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.
The Associated Press News Service
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