AFC North notebook: Ravens missing stars Lewis, Reed
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Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs is arguably the most disruptive defensive player to oppose the Steelers in the past 30 years. Since the sack became an official statistic in 1982, Suggs' 131⁄2 sacks against Pittsburgh are the most of any opposing player. Former Oilers star Ray Childress had 121⁄2.
Despite getting seven sacks from Suggs and five from Elvis Dumervil, the Super Bowl champion Ravens (3-3) are experiencing an up-and-down season without franchise icons Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, plus playmaking wide receiver Anquan Boldin, partly because running back Ray Rice (197 yards, 2.8 average) is having a bad season.
What's not happening for the Ravens?
“Everything,” Suggs said. “Sometimes it seems like we're missing some pieces here and there. At other times, it seems like we can be one of the best teams in the NFL.”
Browns' Sheard to return
The Browns (3-3) expect the return of Jabaal Sheard (knee) to give them again one of the best pass-rushing units.
Sheard, Paul Kruger and rookie Barkevious Mingo have been productive while rotating at outside linebacker. Before missing three games, Sheard — the former Pitt star — had 11⁄2 sacks, a forced and recovered fumble, a pass knockdown and 15 tackles.
Sheard is making a quick transition from a standup 4-3 end into a 3-4 outside linebacker.
“He's picked it up a lot quicker than I expected or we expected,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I think he was playing at a good level before he was injured. … I think Jabaal being back is going to help all of us and all of these guys.”
The Browns are trying to win their fourth in five games.
The Bengals (4-2) are in sole possession of the AFC North lead, in part, because of their offensive balance.
Six receivers are on pace to reach at least 500 yards, led by A.J. Green (464 yards), and running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis (295 yards) and Giovani Bernard (2 rushing TDs, 2 receiving TDs) are having productive if not big-yardage seasons.
“That's what you want,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “That's the balance that you see the great offensive football teams have, the fact you don't need one guy to have superior numbers.”
The winner of the Bengals-Lions game Sunday will emerge with a 5-2 record. The Bengals are trying for their second 5-2 start in three seasons.
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