INSIDE SLANT: Top AFC Seed Still in Doubt

The suggestion that the Kansas City Chiefs may have nothing to play for in their regular-season finale with Chicago this week makes sense only on the most superficial of bases.

It's true that by the time the two teams kick off Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs will know whether or not they can improve their No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

If top-seeded New England somehow fouls up and loses at home to Buffalo on Saturday, the Chiefs can jump past the Patriots and secure home-field advantage for the playoffs with a victory over the Bears. (Both teams would have a 13-3 record, but KC would get the tiebreaker with a better record against common opponents, the Chiefs having beaten Buffalo.)

But, if 13-2 New England wins a 12th straight game, as the Pats are favored to do, Kansas City (12-3) can finish no better or worse than No. 2, even with a loss to the Bears. (The Chiefs at 12-4 would still have a better conference record than the Colts.) If that happens, coach Dick Vermeil has considered resting his starters during the second half of the Bears game.

That might be a luxury the Chiefs can little afford, however.

Not after the dreadful 45-20 pasting Kansas City took last week at Minnesota. The worst setback in the Vermeil era left the Chiefs reeling in all three phases of the game. The defense gave up 31 unanswered points, the NFL's top-scoring offense went scoreless for 40 minutes and special teams gave up a huge kickoff return that set up the Vikings' icing TD after the Chiefs fought back to within 11 points with 10 minutes remaining.

Moreover, giving up 45 points for a second straight road game had two Chiefs defenders (line mates Eric Hicks and Ryan Sims) squabbling among themselves in the locker room afterward.

It was not the kind of performance that gives a playoff-bound team, even one with a first-round bye already in the bag, the opportunity to consider taking off a half in his last game.

"One game is better than no game, and the Bears are the only opportunity we have to get some momentum started for January," Hicks said. "I'm of the opinion that we need to play as hard as we can in this one. Our fans deserve that."

Beyond that, how could a team prepare for a game that could have tremendous meaning -- should New England fall -- if it spent a week of practice thinking about sliding on the ice come the weekend.

"We have no idea what's going to happen in that (New England) game," quarterback Trent Green said. "Coach made it quite clear to everybody that we're going to prepare for this like any other game. He wants us all to anticipate playing a full four quarters and playing well.

"That's the thing for us right now -- we want to regain some momentum going into the playoffs," Green added.

The Chiefs also need to believe they can stop a quality running game -- something they've not done in giving up 200, 270 and 223 yards in the three games they've lost this year, all on the road. Chicago will come to Arrowhead trying to run, and thus will give the Chiefs a chance to get at least some semblance of respect back prior to the elimination part of the schedule.

"I'm not saying I'll play (the starters) all four quarters, but we've only got 46 guys," Vermeil said. "We've got people voting against suiting up the entire roster. They live in the Dark Ages. But right now we're going to line up and play as if it's a playoff game, especially coming out of a game like we played last week."

Ninth meeting. Chicago leads 5-3 after winning the last meeting 20-17 in the 1999 season opener -- the coaching debuts of both the Bears Dick Jauron and former Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham. The two teams haven't played in Kansas City since 1996. But in 1993, Chicago handed KC its only home loss in a year that saw the Chiefs reach the AFC championship game. Top Stories