As Sly just noted, raging super badass Ed Reed might miss the first 6 games of this season. Glorious news. Football Outsiders mentions the remarkable amount of depth and good players the Ravens have on the defensive side of the ball, but that only goes so far. In fact, I think depth matters a whole lot less than generally thought.
Sure, you want to have as many talented players at all positions as possible but there are limitations to replacing player after player. At some point you are just screwed. Most great teams, in any sport, are leveraged to a few key people. Their success or failure will depend ultimately on those people alone.
For the Ravens, Ed Reed is one of those guys. Ray Lewis was too. On the offensive side, Ray Rice, their two young tackles and Flacco are probably the counterparts. Without any of those guys, the Ravens super bowl aspirations take a large hit.
If I told you Polamalu was out for the season, would the Steelers D intimidate you? Would you think their D could lead them to a Superbowl? Absolutely not.
For the Bengals, there is no planning for the loss of Carson Palmer. Or Mike Zimmer. Or the absence of Marvin Lewis to run the Bengals like a real organization. The Bengals are leveraged to those three guys. And there is not much hope without them.
This isn't a bad thing. It's just reality. I doubt Colts or Pats fans get upset that they depend solely on the health of Manning and Brady. Most any fan would love to be in their shoes.
Realistically, there is only so much depth can do. Even the injury to Kendrick Perkins probably made the marginal difference that swung game 7 of the NBA finals to the Lakers. I'm sure many of you don't even know who Kendrick Perkins is. But yes, even the loss of a decent NBA center on a team with pretty deep front court couldn't survive the loss of that guy for one game.
This is all just a long-winded way of me saying Ed Reed matters. A lot. And his absence, if it occurs, will be a big boost for the Bengals.