By Samuel Njoku
For 16 weeks, Baltimore has kept starters from playing based on injuries they’ve suffered throughout the season. On Sunday against the Bengals, their approach may not be quite as simple. The Ravens have locked up home field advantage in the wild card round of the tournament. The game against Cincinnati bears no major playoff implications. Though Harbaugh has firmly shot down this notion, it would be in their best interest to rest most of their starters in preparation for the first round of the postseason. Especially considering how close Baltimore is to full strength.
Marshall Yanda, G, (shoulder/knee): Questionable
Yanda played against the Giants last week and was a big reason why they were able to come away with the victory. But he has not practiced all week leading up to this game and is listed as questionable. This appears to be a case where Baltimore is giving Yanda extra time to rest in preparation for the playoffs. If this had been a big game, Yanda probably would have practiced most of the week.
Don’t expect Marshall Yanda to play in this game. The Ravens will rest him and most likely start Bobbie Williams in his place. This could bode trouble for Joe Flacco as Williams struggled when given the opportunity earlier this month.
Haloti Ngata, DT, (knee): Questionable
Another starter who didn’t practice all week is Haloti Ngata. And similar to Yanda, he played the majority of the game against the Giants. This is another case where Baltimore may be taking advantage of the luxury associated with clinching the division last week. Ngata has been battling with nagging injuries the majority of the year. There is no sense in risking further injury to Haloti given the situation. Had this been a playoff game, Ngata would start for sure. But given the circumstances, it would be a huge surprise if he played against the Bengals.
Anquan Boldin, WR, (shoulder): Questionable
Boldin suffered a shoulder bruise last week during the Ravens victory against the New York Giants. The veteran receiver was limited in practice all week and all signs point to him sitting this game out along with a few other banged up players. The Ravens will need him in the postseason for this team to be successful. And even though the chances of reinjuring the shoulder are minimal, Baltimore will play it safe and sit Boldin out.
Ray Lewis, LB, (triceps): Probable
The Ravens hoped to get Lewis back for the postseason when they placed him on IR back in October. Baltimore got their wish when he was activated earlier this week. Baltimore has listed him as probable for the game against Cincinnati. But don’t let the status fool you. They won’t risk the health of Lewis on a game that means little.
“We’ll look at him at the playoffs,” Harbaugh stated. “The fact that there was some patience on Ray’s part and our part, it turned out well.”
It has turned out quite well for Baltimore as they seem to be getting healthy at the right time.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.