Ravens' playoff keys
During the Ravens' three-game skid, the defense ran into a lot of problems in a lot of ways. They've done better in the season's final two games.
The big question now is if the defense can be tough again in Sunday's Wild Card playoff game versus the Colts at home. A solid effort on defense would take a lot of pressure off the offense, which also is looking to find its way.
Even though the Ravens rested many key players on defense in yesterday's loss to the Bengals, the defense kept Cincinnati quiet for much of the 23-17 loss. The Cincinnati offense scored 16 points -- the team's other seven more came on an interception return for a touchdown -- and the Bengals didn't move the ball well on a regular basis.
The Indianapolis offense should give the Ravens more of a test on defense. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck's had a great first season, directing an offense that's proved much more dangerous than people expected.
For coach John Harbaugh's Ravens, the question is which players will or might be available on defense. The Ray Lewis situation will be up in the air probably until game time. Terrell Suggs should have a chance to play, and he has yet to play with Lewis this season.
Dannell Ellerbe looked in pain during Sunday's game but made it through and has been one of the defense's top players recently. Ed Reed will be in and should give the Ravens a big lift.
Injuries have really crippled the Ravens on defense, so they've needed younger and more inexperienced players to step up throughout the second half of the season. Several younger players have done just that. The question now is what can happen in the post-season.