Fearless Prediction: Chiefs (0-0) at Ravens (0-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum
TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Rich Gannon)
SERIES: 5th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead the series 3-1 and they’ve not lost to the Ravens in Baltimore, winning in 1999 (by 27 points), 2003 (by 7) and 2004 (by 3). The last game between these teams was in 2006 when the Ravens won in Kansas City 20-10. M&T Bank Stadium is one of two current NFL stadiums where the Chiefs have never lost. The other is Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
- QB Matt Cassel practiced on Thursday and as he worked through position drills, he showed more energy and agility on his injured left knee than in previous workouts. Cassel’s pass drops were crisper and he seemed to have more power on his follow through. The Chiefs have listed him as questionable for the opener in Baltimore on Sunday.
- CB Brandon Flowers practiced on Thursday and showed no visible problems with his injured left shoulder as he worked through position drills. Flowers suffered the injury on Aug. 29 and missed the final preseason game. He’s worked with the first team defense in practice this week.
- RB Jackie Battle practiced on Thursday and showed no visible problems from the illness that limited him during practice the day before. Battle is No. 3 on the running back depth chart and is a big contributor on specials teams.
- LB Demorrio Williams continues to run with the first team defense at the inside spot next to Corey Mays. Williams has been fighting a left knee injury throughout training camp and the preseason, but he’s been on the practice field the last few weeks. The injury seems to affect him as he runs, but that might be good; Williams tends to overrun plays and he’s been known to fill a gap and be going so fast that the ball carrier runs right past him.
- CB Maurice Leggett appears to be the Chiefs’ choice to return punts this season. Leggett is one of the few playmaking types on the club’s roster, as he showed last year as a rookie with fumble and interception returns for touchdowns. The Chiefs have not had a punt return score in 46 consecutive games. Ravens:
- TE L.J. Smith missed his second straight day of practice and is expected to be out for Sunday’s season opener with a hamstring injury. Edgar Jones moves up to be the team’s backup tight end behind Todd Heap.
- DT Haloti Ngata was limited in practice with a foot injury, but he said it’s actually a sprained ankle. Ngata said he would start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and won’t be limited by the injury.
- LB Brendon Ayanbadejo got an injection in his foot recently to help with a toe injury and has been advised to rest this weekend. But he doesn’t want to stop his consecutive games streak. After being limited Wednesday, he had a full practice Thursday and is expected to play special teams and nickel defense Sunday.
- LB Dannell Ellerbe had a full practice Thursday despite having a hamstring injury that has nagged him for three weeks. He is a developmental project and likely will be inactive for a majority of games this season.
- WR Mark Clayton missed all of the preseason with a hamstring injury, but he isn’t listed on the injury report — which is a positive sign. Clayton and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron both expect him to start opposite Derrick Mason. Because hamstrings can flare up, Kelley Washington could still see significant time as the No. 2 wide receiver.
- RB Ray Rice is expected to make the start over Willis McGahee and receive the most touches of the running backs. He has been a major factor as a running back and a receiver in the preseason. But because of his size (he’s 5-7), he might give way to McGahee in the red zone.
Inside the Camps
Chiefs: Other than whether quarterback Matt Cassel will start against Baltimore in the season opener on Sunday, the major question around the Chiefs has been who will be in the starting lineup when the Kansas City defense hits the field against the Ravens. Head coach Todd Haley loves to use the depth chart as motivation and it’s become a very fluid tool in trying to figure out who will start and who will play in the games. In training camp, Haley was unhappy with the focus and effort of wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and demoted him from the starting offense to the third team. Bowe has since worked his way back into the starting lineup. At the end of the preseason, there were a couple of changes to the Chiefs No. 1 defense, with Demorrio Williams taking an inside linebacker spot that was held by Derrick Johnson and Jon McGraw moving into the free safety spot that had belonged to Jarrad Page for the last two years and most of the preseason. Haley doesn’t talk about these types of moves and Johnson and Page have not sought information from their head coach. They simply continue to practice and hope their performances are good enough. "I’m confident that they’ll make the right decision," Johnson said. "They’ll figure it out … I’m a football player, that’s what I do. I don’t do any coaching. My job when I get out there is to make plays." Page has seen his running partner at safety Bernard Pollard released on the final cutdown day and he chooses his words carefully. "I don’t know," Page said when asked about his situation. "The depth chart changes all the time. We are all just going out and practicing, and whoever is out there is just trying to make plays to win the football game." Former Bears safety Mike Brown has claimed the strong safety spot that once belonged to Pollard. "We can have a very good defense," said Brown. "We have people in the right positions that are playmakers, especially our outside linebackers. The 3-4 is built on the outside linebackers, usually. Those guys can cause a lot of havoc. "We’re a new defense, so we haven’t figured out our identity." Outside linebacker Mike Vrabel agrees. "It’s a work in progress," said Vrabel. "To put a label on our defense or our team is not fair. We haven’t done anything. We haven’t done it in game situations. We have played well at times; we’ve given up long drives at times. We’ve got to continue to play well across the board." Ravens: Michael Oher hopes to join a long list of Ravens first-round picks who make immediate impacts as rookies. When the Ravens open the season against the Kansas City Chiefs, Oher will get his chance when he becomes the only rookie starter for the team. Oher will line up at right tackle, replacing Willie Anderson (who is on the team’s retired-reserve list). One of the reasons why Oher dropped down to the Ravens in the bottom third of the first round was a concern that the University of Mississippi standout wouldn’t pick up the offense quickly enough. But the Ravens coaches haven’t expressed any hesitation in starting Oher immediately. "Here is what I sense: I sense a young man in whom football is very important, and I sense a young man who is going to do everything that he can do to use our techniques and play as hard as he can," offensive line coach John Matsko said. "I think he’s going to be excited about playing. I think it’s a dream for him and the dream is going to come true for him. It’s the first step for him in realizing his goals." Left tackle Jared Gaither, who roomed with the rookie during training camp, said Oher has accepted every challenge without complaint. "If it’s been difficult for him, he’s doing a great job of playing through it and taking everything in stride," Gaither said. "I have not seen any indication of that. We all know it’s difficult, but too much for him to handle? I have not seen that." Starting every game in the preseason, Oher has thus far lived up to the potential the Ravens’ coaches and front office envisioned when the club made a trade with the New England Patriots to move up and select the massive offensive tackle with the 23rd overall pick. Oher, 6-feet-4 and 310 pounds, has been exceedingly quick coming off the line of scrimmage after the ball is snapped. With his strong hands and solid base, he has been a point of attack for the ground game and formidable in pass protection. One of the more memorable moments of the preseason occurred in the first game against Washington, when Oher pancaked Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn during a fourth-and-1 inside Washington’s 10-yard line. Bloodied and helmetless, Oher got three stitches in his forehead and returned to the game. Oher stood his ground in the team’s third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, in which he battled four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers to essentially a stalemate. Reminded of these performances, Oher simply shrugged his shoulders. "A lot more is demanded from you," he said. "You definitely have to bring a lot more to the table, and you have to come to work every day and compete. And you’ve got to be on top of your craft. That’s part of the NFL, and I’m just privileged to be here." PREDICTION: Ravens 20-12