The Kansas City Chiefs have lost three straight games. But no one inside the locker room is panicking and nor should we.
The Denver Broncos are, by Vegas experts, tied with the Seattle Seahawks for odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl. Losing twice to one of the very best teams in the NFL and one of the top five quarterbacks ever to play the game – and by close margins no less – is no reason to panic.
Unlike any other team sport, the NFL is truly a one-game-at-a-time league. With just sixteen games, players and coaches simply cannot afford to dwell on past performances nor look ahead to the weeks ahead. The focus can only be on the very next game. And that’s where the learning and subsequent planning that coaches and players conduct between games becomes a make-or-break factor.
This Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will play Washington, which was eliminated from the playoffs with their loss to the New York Giants last week. The Chiefs should do on Sunday what they’ve done all year – beat the teams they are supposed to beat. The matchup looks promising on paper:
Washington is 3-9 and fans are calling for head coach Mike Shanahan’s job.
Right tackle Tyler Polumbus gave up multiple sacks to the Giants’ Justin Tuck last week.
Washington receivers dropped the ball all over the field.
Washington is -2 in turnover differential; the Chiefs are +14.
Washington is 19th in the NFL in points scored per game at 22.4; the Chiefs are 9th at 24.8 points.
Washington’s secondary is giving up 265 passing yards per game and starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall hurt his hip last week while strong safety Reed Doughty suffered a concussion.
On defense, the Chiefs have allowed 17.8 points per game while the Redskins are second-to-last in the league at 30.2 points allowed per game.
In many ways, Washington is the perfect opponent for the Chiefs. Washington provides the Chiefs with an opportunity to dominate each phase of the game, which we haven’t seen since probably Week 4 against the New York Giants. Washington’s pass defense is bad and two of their starters may be out or at least slowed down by injury. Donnie Avery is out to prove himself after dropping too many balls last week. We may also see more passes to Junior Hemingway and AJ Jenkins. And Dwayne Bowe may continue his resurgence.
Similarly, Washington’s offensive line has not provided quality protection for RG3. With Justin Houston likely out for one more game, Bob Sutton will unleash some creativity and see what sort of pass rush the Chiefs can apply.
With a third straight game of passing prowess and revitalized pressure on the quarterback, the Chiefs can actually accomplish two objectives. First, the Chiefs can win, and win big, which is just what the doctor ordered as we head into the homestretch of the season. And second, the Chiefs can show their remaining opponents – the Raiders, Colts, Chargers and a potential Wildcard game against either the Bengals or Colts - that the Chiefs can beat teams in multiple ways, on both sides of the ball. Watching the Broncos offense makes you understand the incredible uncertainty they cause in opposing defensive players in deciding, within a split second, who to cover and where to apply pressure. If you’re Kendrick Lewis, do you cover Eric Decker deep or Demaryius Thomas deep? If you’re Akeem Jordan, do you step up in case of a Knowshon Moreno/Montee Ball run, or do you hold back and play the crossing routes? If you are Marcus Cooper, do you play inside your receiver or outside?
Until a few weeks ago, opposing defenses were able to focus singularly on stopping Jamaal Charles, in the run and screen pass game. Watching tape of the Chargers and Broncos game – and perhaps this one against Washington – opposing defensive coordinators will now have to also contend with Alex Smith’s arm, going downfield to Bowe, Hemingway, Fasano, Avery and even Jenkins. And with a renewed pass rush and tight man coverage, the pressure will be on opposing offensive coordinators to gameplan for the Chiefs defense, rather than identifying easy holes to exploit.
What we haven’t seen yet is unpredictability on both sides of the ball. That split second of uncertainty and indecision makes the difference between making the big plays or having the big plays made at your expense.
The Chiefs can and should win on Sunday. How they go about it may impact the final three games of the season. and the first Wildcard playoff game as well. That’s going to take planning, not panic. Addicts, let’s keep our heads down and stay focused on Washington. One convincing win will do wonders and can help our chances to win the final three games.
Addicts, what is your plan for success for the Chiefs?!