Ravens comfortable in role as underdogs

OWINGS MILLS - The Baltimore Ravens have comfortably wrapped themselves in the cloak of an underdog as they prepare to host the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Sunday's kickoff was moved to 4 p.m. essentially to accommodate CBS wanting increased exposure for a Kansas City outfit being labeled the top team in the league. 

Baltimore (2-1) welcomes the hype, especially about a Chiefs offense averaging 36 points led by former Ravens running back Priest Holmes, the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year. "You all have called the Chiefs the best team in football," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That's all I see on TV and I have no reason to disagree with it. "It would be foolish for me to disagree with it at 3-0. They're one of the best teams. We're just going to show up Sunday and hope we can survive." 

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis expects to be heard from on this subject Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. The Chiefs have been installed as a 3-point favorite. "All I hear all week is, 'Kansas City, Kansas City, they're the best thing on earth,'" Lewis said. "We're going to find out if Kansas City is really that tough and they're going to find out if they're really that good." 

DANGEROUS: Besides Holmes and Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, the Chiefs feature elusive return specialist Dante Hall. He has five kickoff or punt returns for touchdowns in his past eight games, including two this season. Hall leads the league in kickoff return average with 33.6 yards per attempt. He also leads the AFC in punt return average (19.8) and ranks second in the league behind Atlanta's Allen Rossum. In a 42-14 win over the Houston Texans, Hall scooted 73 yards for a score on a punt return with 174 yards of total offense. The Ravens counter with the top kickoff return coverage unit in the league with a 17.9 average. Plus, they have 270-pound hybrid outside linebacker and defensive end Adalius Thomas, an adept gunner on punts. Last week, Thomas overwhelmed the Chargers with three special teams tackles. "Dante Hall is great," Thomas said. "We don't want to punt to him. If he gets his hands on the ball, we need to swarm him. If one person misses, he can make you pay for it." 

INJURY UPDATE: Left guard Edwin Mulitalo was listed as questionable on the injury report with knee and ankle ailments, but expressed confidence that he will be available after missing last week's game. Fullback Harold Morrow, the team's designated wedge-buster, is out with a cracked elbow and is scheduled to undergo further X-rays today. "If I find out that I can't crack it anymore and am not going to hurt myself or the team, I can play with a little pain," Morrow said. 

Rookie safety Gerome Sapp was also listed as questionable with a sprained medial collateral ligament that kept him out against San Diego. "I think I'm going to be able to play on Sunday," Sapp said. "It's still a little bit sore." Rookie running back Musa Smith (knee) was upgraded to doubtful for the first time since the season began. Safety Ed Reed (knee) and running back Chester Taylor (hand) were listed as probable. The Chiefs' most prominent injuries: safety Greg Wesley (back) is questionable and tight end Tony Gonzalez (foot), safety Jerome Woods (knee) and defensive tackle John Browning are questionable.

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times

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