Reduced to a 5-4 record and put on the underside of the NFL playoff bubble after their 14-3 loss in Buffalo - their lowest point output since the 2002 season finale - the Chiefs can't afford to take any team lightly if they hope to make their only their second playoff appearance since 1997.
"We're preparing for a team that carries an image (that comes from) winning only one game," Head Coach Dick Vermeil said. "But it's a fact that they're victims of playing the toughest schedule in the National Football League. They played Indianapolis twice, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Seattle, Jacksonville - division leaders that average seven wins.
"They've had to play against the top competition in the league already. They might be licking their chops playing a 5-4 team that they beat last year at Arrowhead."
Indeed, last year's 24-21 Houston win at Arrowhead, which sent the Chiefs skidding to an 0-3 start from which they never recovered, should be all the wakeup call Kansas City needs to get ready for a game it cannot afford to lose.
"They've still got a lot of those same guys, so we know we can't take them lightly," said Chiefs DE Eric Hicks. "They came in here last year and made some opportune plays, and we have to remember that. We'd like to get a little payback."
The Texans are currently the last non-winning team on the Chiefs remaining schedule. After they end their two-game road stretch in Houston, they will play four of their final six games at home, though there's not a creampuff to be found anywhere. New England, Denver, at Dallas and the Giants, then San Diego and Cincinnati to close out the season at home.
Avoiding the upset to a 1-8 team is essential.
"We have to win some games on the road," Vermeil said. "We've been a very successful team playing at home in the second half of the season. But we haven't been a real successful team playing on the road, so we've got to be more successful starting with Sunday.
"If we're not, we just dig ourselves a deeper hole. Our schedule has six teams that all have winning records and are in the thick of the playoff race. We've got to find a way to win on the road, No. 1, and win football games, period, regardless of who we play."
SERIES HISTORY: This is the third meeting in the series. The series is tied 1-1 after Houston won last year at Arrowhead Stadium 24-21. The Chiefs were leading 14-6 in the third quarter and had a second-and-goal at the 2 when Marcus Coleman intercepted a Trent Green pass and returned it 102 yards for the game-tying touchdown. KC retook a 21-14 lead with 10:55 left, but Houston got the final 10 points, including a 42-yard drive in the final 2:18 for Kris Brown's game-winning 49-yard field goal with two seconds left.
NOTES & QUOTES:
The Chiefs got a league assist in their bid to renovate Arrowhead Stadium Wednesday when the NFL, conducting owners meetings in Kansas City, promised that the city would get a Super Bowl if it could produce a climate-controlled stadium.
The Chiefs hope to provide that at Arrowhead by dusting off a plan Lamar Hunt first envisioned when the Truman Sports Complex was being designed in the late 1960s - a rolling roof that would completely enclose Arrowhead while providing cover from the rain at the more wide-open adjacent Kauffman Stadium, home of the Royals.
The moving roof, which might also make Arrowhead a candidate for big-ticket events like the Final Four, would add between $100 million and $200 million to an already-expensive renovation project. The Chiefs and Royals reportedly will ask for at least $465 million in public assistance for improvements to the two stadiums. The teams would then extend their leases through 2031.
The moveable roof was initially on the drawing board when the two-stadium Truman Sports Complex was built. But a cost overrun of some $8 million prevented its construction.
Architects now envision a 240-foot high sliding structure that would be positioned between the two stadiums, as was Hunt's initial idea. When used to cover Arrowhead, plexiglass "curtains" would attach from the roof to the sides of the stadium and allow Arrowhead to be heated or cooled.
The Chiefs will eventually ask voters to approve a Lambeau Field-type renovation in which an exterior shell is built around the existing stadium, allowing for the expansion of already crowded concourses and the addition of rest rooms, concession stands and possibly a public restaurant while keeping the interior bowl intact.
Dick Vermeil was offering no more insight into his retirement plans this week than he has all season.
Asked about reports that he will retire after a fifth, often-frustrating season this year, the 69-year-old Vermeil only repeated that he has said all year.
"If we're successful and are playing real well, I'll have a decision to make," he replied. "If we're not, the decision will be made. I'm not going to come back and lead an organization that not successful because I'm not getting the job done. I've said that from the start of the season.
"I feel good," he insisted. "Now, do I feel as good as I did a week ago? Hell no! We got beat (in Buffalo). But I didn't jump off the bridge on the way back from the airport, even though I might have felt like it."
