
Ellerbe tested his injured ankle on the field prior to the inactives list being released, but he struggled particularly when trying to back-pedal as he would need to do dropping into pass coverage. The fourth-year linebacker hasn’t played since suffering the injury against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 25.
James Ihedigbo is expected to start at strong safety in place of Pollard while Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan, and Brendon Ayanbadejo will share inside linebacker duties.
The injuries are beginning to mount on the offensive side of the ball as well as tight end Ed Dickson will miss his third straight game with a knee injury and Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda is out with a sprained ankle. Yanda missed practices all week and was still in a walking boot at the end of the week. Veteran Bobbie Williams will start at right guard, a position he’s played frequently over the course of his 13-year career.
On a positive note, Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs will return to action after suffering a torn right biceps in the loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago. The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year was regarded as a game-time decision, but he practiced fully on Thursday and Friday. How effective he’ll be against the Broncos offensive line will be the real question on Sunday afternoon.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith is also active for the first time since undergoing sports hernia surgery on Nov. 15. He has missed the Ravens’ last five games but practice with full participation all week.
While the Ravens haven’t bested Manning in 11 years, the Broncos have never beaten the Ravens in Baltimore in five tries, with one of those coming in the first postseason game in the history of the Ravens.
The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys and white pants while Denver will be dressed in white tops and white pants in Baltimore.
Here are Sunday’s inactives …
S Bernard Pollard
LB Dannell Ellerbe
LB Jameel McClain
G Marshal Yanda
TE Ed Dickson
OL Ramon Harewood
WR Deonte Thompson
QB Caleb Hanie
WR Andre Caldwell
CB Tracy Porter
RB Lance Ball
G Chris Kuper
TE Julius Thomas
NT Sealver Siliga
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