Baltimore Ravens DT Haloti Ngata Suspended: Could Alter NFC North Race


Oct 26, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens defensive end Haloti Ngata (92) knocks the ball away from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) as inside linebacker Daryl Smith (51) picks up the loose ball during the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, the Baltimore Ravens were just a breath behind the Cincinnati Bengals for the division lead in the NFC North, and they were widely considered a strong playoff team.  A crushing loss at home on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers was followed today with the news that Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been suspended for the rest of the regular season for the use of performance-enhancing substances.  The loss of Ngata makes an already tough road to the post-season look nearly impassible.  

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According to comments made by Ngata after the announcement of his suspension, Ngata admitted that he had taken Adderall.

A ninth-year pro out of Oregon, Ngata has maintained a high level of play and, as Jeff Zrebiec at the Baltimore Sun points out, has been masterful in drawing double teams this season.  Without his presence on the line, Brandon Williams may struggle in one-on-ones, and the Ravens’ linebacking core will be that much easier to block.

Now sitting a game-and-a-half off the division lead and having lost BOTH 2014 games to the top-dog Bengals, the Ravens face a final quarter that includes games at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, and road tilts against the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans.  Three of those teams are still fighting for playoff spots, and none of them will be easy outs.

It’s a bit early to write the Ravens’ requiem, but the division title looks like a pipe dream, and the Wild Card scrum is extremely crowded. Ngata’s mistake is one more ding in the Raven’s armor, and it just may be the one that takes them down for the count in 2014.