BY THE NUMBERS:
5-1 - The Chiefs' record when Larry Johnson runs for 100 yards or more. The only trouble with the above count: the one loss came last week when Johnson had 100 of his 132 yards in the first half of the loss to Buffalo.
14-6 - Kansas City's record since 2002 when holding opposing runners to under 100 yards. One problem with the above count: one of those losses came to Houston last year at Arrowhead. Another was last week in Buffalo when the Bills ran for only 61 rushing yards.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"We've got to get to 6-4 with four of the next six at home. If we do that we'll put ourselves in great position to have a good home run, win some games and make a run at the playoffs." - DE Jared Allen, echoing the belief that being at home will help the Chiefs win games against New England, Denver, San Diego and Cincinnati.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL:
Defensive tackle Ryan Sims, who has been out of action with a major foot injury since the first quarter of the season's first game, worked out in shells during individual drills for the first time Wednesday.
Sims reported feeling no pain in his mending foot, and a somewhat surprised Dick Vermeil said if Sims continues to progress at his current pace he could be playing in another two weeks.
Sims was coming off the best training camp of his four-year career when he was injured in the opener. He managed to keep his weight to around 313 even during the inactivity of his recovery period.
T Willie Roaf, who has played in only three full games this year and the opening quarter of the season opener, did not practice Wednesday and is questionable for the Texans. Pass protection has been a problem for his replacement, young T Jordan Black.
WR Samie Parker, who has missed the last four games with a knee injury, did a full workout Wednesday and looks ready to return to the starting lineup against Houston. The Chiefs haven't had a real downfield speed threat during his absence.
T Kevin Sampson, Kansas City's projected starter at right tackle before a foot injury and complications from dehydration reduced him to playing in only three games (with one start) this year, is almost back in playing shape. But he remains questionable for Houston after not playing in the last five games.
QB Trent Green posted a 111.0 passer rating after throwing three TD passes in last year's Arrowhead loss to Houston, but he also threw a killer interception from the Texans' 2 that was returned 102 yards for a game-tying TD when the Chiefs were driving for a 21-6 lead.
TE Tony Gonzalez caught eight passes for 106 yards with a TD in the Houston loss last year.
The Chiefs have a real good chance of running the ball for a second straight week against the only rush defense that is ranked lower than Buffalo's. The trouble is, running alone won't get it done for the Chiefs, who got 132 yards from Larry Johnson alone last week in a 14-3 loss. Kansas City has to hold off the pass rush of Pro Bowl DE Gary Walker and give Trent Green the time he didn't have in Buffalo to get into some passing rhythm.
Defensively, the Chiefs have to get to QB David Carr like everyone else in the league has during this 46-sack season. If they do, they'll hold up better against an ailing Andre Johnson than they did a year ago when he had 96 yards on only four catches, including a killer grab in the drive for the winning field goal.
KEY MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Texans DE Gary Walker vs. Chiefs RT John Welbourn. The Chiefs latest starter at right tackle John Welbourn has struggled on the right side last Sunday at Buffalo. Although he did a much better job than his teammate Jordan Black who was playing left tackle. Walker is a handful from wherever he comes, and the Chiefs have to be concerned after Trent Green was sacked six times last week.
Chiefs LDE Jared Allen vs. Texans LT Chester Pitts. Allen (seven sacks) is on pace for one of the most productive Chiefs seasons in recent memory. Even when he's not sacking QB's, he's consistently applying pressure.
DE Ryan Sims (foot) will miss a ninth straight game, even though he has resumed practicing.
Backup FS Jerome Woods is out with a hamstring injury.
T Willie Roaf is on the doubtful side of questionable with a hamstring injury and will likely miss a third straight game.
Backup DE Carlos Hall (questionable, thigh) did not work Wednesday but may be able to go Thursday and play Sunday.
WR Samie Parker, a former starter, may be able to return to the lineup despite his questionable status with a knee injury.
CB Dexter McCleon (questionable, groin) looks ready to go after practicing Wednesday.
WR/KR Dante Hall (probable) says he'll be ready to play in his native Houston despite missing Wednesday's practice with a sore knee.
DT John Browning (probable, knee) didn't work Wednesday, but should be ready by Sunday.
Kansas City Won't Have Let Down Sunday Night
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