KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Even with the Kansas City Chiefs at a surprising 9-3 and having four games left, there's already a sense that the fate of their regular season has been decided. Even at a game back of the 10-2 Denver Broncos, the Chiefs are unlikely to win the AFC West championship. For that to happen, they'll need to pick up two games on the Broncos the rest of the way, an almost impossible scenario given the weakness of Denver's remaining schedule.
The Chiefs can clinch a wild-card spot Sunday by beating the Redskins in Washington if one of two other AFC teams, the Miami Dolphins or the Baltimore Ravens, lose. The Chiefs can also clinch a wild-card spot by winning two of their four remaining games regardless of results elsewhere.
So the Chiefs will be a wild-card team and almost certainly the fifth seed in the AFC. Once they clinch that playoff spot, they're probably going to play a regular-season game or two that won't carry much, if any, meaning with regard to the playoffs. It's going to be interesting to see how coach Andy Reid handles that time for the Chiefs.
Since Reid is no doubt dying for my advice, here it is: The Chiefs need to keep playing as if the games do matter. They shouldn't rush players back prematurely from injuries and it's OK to provide some rest to players (Jamaal Charles immediately comes to mind) who might need it, but otherwise they should make their best effort to win.
Maybe my advice for him will change between now and then. But at this point, the Chiefs have a lot of defensive issues to resolve. Their starters need to play, get these things fixed and get their swagger back.
On offense, the Chiefs may at long last have something going for them and there's no need to take a chance on ruining that now. Alex Smith's last two games may have been his best. Momentum counts for something here.