KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs have been something of a rollercoaster this season, though not in terms of wins and losses. They've been quite consistent at losing.
It's their performance that's been uneven, and it's often dictated by their opponent.
When the Chiefs have played one of the league's top teams, such as the Steelers or Broncos, a motley bunch that's lost eight consecutive games rises to the occasion. But when they follow with a game against a similarly downtrodden team, well, the results are fairly predictable.
They've lost, many of the games not even close.
"If you look at the games what we've played our best in, they've been against the 'good teams' at the time," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. "And then the following week, for whatever reason, we haven't been able to play as well and finish."
The Chiefs' margin of defeat in games played against teams with losing records is 12 points, while they've lost by an average of 13.3 to teams with winning marks.
But when you eliminate the games played against teams within one game of .500, the numbers tell a different story: They've lost by an average of nine points to the Falcons (10-1), Ravens (9-2) and Broncos (8-3), while losing to teams 4-7 or worse by more than 13 points per game.
That doesn't bode well with Carolina (3-8) coming to town Sunday.
"We played good against teams that I guess people don't expect us to win, and then I guess a game like this, people expect us to win because they're not as good a football team as other teams we've faced," defensive tackle Shaun Smith said. "But we can't let down."
Is that it, though? Are the Chiefs simply letting down against lousy teams?
"I'd like to think we come out every week, regardless of the opponent, knowing that at any given Sunday, any team can beat anyone," quarterback Brady Quinn said. "This is an extremely competitive league. The difference from team-to-team and player-to-player is very minimal."
Surely the Saints, who have won five of their last seven, are still scratching their heads at how the Chiefs managed to overcome a 24-6 deficit to force overtime at the Superdome, and then had the gumption to finish off the biggest comeback in franchise history for their lone victory.
The Ravens probably wonder who they were playing two weeks later when they visited Arrowhead Stadium and managed to grind and slog and fight their way to a 9-6 victory.
Just last week, the Broncos came to town riding a five-game win streak. Peyton Manning was shut down most of the afternoon, and Kansas City hung around until late in the fourth quarter, when Denver kicked a field goal to help wrap up a 17-9 victory.
On the flip side, the Chiefs were routed 31-13 by struggling San Diego, ambushed in a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay, and blown out 35-17 by Buffalo early in the year.
"It's been brought to our attention, so I don't think it will be a concern," linebacker Derrick Johnson said, "but we have had that pattern throughout the year."
Johnson didn't get into the details of how it was addressed, but he did say the coaching staff has tried to get the message across in several different ways.
"Human nature says, 'I played the Denver Broncos and they're the best team in the AFC West, so now here's a team that is 3-8 and they're not as good as the Denver Broncos.' So, human nature says, 'Relax a little bit. I can relax a little bit,'" Crennel said. "So, that's what you have to fight. You have to fight human nature. That's what we are focusing on, is not letting down and being able to put forth the same kind of effort we put forth last week."
Notes: Chiefs LB Tamba Hali (knee), LT Branden Albert (back) and C Ryan Lilja (knee) have not practiced this week. ... The Chiefs claimed OL Hayworth Hicks off waivers. They also released K Matt Szymanski and signed LB Quan Sturdivant to the practice squad.
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