A DIFFERENT DEFENSE

The Baltimore Ravens defense doesn't look much like the one that manhandled the Dolphins in last year's playoffs, but they have surprised many with their ability to remain competitive despite of lot of personnel loss.

On Sunday, the Ravens defense will have no more than three starters who also were in the starting lineup for last year's playoff game.

One is linebacker Ray Lewis, who is expected to return after missing a month because of a shoulder injury. Another is cornerback Chris McAlister, who was downgraded from questionable to doubtful on Friday. The last is outside linebacker Peter Boulware.

Gone are Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa, Brad Jackson, Jamie Sharper, Duane Starks, Corey Harris, Rod Woodson and Rob Burnett, who is now with the Dolphins.

"They still have a strong defense," said guard Jamie Nails. "It's still one of the best in the league. They'll be ready to play this week. They have some young guys that have come into their own."

But the Baltimore defense always centers around Ray Lewis, the former University of Miami star.

"If they have No. 52 in there, he's a game-changer," said tackle Mark Dixon. "There's not a lot of them in this league. When he's in there, they're a Super Bowl defense. He's that good. There a few guys in the league you can't replace, and he's one of them. There's an aura about him. It's a UM thing. He raises their level."

The Ravens stand at 4-5, which puts them in the thick of the playoff race in the AFC, a conference where no team has a record better than 6-3.


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