Chiefs: offense 2nd (3rd rush, 3rd pass); defense 30th (12th rush, 32nd pass).
Chargers: offense 10th (6th rush, 18th pass); defense 14th (2nd rush, 28th pass).
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Chiefs have averaged 39.8 points per game during their four-game losing streak, thanks in large part to the emergence of RB Larry Johnson in place of injured Priest Holmes. But Johnson will face his toughest task to date against a Chargers run defense allowing just 82.5 points per game. But with the Chargers' starters unlikely to play the entire game, Chiefs QB Trent Green should have ample opportunity to take advantage of the Chargers' secondary.
The Chargers' best chance is to build an early lead while their starters are in the game and hold on for dear life. Coach Marty Schottenheimer doesn't want to enter the postseason on a two-game losing streak, so he will give it his best effort while also trying to avoid losing key players to injury.
Chiefs: - Have set single-season team records with 6,252 total yards and 372 first downs - which is 15 shy of Miami's NFL record set in 1984. The current 66.8 completion percentage and 98.7 passer rating would also set franchise records.
Chargers: - ILB Donnie Edwards has five interceptions in his past five games. ... K Nate Kaeding has set a team rookie record with 108 points.
PREDICTION: Chiefs 30-24
KANSAS CITY PERSONNEL NEWS:
LT Willie Roaf, a 10-time Pro Bowler, said this week he plans to return for a 13th NFL season next year with the Chiefs.
RB Derrick Blaylock may have played his final game as a Chief. The backup to the injured Priest Holmes, Blaylock will miss a third straight game against San Diego with a knee injury. As one of the team's few unrestricted free agent possibilities, Blaylock may get better offers elsewhere after running well in Holmes' absence than he will get from the Chiefs, who now have Larry Johnson firmly entrenched as Holmes' backup -- or replacement -- next year.
WR Johnnie Morton is another Chief who may have played his last game in Kansas City. He will miss a third straight game, the season finale in San Diego, with a knee injury. At age 33, Morton's position with the Chiefs is tenuous. KC asked him to take a pay cut this year and he balked. The development of younger receivers like Samie Parker, coupled with next year's anticipated return of injured Marc Boerigter, could spell the end of his three seasons in KC.
FS Jerome Woods will miss a fifth straight game when the Chiefs close the season in San Diego. Woods sustained what was initially called a bone bruise on the knee in the Nov. 22 Monday night game against New England. No one suspected then that he had played his final game of the season. Woods might have pressed on if the Chiefs had been better than 3-7 then, but with the team going nowhere in the playoff chase, it was decided that he would be better off resting the knee and returning full speed next year.
G Will Shields missed Thursday's workout while attending a funeral is expected to make his 191st consecutive start -- the second-longest active streak in the NFL -- in San Diego tomorrow.
CHARGERS PERSONELL NEWS:
LB Steve Foley not only didn't practice again Thursday, but he was laid up in bed because of a nasty case of the flu. "He is one sick young man," coach Marty Schottenheimer said, adding that he still expects Foley to play Sunday vs. Kansas City.
LB Randall Godfrey is not on the injury report but was given what Schottenheimer called a rest day.
Others not practicing were RB Jesse Chatman (toe), WR's Keenan McCardell (hamstring) and Tim Dwight (toe) and DE Eric Downing (knee). McCardell is unlikely to play Sunday, with second-year pro Kassim Osgood expected to start for the third consecutive week in his place.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Chiefs - Trent Green is on the brink of breaking any number of Chiefs team records -- the most significant, the single-season passer efficiency mark (101.9) of Hall of Fame QB Len Dawson during the 1966 AFL Championship season that preceded Super Bowl I.
But while Green and his offensive teammates have reason to feel good about the 15 or more team records and some 10 individual marks that could fall before the season ends Sunday in San Diego, they also are having to answer annoying questions about just what those glossy numbers mean in the dim light of the team's 7-8 won-lost record.
"If you look at the big picture and the history of the offensive players who have come through this organization, it means a lot," Green insisted. "But in terms of this season, it would be better if we were getting ready for the playoffs and setting those records.
"But at some point in time we should be pretty proud of the things we've been able to do," Green added. "Once we separate ourselves from the season, whether it's in this offseason or five or 10 years from now, this is something we'll be able to look back on and realize that the offensive run we've had over the last three years has been a pretty special run."
In needing a fifth-straight season-ending victory just to avoid a non-losing season, the Chiefs will have some individual motivations to help them along.
One is TE Tony Gonzalez's bid to set the single-season reception record for tight ends. Ben Coates (New England, 1994) has the record at 96. Gonzalez has 88 now. He came close in 2000 when he went into the finale with 88 grabs and finished with 93 -- third-most in league history for tight ends. His teammates would like to see him get the record, which is attainable considering that Gonzalez had a 8-105 day in the first game with the Chargers this year and was 11-124 just last week against Oakland.
"It would be nice to say you were out there when Tony Gonzalez broke his record (nine short of the NFL single-season reception record for tight ends), or that you played when Priest (Holmes) broke the NFL touchdown record (27 last year)," said FB Tony Richardson.
Sure, but as for what that means ultimately?
"If we can keep the core of those guys together, it gives us hope for what the future can be around here," Richardson said. "It shows that we're on the right track." Chargers - San Diego Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer remained noncommittal about whether core players like quarterback Drew Brees and running back LaDainian Tomlinson will start Sunday's regular-season finale against Kansas City.
The game has no bearing on the Chargers' playoff position.
Of Brees, Schottenheimer said: "The possibility still exists that he might not play at all. But he might. I just don't know."