Minnesota's playoffs actually began weeks ago, after a series of poor performances almost dropped the defending NFC Central champion Vikings out of sight.

"We've had a one-game season for the last three weeks," Cris Carter said. "We just have to win one more."The Vikings (8-7) put themselves in position to garner the NFC's final playoff spot Sunday night when they put a 30-10 whipping on the Kansas City Chiefs.

Minnesota is in if it wins its finale Friday at Washington. The Vikings can qualify if they lose, but they'd need help from other teams.

"I don't want to have to worry about other teams losing," Jim McMahon said. "We control our own destiny. I don't care about ifs."

The Vikings, whose chances of repeating as division champs ended when both Green Bay and Detroit won earlier Sunday, took a one-game lead over New Orleans and Philadelphia in the bid for the final wild-card berth.

The Chiefs (10-5) learned before Sunday's game that they had clinched the AFC West due to losses by rivals Denver and Los Angeles.

"That had no bearing on our performance. Nobody even talked about it," Chiefs safety Kevin Ross said. "We just got beat."

While the defeat dropped Kansas City a game behind Houston and Buffalo in the race for overall AFC home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs, a fifth consecutive home loss would have devastated Minnesota.

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Instead, the Vikings had their best all-around game since McMahon became their quarterback.

Signed as a free agent in March, McMahon threw touchdown passes of 31 and 29 yards to Carter - giving the pair four scoring hookups in the last two weeks - and thoroughly outplayed fellow old-timer Joe Montana.

"They talk a lot about Joe in December," Vikings coach Dennis Green said. "But Jim has been a good playoff-drive quarterback, too."

Montana, who came to Kansas City in a ballyhooed offseason trade with San Francisco, said he couldn't remember playing a worse game. The score was 30-3 before Dave Krieg came in to throw a garbage-time TD pass to Keith Cash.

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