Reid may play it down middle vs. Chargers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Caught between his wish to keep some key players fresh for the upcoming playoffs and a desire to see the struggling Kansas City Chiefs build some momentum, Andy Reid may play things down the middle in Sunday’s final regular-season game against the Chargers in San Diego.

Reid said starters and backups alike at all positions would get some practice time this week with the first team. He will then decide later in the week which starters will play against the Chargers and how much.

“I’m having practice just like we’re going to play the San Diego Chargers, which we are,’’ Reid said. “At the same time I’m going to work some guys in. I’ll figure it out by the end of the week exactly how we’re going to work it. They’re all going to practice. Every position is going to do [its] thing. Then we’ll just kind of ... mix and match.’’

The 11-4 Chiefs can’t help or hurt their playoff standing by winning or losing against the 8-7 Chargers. The Chiefs are locked in as the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs and will know sometime on Sunday which opponent they will face in the wild-card round of the playoffs the following weekend.

The Chiefs have some players who could benefit from a week off, most notably running back Jamaal Charles. Defensively, they have a few more candidates, including outside linebacker Tamba Hali. He didn’t practice Thursday because of soreness and swelling in his knee.

On the other hand, two injured players, outside linebacker Justin Houston and offensive tackle Branden Albert, were scheduled to return to practice on an every-down basis. They might benefit from getting in a few plays against the Chargers since they haven’t played in weeks.

Quarterback Alex Smith was preparing to play. If he does, he might not be in the game long. Backup Chase Daniel would likely play more than Smith.

“It’s not up to me,’’ said Smith, who had one of his worst games of the season last week against the Indianapolis Colts. “I’m getting ready for it. No answers yet. Just preparing to play and we’ll see what happens Sunday.

“If you play, the argument is that you’re staying in rhythm. You’re keeping your timing. The speed of the game, you’re staying used to it. The negative would be [the risk of] injury. Not playing, the benefit there is that you’re getting healthy and fresh.’’