GAME SNAPSHOT: Chiefs/Ravens
2006 RANKINGS: Ravens: offense 23rd (24th rush, 16th pass); defense 1st (2nd rush, 9th pass). Chiefs: offense 13th (6th rush, 19th pass); defense 14th (14th rush, 15th pass)
PREDICTION: Chiefs, 17-16
KEYS TO THE GAME: If the Ravens can contain RB Larry Johnson, they should be able to shut down the Chiefs' offense, which relies heavily on play-action. Kansas City also knows it can't get stuck in long passing situations and hope to protect QB Trent Green against Baltimore's
fast and aggressive blitz packages. But Johnson has produced against some of the league's best run defenses this season, so Green should be able to count on support from his ground game. The Ravens' offense looked tired in a Nov. 30 loss in Cincinnati, but will have three extra days of rest. The No. 1 goal for coach Brian Billick is to get QB Steve McNair into a rhythm. Billick won't abandon the run, but he also needs to let McNair take a few shots downfield and get reliable targets like TE Todd Heap a few touches early on.
FAST FACTS: Ravens: McNair has seven touchdown passes and two interceptions since coach Brian Billick took over the play-calling six games ago. ... Will play first game in Arrowhead Stadium. Chiefs: Are 5-1 under coach Herman Edwards when leading at halftime. ... Green is 11-2 in his past 13 starts at home.
--CB Ronnie Prude was added to the injury report after missing practice with an illness. He is expected to play special teams on Sunday.
--RB Mike Anderson will be the Ravens' third-down back because Musa Smith is doubtful with a neck injury. Anderson has made four of his five catches this season in the past two weeks.
--RB Musa Smith will miss his first game of the season with a neck injury. It's an injury that could limit him next week.
--G Keydrick Vincent continues to work with the first team and expects to start Sunday. He has missed the past two games with a groin injury.
--WR Mark Clayton could have his playing time decrease slightly on offense because he will handle punt returns. Demetrius Williams will spell him throughout the game.
--TE Todd Heap is not listed on the team's injury report for just the third time this season. In the two previous games where he wasn't listed, he caught eight passes for 93 yards and one touchdown.
--CB Patrick Surtain was held out of Thursday's practice after tweaking a knee in the Wednesday workout. He was not added to Thursday's injury report, however, as the Chiefs consider him likely to play against the Ravens.
--T Kyle Turley, who injured a shoulder in the Wednesday workout, underwent an MRI exam that showed no major damage. He continues to be listed as probable even though backup John Welbourn took some of Thursday's practice snaps at the starting right tackle position.
--S Sammy Knight, listed as questionable with an ankle injury, said Thursday that he expects to play this week against Baltimore despite an ankle injury. Knight said he took most of his normal reps in the Thursday workout.
--LB Derrick Johnson, a surprise inactive last week for the third time in four weeks with an ankle injury, took most of his normal workload in Thursday's practice and said he expects to play against Baltimore.
--DT James Reed continues to make progress in coming back from the groin injury that kept him out of last week's loss in Cleveland. He participated in a normal practice Thursday and is considered likely to play against Baltimore.
--DT Jimmy Wilkerson, who played extensively in Cleveland last week when starter James Reed was down, missed the teamwork part of Thursday's practice and remains questionable for the Ravens game.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
For the first time this season, Mike Anderson could be a factor in the Ravens offense. He is expected to see increased action because third-down running back Musa Smith is doubtful for Sunday's game with a neck injury.
Anderson, who has 29 carries and five catches this season, is on pace for the fewest touches in his seven-year career. The Broncos' leading rusher last season, he was expected to have more of an impact for the Ravens after signing a four-year, $8 million contract (including a $2 million signing bonus) in March.
"Most of the guys that play in the league can't dictate their situations and opportunities," Anderson said. "The best thing you can do as a player is be prepared when it comes and then make the most of it."
Anderson has been a consummate team player since he joined the Ravens, never complaining about his lack of playing time. He hasn't had a carry in two of the past three games.
"You always get excited as a player when you get some action," Anderson said. "But to me, it's all about the game and the opportunity for this team to take another step forward."
--Although the Ravens' depth chart lists Corey Ivy as the primary punt returner, starting receiver Mark Clayton will handle a majority of the punts for the Ravens on Sunday against the Chiefs.
Clayton and rookie Cory Ross returned punts during practice, and Ivy said afterward that he was not a part of those plans.
Informed that he was listed first on the team's depth chart in punt returns, Ivy said: "Don't believe everything you read." Ivy returned two punts for seven yards in last week's 13-7 loss to the Bengals.
Clayton and Ross participated in returns to offset the loss of specialist B.J. Sams, who will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his right ankle in Cincinnati.
Clayton, who returned six punts for 30 yards last season, said he is looking forward to it.
"It would be another opportunity to help this team," Clayton said. "I've stayed prepared for whatever the situation and for whatever could happen. In this case, they need me back there to return punts. I'm there."
Although coach Brian Billick acknowledged the risk of asking one of his two starting wide receivers to return punts, Clayton - who leads the teams in receiving with 651 yards and three touchdowns on 52 receptions - said he has no such worries.
"You just go out there and play football," Clayton said. "If an injury happens, then it happens, and if it doesn't, then it's great, and we're just having fun. ... I know that everything will be all right."
The diminutive Ross, who is 5-foot-6 and 201 pounds, has been inactive for all 12 games this season, but he will get his first opportunity Sunday.
"It's unfortunate how I got the chance, but that's the way football is," said Ross, who was introduced to the media by linebacker Bart Scott as "Kirby Puckett." "I'm just going to get in here and do the things I can do to help this team win."
The mood in the Arrowhead Stadium locker room had improved considerably Thursday, which put quarterback Trent Green in a considerably better frame of mind.
"I don't want to say that everyone was in a state of depression, but everybody was down on Monday," Green said of the aftermath of Kansas City's stunning fourth-quarter collapse in an overtime loss at Cleveland. "Monday was a rough day for everybody, and it even carried over a little bit to Wednesday. There were some guys on the practice field feeling a little sorry for themselves."
But as he conducted his weekly Thursday media session in a hallway outside team meeting rooms, Green had to talk over boisterous banter that made it obvious that his teammates were finally in a better state of mind heading into this week's must-win home game against AFC North leader Baltimore.
"This is the time of the year when you're a little banged up and you have to get yourself going, physically and mentally," Green added. "But you've got to get through that, and I thought the guys did that Wednesday in pushing through the mental disappointment of what happened in Cleveland. That response carried over today. Guys were much more enthused. They understand the challenge of getting prepared for the team we're playing.
"I've had to say some things to get some guys going (earlier in the week). But I had to do less of that today as guys start to understand the ramifications of this game."
At 7-5, the Chiefs are one of five teams with similar records vying for the two AFC wild-card spots. Their 3-5 conference record does not put them in good tiebreaker stead, meaning they should plan on winning their last four games to avoid a situation they faced last year when they finished 10-6 and out of the playoff picture.
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