Oakland All it took to get the Kansas City Chiefs back on the winning track was a game against the struggling Washington Redskins.
A win this week against another last-place team will put the Chiefs in the playoffs one year after posting the worst record in the NFL.
Kansas City (10-3) can clinch a playoff berth by beating the Oakland Raiders (4-9) today or with a loss by either Miami or Baltimore. The Chiefs still are in the division race in the AFC West, but will need help over the final two weeks if they want to pass Denver for first place.
“We’ve put ourselves in a great situation,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “As far as the division goes, some things outside of our control. But we control our destiny to get in the playoffs and that’s still a great place to be.”
It’s a remarkable achievement for a team that went 2-14 a year ago in a season marred by the murder-suicide involving Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot to death the mother of his infant child before turning the gun on himself.
But with Smith and new coach Andy Reid supplementing a talented roster that had six Pro Bowl players last year despite the dismal record, the Chiefs are in position to become the fourth team to make the playoffs a year after losing at least 14 games.
“Every year we go into the season, we’re trying to get to the playoffs, trying to win the big one, and to have a chance to clinch it before the season is over is going to be great, just because of what we went through last year,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said.
After starting the season 9-0, the Chiefs lost three straight games before rebounding with a 45-10 win over the Redskins last week.
“A loss in the National Football League, it’s a week real time but it seems like about a year when you’re going through it,” Reid said. “We had three of those in a row and it just seemed like forever.”
McCluster out with infection
Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster has been ruled out for today’s game in Oakland after developing an infection in a small cut on his ankle.
The Chiefs were wary that McCluster may have developed MRSA, but trainer Rick Burkholder said tests came back negative for the serious strain of staph infection. McCluster has been receiving antibiotics to treat the infection.
McCluster, who’s returned two punts for touchdowns this season, had been listed as questionable for the Raiders. A team spokesman said Saturday he will not make the trip.
He sustained the cut last week in the mud and snow at Washington.
The Chiefs had already ruled out left tackle Branden Albert with a hyperextended knee, tight end Anthony Fasano with a concussion and linebacker Justin Houston with a dislocated elbow.