Chiefs Inside Slant: Vermeil Wants His Team Rested

If he had his druthers, Dick Vermeil would give his playoff-bound Chiefs starters a game off next week to rest them for the post-season run he hopes will last through Feb. 1.

He did just that in 1999 after his St. Louis Rams clinched the home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs in advance of Week 16. Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace and other top players played about a quarter before going to the sideline in the regular-season finale at Philadelphia, where the Rams lost 38-31.

Vermeil had an even better deal working with Bum Phillips when the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Oilers -- playoff qualifiers both -- met in the 1979 season finale with a gentlemen's agreement to rest some of their starters.

"Bum took out his big guy, Earl Campbell, and it made a big difference," Vermeil recalled of the 26-20 Eagles win. "But that was the old days. You can't do that anymore."

But Vermeil's 2003 Chiefs, the AFC West Division champion for the first time since 1997, won't have that luxury when they go to Minnesota this Saturday before closing at home against Chicago on Dec. 28.

The Chiefs are clinging to the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and the first-round bye that goes with it. More importantly, they're clinging to the outside hope that they can somehow pass top seed New England -- which will happen only if the Chiefs win out and the Patriots stumble against either the Jets or Bills -- and win home-field advantage for as long as they're alive in post-season play.

But clinging is the applicable word. For Kansas City (12-2) could slip to a No. 3 seed with one more loss should Indianapolis (11-3) win out at home against Denver and on the road in Houston. And as the No. 3 seed, the Chiefs not only would play in the first round, but they might well draw Denver, currently the No. 6 seed and a team the Chiefs do not want to have to face again this year after the 45-27 kicking the Broncos gave them on Dec. 7.

With that scenario, any talk of resting players flies out the window as Kansas City prepares for an 8-6 Vikings team whose playoff hopes are on the NFC bubble.

"I think we'll be battling up through the final minutes of our 16th game to determine where we'll play," Vermeil said.

Saturday's shootout of potent offenses -- the Vikings are No. 1 in total offense, the Chiefs No. 2; Kansas City is No. 1 in points scored and third in passing offense while Minnesota is sixth and four, respectively -- looms as more of a must-win for the Vikings than it does for the Chiefs.

"They've lost some games they shouldn't have lost, but they're still a good football team," Vermeil said. "They're desperate and they will play like a desperate football team, just like Denver did a week ago against us."

It would help if the Chiefs developed a sense of desperation, too. The prospect of facing a rubber match with Denver ought to be frightening enough for them to develop one.

SERIES HISTORY:
Ninth meeting. Chiefs led 5-3 after winning the last two games, the most recent a 31-28 victory at Arrowhead in 1999.


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