The Baltimore Ravens’ game against the winless Buffalo Bills bears watching for one primary reason — the pending return of star free safety Ed Reed.
Reed has been contributing to Ravens by cheering, cajoling and coaching his teammates from an unaccustomed vantage point — the sidelines. Now, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is on the verge of reprising his old role as a game-changing centerfielder for the Ravens’ aggressive defense.
The six-time Pro Bowl selection returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since undergoing offseason hip surgery. Although Reed remains on the physically unable to perform list, he’s eligible to be activated to play anytime over the next three weeks.
He’s expected to play Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I feel pretty good right now,” Reed said during the week. “It was definitely fun and different. The most important thing was, how can I get better and how can I help the team?”
A student of the game, Reed’s instincts and ability to diagnose quarterbacks’ intentions are unparalleled.
The six-time Pro Bowl selection has intercepted 46 career passes and scored a total of 13 touchdowns. As much as Reed missed his ball-hawking chess match against quarterbacks, he missed the camaraderie of being in the huddle even more.
“Just being around the guys on the field, it’s a totally different feeling being on the field,” Reed said. “Being in the walkthrough is a totally different feel. Just being part of the team, practicing and being out there, that’s something you really miss. And that’s what you enjoy when you get back.”
If the Ravens want to be cautious with Reed, they could opt to wait until after their bye week following the Buffalo game and get him ready for a Nov. 7 contest against the Miami Dolphins.
All signs, though, point toward Reed getting back on the field this Sunday.
Keys for the Ravens
• Quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown six touchdowns with one interception over the past four games. He completed 27-of-35 passes for two touchdowns against the New England Patriots last week. The Bills have allowed 11 touchdown passes and have picked off only one pass.
• Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice grinded out 88 yards against the Patriots. He should like playing against the Bills. They’re ranked last in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 182.4 yards per game. Rice has rushed for 221 yards over the past two games.
Keys for the Bills
• Perhaps the Bills will be angry and extra motivated about essentially being scheduled for homecoming. The Ravens are honoring their Super Bowl championship squad’s 10th anniversary during pregame and a halftime ceremony. Plus, middle linebacker Ray Lewis said after the loss to New England: “It’s going to be rough on Buffalo.”
• The Bills need to create turnovers and cover on defense. In particular, cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Terrence McGee need to shadow standout wide receiver Anquan Boldin. He has caught 32 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns.
• The Ravens should be able to handle the Bills fairly easily because of their superior personnel in key matchups. Ravens 24–7.