Ike's Island  

 

Ravens under pressure vs. Steelers; Sherman tops CB ranks

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Ike Taylor is no stranger to being on an island. The former Steelers cornerback helped Pittsburgh win two Super Bowls during his 12-year career. In this series, Taylor will feature one pertinent cornerback on "Ike's Island," where he breaks down the player's on-field play and significance heading into the coming week. In addition, he lists his updated top-10 cornerback rankings.

Featured on Ike's Island this week ...

Baltimore Ravens' secondary

Next up: at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Another Steelers-Ravens classic is on the way, with playoff implications and a Christmas Day atmosphere adding to the hype. On the legs of Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers have worked their way to the top of the AFC North, but they have lost six of their last seven games against Baltimore. For the Ravens to walk out of Heinz Field with a win, their secondary must outplay the Steelers' potent offense. Baltimore began its second straight week of practice without top cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle), so it looks like it will again rely on Shareece Wright, Tavon Young and Jerraud Powers. This trio has given up 12 touchdowns this season.

The Ravens are stout against the run, so the 10th-ranked passing defense must continue to improve. This group must be aware of where Antonio Brown and Eli Rogers are on the field. It must contain Brown, who is four receptions shy of his fourth straight season with at least 100 catches, by playing close. It will be essential for Wright, Young and Powers, along with safeties Lardarius Webb and Eric Weddle, to play technically sound and tackle well throughout the game to keep the team's playoff hopes alive.

Week 16 cornerback rankings: My top 10

1) Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks (Last week's ranking: 2)

Next up: vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET on Saturday.

It's been a two-man battle at the top of this list, and another swap ensued following Week 15. Richard Sherman, who was named to the Pro Bowl earlier in the week, balled out Sunday against the Rams as he allowed two receptions for 39 yards on eight targets. Without safety Earl Thomas, Sherman knows how well he must play for Seattle's defense. He absolutely deserves to be in this spot at this stage of the season. He has the third-lowest passer rating allowed in coverage (58.1) among defensive backs this season.

The Seahawks face a struggling Arizona Cardinals offense -- one that just let go of receiver Michael Floyd -- at home. Sherman will probably stay on the left side of the defense and won't check any one receiver in this game. The shutdown corner looks to be better than he was in Week 7 against Arizona as he gave up five receptions for 104 yards.

2) Adam Jones, Cincinnati Bengals (Last week's ranking: 4)

Next up: at Houston Texans, 8:25 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Jones had an impressive outing against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers last week in allowing two receptions for 16 yards on four targets and recording two passes defensed. The defensive version of Steve Smith, Jones plays technically sound and plays great situational football.

Against the Texans, he's going to have to play tight coverage against DeAndre Hopkins. Other than Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown, Nuk has the most natural hands in the NFL. Jones can't go for interceptions or gamble on plays, because not only can Hopkins catch the ball in traffic, but he can win the jump ball, as well.

3) Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals (Last week's ranking: 1)

Next up: at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Peterson had a pedestrian day in the loss to the Saints, as he gave up his third touchdown of the season. He's still a top-three cornerback, but giving up touchdowns comes at a price. He's got a chance to bounce back against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on Saturday. I don't think Peterson is going to follow Doug Baldwin, but when the two do face each other, it's going to be important for Peterson to plaster, because Wilson is always looking downfield when he scrambles.

4) Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos (Last week's ranking: 5)

Next up: at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Harris has been playing good ball -- allowing one catch for 6 yards in Week 15 -- by challenging and playing close to receivers. He doesn't have any wasted movement in and out of breaks, which will help this week against rookie speedster Tyreek Hill. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith likes to get his offense in a rhythm, so it's imperative that Harris disrupts the rhythm by pressing the Chiefs' receivers.

5) Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs (Last week's ranking: 3)

Next up: vs. Denver Broncos, 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Like Peterson, Peters had a sluggish Week 15. He gave up 102 yards on four receptions -- 86 of those yards going to Rishard Matthews -- against the Titans. He was out of position several times and paid the price. After the hearbreaking loss, the Chiefs have a chance to win their final regular-season home game against the Broncos. Denver's offense has struggled with Trevor Siemian under center, and I predict Peters' eight-game stint without an interception will end Sunday.

6) Terence Newman, Minnesota Vikings (Last week's ranking: 6)

Next up: at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The Vikings' defense uncharacteristically struggled against the Colts. But their veteran cornerback continues to be a bright spot week in and week out. He gave up just two catches for 8 yards and has yet to surrender a touchdown in coverage in his 14th NFL season. Minnesota isn't officially eliminated from the playoff hunt, but the Vikings have a big challenge Saturday when they travel to Lambeau Field to face a red-hot Aaron Rodgers. It's going to be essential for Newman and the Vikings to plaster when Rodgers scrambles and keep the Packers from getting in a rhythm.

7) Josh Norman, Washington Redskins (Last week's ranking: 9)

Next up: at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Norman put up a solid performance against his old team Monday night, but his defense was ultimately outplayed by the Panthers. Norman gave up three catches for 32 yards on five targets against Cam Newton. Since his midseason lull, Norman has gradually stepped his game up. The Redskins need him to continue to play well against the Bears this week if they want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

8) Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos (Last week's ranking: 8)

Next up: at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Talib isn't the only one who's upset about Denver's offensive performance against the Patriots. The Broncos held Tom Brady to 16 points and still lost. Talib gave up four receptions for 44 yards in the loss, and he will have to play well again this week to keep the Broncos in the playoff hunt. The keys for Talib against the Chiefs will be tackling when covering Tyreek Hill and winning the jump ball against Jeremy Maclin.

9) Johnathan Joseph, Houston Texans (Last week's ranking: 7)

Next up: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 8:25 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Joseph suffered two cracked ribs and a bruised lung in Houston's Dec. 4 game in Green Bay, and he hasn't seen the field since. He's optimistic, though, about playing this week against Cincinnati. The Texans need him, as they're in a tight division race. Star receiver A.J. Green also plans to play for the Bengals after sitting out with a hamstring injury. Joseph can be a huge factor for the Texans' defense -- if his health allows him to be.

10) Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (Last week's ranking: 10)

Next up: at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:25 p.m. ET on Thursday.

It looks like Jenkins will be a game-time decision after he was knocked out of last week's win with a back injury. He has been an instrumental part of the most improved defense in the NFL. Jenkins has allowed a 58.1 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks when targeted this season. That's down from 80.7 last season when he was with the Rams. If Jenkins can go against the Eagles, look for him to keep being a terror in the secondary.

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Casey Hayward, San Diego Chargers; Brent Grimes, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Bradley Roby, Denver Broncos; William Gay, Pittsburgh Steelers; Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars.

Follow Ike Taylor on Twitter @Ike_SwagginU.

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