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Winning record at stake


They are two 8-7 teams with slim hope of making it into the playoffs. The Jaguars' and Chiefs' seasons are each likely to end on Sunday. One team's season, however, will end with a winning record.

That would seem to be the motivation for Sunday's game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Jaguars can clinch their third consecutive winning season with a win. Anything more than that would rely on a trio of circumstances.

For the Jaguars to make it into the playoffs for the second consecutive season, they must beat the Chiefs, the Jets must lose to the Raiders, the Bengals must lose or tie against the Steelers and the Titans must lose or tie against the Patriots. All of those games are one p.m. kickoffs, which means there will be a lot of scoreboard watching in Kansas City on Sunday.

The Chiefs' circumstances for winning a wild-card playoff berth are similar to the Jaguars', beginning with a win on Sunday. The Chiefs would also need a Broncos loss, a Bengals loss or tie and a Titans loss or tie.

"Two 8-7 teams that have played good football in spurts this year," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said in describing Sunday's opponents.

Kansas City won seven games in a nine-game stretch that included wins over San Diego, Seattle and Denver. The Chiefs appeared to be headed for the playoffs until they lost three in a row recently: at Cleveland, to Baltimore and at San Diego.

The Jaguars won consecutive games three times this season. They appeared headed to the playoffs only three weeks ago, but have since lost to the Titans and Patriots.

You might say the Jaguars and Chiefs are playing for the distinction of having fallen one win shy of making it into the playoffs.

"There's a lot at stake," Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. "Winning; never forget that. When you play, the biggest thing at stake is to win the game. That's always at stake, every week. You play to win these games. When you play, you want to win. If they (the players) don't understand that part, they don't need to be here."

The Jaguars can join four other teams in NFL history to have produced two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. Rookie running back Maurice Jones-Drew needs to rush for 105 yards to reach 1,000 yards, and it's likely he'll get the carries to get it done, what with Fred Taylor nursing a sore hamstring.

"We have run the ball very, very well this year. The one-two punch Fred and Maurice have given us this year has been exceptional," Del Rio said.

Kansas City, on the other hand, gives the ball almost exclusively to Larry Johnson, who has rushed 383 times for 1,651 yards, second in the league to San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, 1,749.

"They have a true workhorse in the backfield," Del Rio said of Johnson. "If it wasn't for what Tomlinson is doing out in San Diego, you wouldn't hear anything but Larry Johnson."

Jaguars quarterback David Garrard will be in his 10th consecutive start. Sunday's game will be Garrard's final opportunity to make a pitch to be the team's starting quarterback going into next summer's training camp.

Garrard has had high moments during his nine starts, but he's suffered low moments recently. His four turnovers were the difference in the loss to the Titans two weeks ago, and a late-game fumble last Sunday canceled a potential rally against the Patriots. Those five turnovers have caused sharp criticism of Garrard from Jaguars fans and media.

"That's life in the NFL. You go from hero to goat in a hurry. Whether you get a lot of praise or criticism, to pay too much attention to it could be detrimental to your career," Del Rio said.

"Once again, you have to bounce back. You hate to keep saying that, but it's true," Garrard said.

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