That seemed like a setup for a comedown, though Kansas City's players predictably professed to have no concern over the long-standing SI jinx.
"I didn't even know we were on the cover," insisted defensive end Eric Hicks. "It doesn't make any difference to us. If we keep working, they can put us on the cover of any magazine they want."
The last time the Chiefs made the SI cover, Steve Bono and Neil Smith shared a cover with Brett Favre and Reggie White as SI's favorite to make the Super Bowl that season. The Chiefs, coming off a 13-3 campaign in '95 when they squandered home-field advantage in the playoff with a first-game loss to Indianapolis, finished 9-7 and missed the playoff in '96.
Defensive end Eric Hicks, impressed upon learning that backup Rudi Johnson got 43 carries in last week's Cincinnati win over Houston: "Any time you carry the ball 43 times in an NFL game, that's tremendous. He was definitely impressive in last week's outing. Whether he can keep it up, who knows, but he's definitely a formidable opponent."
Kansas City has been involved in only four games decided by eight or fewer points this year. Three of those games have been on the road. Cincinnati's last eight games have been decided by that margin.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- the number of teams since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to open a season 10-0, the record can Chiefs can achieve with a victory in Cincinnati. 6 -- the number of 10-0 teams that advanced to the Super Bowl. 5 -- the number of 10-0 teams that won the Super Bowl.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Most of the players who make those statements are young guys just spreading their wings. Hey, I can't predict who's going to win Sunday. I don't know how a guy who's been in the year a league 2 1/2 years can do it. Does it influence the outcome of a game, or motivate the other team? No." -- Dick Vermeil, asked for the 3,287th time (unofficial count) about Chad Johnson's guarantee of a Bengals victory this week.