Chiefs-Chargers Preview

Locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs, the Kansas City

Chiefs don’t have much to play for in Sunday’s regular-season

finale at San Diego.

While that certainly bodes well for the Chargers’ postseason

hopes, they could already be eliminated by the time kickoff rolls

around.

Set to hit the road for a wild-card game in two weeks, Chiefs

coach Andy Reid is debating whether to play his starters or keep

them on the sidelines.

“If you look at the history of it, it’s about a 50-50 shot over

the last three or four years of people who have done it. It’s what

you’re most comfortable with as a coach,” Reid said. “The obvious

benefit is you rest your guys. You kind of get back a little

fresher than what they were at the end of the season. You take a

risk of the timing part of it. So those are the things that you

have to evaluate.

“… This is one of those decisions you make, it’s a bit of a

gut feeling you go with.”

While Sunday’s matchup is virtually meaningless for Kansas City

(11-4), San Diego (8-7) could be playing for a playoff berth.

Besides needing to beat the Chiefs, the Chargers must have Miami

and Baltimore lose or tie in order to clinch the conference’s

second wild-card spot.

San Diego could also get in with a tie plus losses by the

Dolphins and Ravens, who both play at 1:00 pm EST. Miami hosts the

New York Jets while Baltimore visits Cincinnati.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us before that time and we have

to beat the Kansas City Chiefs,” coach Mike McCoy said. “If we

don’t beat them, we’re not in. That’s our No. 1 concern right now.

Win this game this weekend.”

The Chargers’ game plan won’t change even if they are eliminated

beforehand.

“There’s only one person happy at the end of the year and that’s

the team who’s holding the trophy at the end,” McCoy said. “So

that’s always your No. 1 goal. You always want to try and win as

many games as you can and get in that tournament.”

Top rusher Ryan Mathews is expected to play despite missing

practice with an injured left ankle. Mathews has run for a

career-high 1,111 yards, including 329 over the past three weeks,

and now looks to play all 16 games for the first time in his

four-year career.

“He’ll be ready,” McCoy said. “He’s got a great frame of mind

right now. I’m looking forward to him having another big game.”

San Diego could catch a break if Reid decides to rest Jamaal

Charles, who leads the NFL with 19 total touchdowns after scoring

11 over the past five games. Charles has 794 yards from scrimmage

during that span and is averaging 132.0 this season, ranking second

in the league behind LeSean McCoy (134.1).

Charles, though, hasn’t heard anything regarding his status for

Sunday.

“Man, I don’t have nothing to do with it,” he said. “We still

want to win. We’ve got one more game to play before the

playoffs.”

The Chiefs opened 9-0 but have since dropped four of six after

falling 23-7 to Indianapolis last Sunday. Charles had a 31-yard

touchdown run on Kansas City’s first drive.

San Diego is coming off its season-high third consecutive

victory, 26-13 over Oakland last Sunday. Mathews compiled 119 total

yards and a touchdown.

“I’m just trying to work hard and be there for my teammates, and

that’s all that matters,” he said. “I try to be as good as I can be

for the linemen up front. They block their tails off.”

Mathews leads the NFL with 97 carries since Week 13, and the

Chargers are 5-0 this year when he has at least 20. They’re 5-1

when he scores a rushing TD compared to 3-6 when he doesn’t.

Mathews found the end zone as San Diego handed Kansas City its

first home loss, 41-38 on Nov. 24. Philip Rivers threw for 392

yards and three touchdowns.

Rivers has a 126.1 passer rating as the Chargers have won the

last three meetings. He’s helped San Diego take 10 of 12 in the

series, including five in a row at home by an average of 16.4

points.