BALTIMORE - Pardon the Baltimore Ravens for showing no pity for the winless Kansas City Chiefs. They've got their own problems.
Jamal Lewis, who ran for 2,066 yards last season and 186 yards a week ago in Cincinnati, will be in the Baltimore backfield Monday night. But there's the possibility he won't be there for long, depending upon developments in his federal drug trial in Atlanta.
If Lewis accepts a plea bargain, a distinct possibility, then an NFL suspension will likely follow. So the Ravens need to tighten their grip on first place in the AFC North just in case they are faced with operating without Lewis down the stretch.
Beating the Chiefs would be the first step toward accomplishing that goal.
"Kansas City isn't the only desperate team playing on Monday. We have the same mentality as Kansas City has - that we can't afford a loss," Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said. "So it's going to be two desperate teams going at it. We want to stay ahead of our division, so we're just as desperate as them."
When the Ravens (2-1) think of the Chiefs, they see a team with accomplished coach Dick Vermeil, standout running back Priest Holmes, Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez and the ever-dangerous Dante Hall returning kicks.
They don't see a stumbling 0-3 team that has gone 4-7 since opening the 2003 season with nine straight wins.
"This team is the same team that was 13-3 last year. We recognize that, we respect that," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's the same team with the same capabilities. That's what we have to keep in the forefront of our minds."
It's a powerful offensive team playing with a sense of brazenness. That might make the Chiefs even more menacing.
"Anybody that's backed into a corner, you have to be concerned about them," Ravens linebacker Cornell Brown said.
Winless after three games for the first time since 1980, the Chiefs have no logical explanation for their poor start. At this point, the reason is irrelevant. The only matter of importance is getting that first win.
"We definitely have the ingredients to turn it around, because it's the same team as last year," Holmes said. "Our key guys are still here. The hardest thing, when you're losing, is getting that first win."
It is a pursuit that has become increasingly frustrating for a team that finished with the NFL's second-best record in 2003.
"We're not very happy," defensive end Vonnie Holliday said. "Guys are working hard. We're trying to right this wrong. We feel like we're better than 0-3. We're just not doing it on the field. We believe we will get it fixed."
The Chiefs' problem is similar to their shortcoming of a year ago: defense. Kansas City has yielded 86 points, and now they've got to take on Jamal Lewis, who ran for 115 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City last season in a 17-10 defeat.
"Like any great running back, he's really confident. He goes out there with a little bit of arrogance," Chiefs defensive end Eric Hicks said. "I'm not saying he's an arrogant player; he just knows he can get the job done."
Even when he's got other things on his mind. Lewis insisted his off-field problems won't be a factor against KC.
"It's Monday night football, prime time, the national stage. This is my life, this is my career," Lewis said. "That pretty much says it all."
The Ravens have won seven straight at home since Hall ran back a kickoff 97 yards in the closing minutes to lift the Chiefs to victory. So, even though Baltimore is 3-0 on Monday nights, winning this one probably won't be easy.
"You're 0-3, people are looking at you as a team they can take advantage of," Hicks said. "But we're not a team you can take advantage of. We're still a dangerous football team, and we've still got a lot of things to prove. But our task is a lot harder, being there and being on Monday night football."
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