Now begins the toughest part of the schedule for the playoff-hopeful Chiefs (6-4). Their last six regular-season games are all against winning teams. Five of their upcoming opponents are either outright or co-leaders of their division, and the sixth, San Diego, has already beaten them once.

Denver (8-2), New England (6-4), Cincinnati (7-3) and the Chargers (6-4) will be at Arrowhead Stadium, starting Sunday with the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. Sandwiched between the home games is a two-week span in mid-December when Kansas City visits NFC East leaders Dallas (7-3) and the New York Giants (7-3).

Gone are soft touches such as the Texans, who gave up Larry Johnson’s franchise-record 211 yards rushing Sunday night.

Chargers

Antonio Gates said his sprained right foot was feeling better Monday, and didn’t rule himself out of next Sunday’s game at Washington.

The Chargers’ star tight end was hurt in the third quarter of a 48-10 win over Buffalo on Sunday. He underwent an MRI exam on Monday, which showed no significant damage.

“My foot feels a lot better,” said Gates, whose foot was in a protective boot. “It’s just day by day. I’m preparing to play this week.”

Coach Marty Schottenheimer said the team’s relief was “considerable.”

“You don’t want to see any player sustain any kind of injury,” Schottenheimer said. “In his case, he’s a big part of what we’re doing overall as a football team. But we have the good fortune of the football gods smiling on all of us.”

Gates, who set an NFL record for tight ends with 13 touchdown catches last year, leads the Chargers with 56 catches this year for 784 yards and seven scores.

Rams

Quarterback Marc Bulger likely will miss a few weeks with an injury to his throwing shoulder.

Results of an MRI exam Monday revealed no tear or separation. The injury was described as a bruise after a 38-28 loss to the Cardinals, and interim coach Joe Vitt said Bulger was “sore, very, very sore.”

Bulger also sustained a mild concussion and told the team’s Web site: “It’s going to be at least a couple of weeks. We’ll see if it’s longer.”

Bulger needed three weeks to recuperate from his last injury, two games plus the team’s bye. He got sacked by safety Adrian Wilson in the third quarter on Sunday and needed his left hand to put on a hat after making it to the sideline.

Backup quarterback Jamie Martin finished Sunday’s game and likely will start this week at Houston, with rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick moving to second string.

The 36-year-old Martin led the team to victories over the Saints and Jaguars, the first two victories of his NFL career.

Colts

Indianapolis, known until this season for numerous shootouts, proved on Sunday that in a year when the defense has improved dramatically, it can still win high-scoring games.

The Colts defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 45-37 on Sunday to improve to 10-0 in a season in which it has played games with such scores as 10-3 and 13-6.

“Fortunately, our offense bailed us out,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said Monday. “We moved the ball and took the momentum from them.”

Dungy said that he never was worried about his offense.

“We didn’t have our rhythm coming out of training camp and weren’t on all cylinders in the preseason,” he said.

“There was never any concern about people catching up to us, or us not playing well enough.”

The Colts’ outburst Sunday came after they scored 40 points against New England and 31 points against Houston. They lead the league with 305 points in 10 games, five more than San Diego.

“These last three weeks, we’ve had people play us a little differently, play us with a little one-on-one on the outside,” he said.

“I think we’ve shown we can play the other way … Our offense is still pretty good.”

Dolphins

Miami Dolphins defensive leader Zach Thomas likely will miss the next two games with a separated right shoulder.

The middle linebacker’s status for the rest of the season was not known as doctors evaluated the severity of the injury sustained in the first half of the Dolphins’ 22-0 drubbing at the hands of the Browns.

Coach Nick Saban said the seriousness of Thomas’ injury would determine options, ranging from playing in a shoulder harness to surgery. The Dolphins play (3-7) at Oakland (4-6) on Sunday.

Thomas, the club’s leading tackler and its vocal and emotional sparkplug, got hurt trying to hit Browns rookie quarterback Charlie Frye. Thomas charged Frye and attempted to wrap his arms around the QB, who got off his throw.

Browns

Browns coach Romeo Crennel says he will try to get Frye in at quarterback again even though starter Trent Dilfer was displeased with Crennel’s decision to play Frye for three series in Cleveland’s 22-0 win against Miami on Sunday.

“Trent is a competitor and as a competitor he wants the ball in his hands,” Crennel said Monday. “He’s told me he wants the ball in his hands, and so when I take it out of his hands, he is not satisfied. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t be satisfied either.”

Crennel had been saying all season that he was waiting for the right time to play Frye, the team’s third-round pick. He told both quarterbacks last week of the possibility that Frye would play against the Dolphins.

The Browns were at home and Crennel wanted the rookie to get his first action on friendly turf. Also, the Browns took a 9-0 lead in the second quarter.

“It was a close game, but I thought we could see how he does with one series,” Crennel said. “That was a chance I took. It worked out.”

Frye’s first pass was underthrown and incomplete. He also made an ill-advised throw that Dolphins defensive back Sam Madison should have intercepted. Instead, the 14-play, 57-yard drive continued and Phil Dawson kicked a 40-yard field goal.

Frye finished 6-of-11 for 58 yards and one interception on a ball that fellow rookie Braylon Edwards should have caught.

Crennel wouldn’t say whether that next chance will be at Minnesota this weekend.

Giants

Offensive Left tackle Luke Petitgout, who injured his knee in the Giants’ 27-17 win over Philadelphia Sunday, could play this week in Seattle.

Coach Tom Coughlin said Petitgout has no structural damage to the knee. He left the game at the start of the second half and was replaced by veteran Bob Whitfield.

The team is still awaiting results of MRIs on center Shaun O’Hara, who sprained an ankle, and defensive end Michael Strahan, who has neck and shoulder stiffness.

Texans

The Texans had been looking progressively better in the past few weeks, but in Sunday’s 45-17 loss to Kansas City they were worse than ever.

Missed tackles, fumbles, dropped passes, penalties and blown coverages all contributed to Houston’s ninth loss of the season. Now the humiliated team must figure a way to regroup as they prepare for the Rams.

Houston (1-9) must win half of its next six games for any hope of matching the expansion season record of 4-12. The Texans have improved their record each season and won a team-best seven games last year.

Quarterback David Carr said he’s embarrassed and upset at the team’s performance.

“Last week was bad. The week before was bad,” he said. “We had higher expectations than this.”

Carr had an interception returned for a touchdown and fumbled twice. He was sacked just once for the first time this season.


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