This should be the pivotal week that we all remember. At least we hope. Consider the following:
-The bye week is in sight (week 8)
-Todd Haley's schemes should finally start to become second nature at least to some
-Both the O-line and D-line should begin to really gel and find a rhythm (barring injury)
-All coaches should have a strong idea of what's working and what isn't
-All coaches should also have a strong idea of their players capabilities and limits
-Most importantly, the hardest part of the schedule ('cept the Steelers) is behind them
Thus, a win against the Washington Redskins in Week 6 could signal some really significant progress on the Chiefs roster and future trajectory. Let's take a closer look at the variables involved in this week's contest:
The drama in D.C. hasn't slowed down any year since Dan Snyder arrived as the Mark Cuban of NFL owners and this season was no different. Early splashes in free agency garnered cheers with Albert Haynesworth coming to the nation's capital, but every team rises and falls on the QB position and the Redskins have as big of a question mark as any other team in the NFL.
Simply put, Snyder openly flirted with trading up to nab USC's Mark Sanchez in the NFL draft and that was after striking out on trading for Jay Cutler. Hardly a ringing endorsement of your current starting signal caller. Thus the best thing Jason Campbell can do is put his head down, work hard and win the coaches and fan base over with results that can't be argued with: winning games.
Still, there's a reason why Snyder & Co. chased other prospects and while part of that might be rooted in enjoying the media spotlight and loving the sexy acquisition, the reality is that Campbell still has yet to prove he's a solid starting NFL quarterback. So the Chiefs might either be seeing a QB focused on proving his own team wrong or the very reason why Snyder is looking under every rock for a new one.
The Coaching of Jim Zorn
Some in D.C. were already calling for the head of Jim Zorn in his first full year of coaching as it seems that the league caught up quickly to what (seemingly) few tricks the rookie had up his sleeve in the second half of the season. The Skins lost four of their last five, including winnable games at Cincinnati (Note that the Bengals game had Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starting quarterback for Cincy) and then the heartbreaking loss to the 49ers at season's end with San Fran scoring 20 second half points.
Many openly questioned the hiring of Zorn before he ever took the field with his lack of coaching experience (Zorn's only coaching experience at the pro level is basically a decade as quarterbacks coach for the Lions and Seahawks) and the head coaching position may prove to be too much to handle, as it often does for many first-timers. By week 6, the media and fans will either be calling for Zorn's head as he continues to stumble or he might find the gravitas to succeed in this league.
How This Breaks Down
These two teams are surprisingly similar on offense if you look at the bigger picture. The biggest holes on offense for both teams are found in the offensive line and the receiving corps. After a strong first receiver of Santana Moss, the Redskins are hoping a young guy steps up like Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas. With the Chiefs, the spots are up for grabs after Dwayne Bowe. The holes are there for the pass rush to step through on each line and each defensive coordinator will be looking to take advantage.
Each quarterback - Cassel and Campbell - each have something to prove and will wear that every week they don the helmet and pads. And each team features a potentially powerful running game with Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson.
Washington's fantastic acquisition of Albert Haynesworth should work out well considering it's hard for someone that talented to not make an impact. It's the Jared Allen acquisition of 2009 and we all know the feeling of someone so talented along the line. Every defensive playmaker in the front seven should be immediately better for the Skins and that hurts the Chiefs chances. At the same time, the Chiefs have completely rearranged things up front so it's impossible to tell what Week 6 will hold until we're able to see some reps in camp and even into the season.
Still the Chiefs secondary should make things difficult for Campbell to do much of anything downfield, as talented as Moss is, and the addition of Mike Brown should help direct things in the defensive backfield. This should free up the safeties to add to the pass rush and give Clancy Pendergast some more creative tools to work with. If Campbell can be shaken up, this game is up for grabs.
But for me, this game is already won by the Chiefs and not because of any pieces on the field. In fact, this game in particular was already decided back before the draft when Scott Pioli was hired. As talented as any players on Washington's side are, everything starts with the front office and the direction a team decides to go. Under new head coach Todd Haley and Piolo, the Chiefs are focused, determined and ready and anyone not on board for that will be gone by this time (or at least on the bench).
When you're facing a team that waffles publicly on its quarterback all off-season and a head coach in over his head, the talent level doesn't matter too much. Because it's the team that's prepared to walk on the field and execute that will win football games. The Chiefs are headed that direction to match the stride and demeanor of other clubs like the Steelers and the Pats and Week 6 should prove to be a beautiful week in Kansas City both for the present and the future.
Kansas City 17, Washington 7