Three Hours From Playoffs … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

The “p” word has been everywhere around the Chiefs in the last week. It’s there when they go out in the community. It’s there when the media invades the locker room. It’s there when they turn on TV to watch ESPN.

The words – Chiefs and playoffs – are in the same sentence continually and that’s a good thing, unless you are head coach Todd Haley. He says his thoughts have not gone beyond what happens on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. That’s when the Chiefs and Oakland Raiders finish off the regular season. Kickoff is 12 noon and the TV broadcast is on CBS, with Spero Dedes and Randy Cross handling the broadcast.

That’s why Haley says that his team will play out this relatively meaningless game just like they did the 15 that came before. Rest players for the playoffs? What playoffs?

“The stage we’re in we’re still in the developing foundation-laying period for this team,” Haley said. “There are some teams that can think like that, I don’t think we’re one of those teams, I know we’re not. We just have so much work still to be done.”

How this approach will actually manifest itself come Sunday afternoon remains to be seen. Come the fourth quarter and depending on the circumstances of what’s happening on the field, Haley may change his mind.

“I think as the head coach you have to do what you think is best for the team,” Haley said. “You have to take everything into account. Sometimes staying in is the best thing in certain situations. It’s just a fine line, a balance, and making sure what you’re doing is what’s the best thing for the team overall.”

The most veteran and important of the players in the Chiefs locker room – the players that would get the first chance to take some snaps off – have no problem with the approach that Haley is taking with the regular season finale.

“For us as players, that is our job, to go out and compete for 16 games,” QB Matt Cassel said. “As a group and as a team we have a lot of work to do going into the playoffs and there are things that we want to accomplish. One of those is to keep our home-field advantage and continue to play well.”

There are four plausible story lines to provide motivation for both teams in this game:

  • The Chiefs want to finish the season unbeaten at home. They are currently 7-0. As we wrote earlier this week, not losing at home guarantees nothing in the playoffs.
  • The Chiefs want to solidify the third seed in the AFC post-season bracket. If the playoffs began today, they would host the New York Jets. A victory would send them to Pittsburgh. But the Steelers results against the Browns, the Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati will come into play should they lose.
  • The Raiders are 5-0 in the division and want to sweep the AFC West. It would be something for them to build on for 2011. The last 10 seasons had 10 teams that finished the season with an unbeaten division record. All made the playoffs, something Oakland cannot do.
  • The fourth reason is obvious – it’s the Chiefs and Raiders, meeting in the regular season for the 100th time in their 51-season rivalry.

What this game will not feature are a couple of teams tip-toeing through the regular-season finale, trying to keep from being injured.

“Our players understand that during your time in this league if you let up or if you’re protecting yourself you’ll be in big trouble,” Haley said. “There are just too many big, fast guys that are too good and you need to be at your best. It’s late in the year, you have to really work hard at taking care of your bodies, eating right, getting enough sleep and there are plenty of distractions to be had out there so it’s a good test for our team just in continuing to stay focused on a day-to-day basis.”

Starting around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday there will be plenty of time to consider the first-round game in the playoffs, who the Chiefs play, what day they’ll play and how they will prepare to face their first visit to the tournament in four years.

“You can’t jump ahead,” said veteran LB Mike Vrabel. “This isn’t the pre-season. This time we go into the game knowing that after Sunday we are not finished.”

Added veteran LB Brian Waters: “Teams successful in the playoffs, you can see that they had success at the end of the season. Whether you call that momentum or what, it’s obviously a factor.”

And a final word on the subject from Cassel: “It definitely benefits you to keep your momentum going because I think that we have been playing pretty good football these past few weeks and if we can continue that it just builds further momentum going into the playoffs and hopefully gives us some confidence.”

These teams met eight weeks ago now, as the Raiders grabbed a 23-20 overtime victory on a rainy Sunday in Oakland.

“Their defense was very disruptive for us so this is very similar in some ways as Tennessee in that they’re going to load the box,” said Haley. “They’re going to put a bunch of guys up there and they’re going to try to stop the run and they’re going to count on their good corners and safeties to play coverage, which they do as good as anyone so we’re going to have to run the ball into a loaded front and we’re going to have to beat man-to-man coverage. It’s pretty simple.”


  • BILLS – signed LB Shawne Merriman to a two-year contract extension. He’s currently on the team’s injured-reserve list.
  • BRONCOS – reached a contract settlement with fired head coach Josh McDaniels.
  • CHARGERS – placed RB Mike Tolbert (neck) and LB Stephen Cooper on the injured-reserve list; signed RB Curtis Brinkley and LB Darry Beckwith off their practice squad.
  • VIKINGS – signed WR Juaquin Iglesias off the Bears practice squad.

One Response to “Three Hours From Playoffs … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • January 2, 2011  - Rick says:

    I’m pleased, it sounds as if Haley and the Chiefs players are viewing this game in the same light that I’ve been. They want to keep winning, they want to beat the Raiders, they want to keep the unbeaten streak in Arrowhead alive. Big thumbs up! :)

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