For the last three weeks, THIS is how it's felt to be a Kansas City Chiefs fan. Sayonara, home field advantage - we hardly knew ye. After starting 9-0, the Chiefs have bollixed the top seed in the AFC whilst losing two-straight games at Arrowhead. Collateral damage: Denver has now swept Kansas City two seasons in a row. I'm feeling nauseous.
Fortunately, Big Red has some extra strength Maalox tablets in the form of familiarity.
Over three games against former divisional foes from the AFC East, Andy Reid has emerged victorious by an aggregate score of 74-43. Only the last place Washington Redskins (3-9) remain, a team Reid has defeated on 10 of 14 road trips to the nation's capital.
During a conversation with Amateur Hour this week, Kent Babb (formerly of the KC Star and now of the Washington Post) postured that we needn't look any further than quarterback Robert Griffin III when assessing blame for the poor results in Washington.
"Everything is a train wreck," Babb said. "He can't stand his coaches ... he's a bit of a know-it-all; a diva at 23 years of age. It's not physical - he's completely healthy but his confidence is completely screwed."
RGIII's sophomore slump aside, the offense in Washington has only been part of the problem. They're -2 in turnovers, -8 points per game in differential and may very well have the worst defense in the NFL.
Washington is coached by Mike Shanahan and while many question for how long, Kent Babb said that he expects the coach to return in 2014. Naturally, Mike's son Kyle is the offensive coordinator ... his actual contributions are unknown, however. Long time defensive guru and former Saints head coach Jim Haslett has been implementing his 3-4 scheme in the capital since 2010 but the unit is yet to crack the top-20 in scoring defense.
Only one team in the NFL is allowing more than the 30 points per game this collection of players is surrendering in 2013. Typically, professional defenses only have a few weaknesses in any given season ... that's certainly not the case in Washington, where they're searching for something to hang their hat on.
Jim Haslett's defense throws a lot of bodies at you. One would think this comes with the aim of keeping guys fresh but really it's that few players have solidified themselves are regular starters, especially along the defensive line. The snap count between defensive ends Jarvis Jenkins, Chris Baker and Kedric Golston is fairly even. Captain Barry Cofield lines up at nose tackle but all the impact plays on his 2013 resume have come against the pass. Frankly, it's a patchwork defensive line that is yet to establish any kind of consistent presence.
Rounding out the front seven, linebackers Brian Orakpo, Perry Riley, London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan are the strength of the defense. Orakpo and Kerrigan are both high first round picks with immense ability regardless of situation. 38-year old iron man London Fletcher has never missed a Sunday in his career, starting more than 250 consecutive games. He and Perry Riley, a fourth-year player out of LSU, form one of the highest-volume tackling duos in the NFL. However, PFF has Riley and Fletcher graded as two of the worst players on this defense.
Despite having former Bucs head coach Raheem Morris instructing the secondary, the problems on the back-end are abundant. DeAngelo Hall hasn't been a top-flight corner for half a decade, Josh Wilson struggles both in coverage and against the run, Brandon Meriweather is reckless and one of the lowest graded players (via PFF) this year and the trio of Reed Doughty, Bacarri Rambo and Josh Gumbs leave plenty to be desired at the other safety spot.
How to attack their defense
In the grand scheme of things, the only players you really have to game plan for are Orakpo and Kerrigan. Unfortunately, the Chiefs might be without starting left tackle Branden Albert and quarterback Alex Smith's "hold time" is longer than AT&T customer service. Don't get me wrong - the Chiefs offensive line has had plenty of blunders, but I'd venture to guess that around half of the 32 sacks Kansas City has surrendered this season are due to Smith not pulling the trigger.
Washington's linebackers and safeties (the entire middle of the field) have struggled in coverage all season so Andy Reid can stick with his base offensive principles. While the last few weeks have produced impressive numbers throwing downfield, they may want to work-in some quicker routes this week to keep Haslett's unit on their heels.
I'd love to suggest putting the ball in Jamaal Charles' capable hands about 30 times, but that's become a mere fairy tale for the fan base rather than an actual possibility. Perhaps we'll see a healthier sprinkling of Knile Davis, Junior Hemingway and Alfred Alonzo Jenkins this week, after each of them had strong contributions against Denver last Sunday? A man can dream.
Led by 2012 Offensive Rookie of the year Robert Griffin III, Mike Shanahan's offense has been ... well ... unpredictable. RGIII has been recuperating from a devastating knee injury and has only recently started to look like his former self, especially running the ball. Arguably the biggest issue they've faced is turnovers, with Griffin putting the ball on the ground 11 times and throwing 11 INTs already this year.
As of a couple weeks ago, PFF had positive grades on four of the five offensive linemen for Washington. Tackles Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus have been downright excellent but journeyman right guard Chris Chester - the lone starter with a negative rating - is actually the lowest-rated starter regardless of position on the offensive side of the ball.
Running back Alfred Morris burst onto the scene in 2012 with 1,600 yards and 13 TDs. His pace has slowed a bit in year two, but Morris is still fourth in the NFL in rushing yards and his YPC is better than anyone in the top 10. On the plus side, last week against the Giants Morris was held to 11 carries for 26 yards, his lowest totals in any game this season.
There are two pass catchers in the Capital you need to know: wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed. Aside from them, it's a lackluster group comprised of Leonard Hankerson (on IR), Santana Moss (34 years old), Roy Helu (a backup running back), starter Josh Morgan (16 receptions) and a handful of other nameless, faceless contributors.
How to stop their offense
Do you remember the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan? Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, play-action, run, run, run, bootleg, run, run, run ... get the idea? Washington is first in the league in rushing and their passing success is primarily based on play-action throws to Pierre Garcon (84 receptions) and Jordan Reed (45). Perhaps problematic for the Chiefs defense, RGIII's rushing numbers have started to increase pretty dramatically as his knee has continued to heal.
Quick, where have the Chiefs really struggled on defense this season? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Whether its safety play, free releases by the cornerbacks or maybe just a lack of elite speed in general, deep throws have been killing this defense all season long. Unless Bob Sutton can somehow locate his pass rush - without the services of Justin Houston, mind you - this could be another very long afternoon for what once was the dominant defensive unit in the NFL. Kansas City doesn't have a player capable of sticking with Garcon one-on-one, so expect a corner AND a safety to blanket him all afternoon.
Key advantages for Washington
1. Pass rush - Pardon my redundancy, but Orakpo and Kerrigan can flat-out play. Their production hasn't quite equaled Houston and Hali but this young, up-and-coming pair of outside linebackers will be the best in the NFL very soon. Regardless of whether Branden Albert plays or not, the Chiefs will be starting at least one inexperienced tackle on Sunday. Sacks can kill momentum and bring drives to a screeching halt.
2. Pass blocking - Kansas City only has two sacks in the last five games after starting the season on a record-setting pace. According to PFF, Washington's tackles are the two highest-rated players on their entire offense. The Chiefs will need to get to force RGIII into mistakes on Sunday and the only way to do that is by generating pressure. To make matters worse, if Griffin has a clean pocket but no open receivers, he can tuck and run as well any quarterback in the NFL.
Key advantages for Kansas City
1. Weapons - This is a double-whammy, if you will. Simply put, the Chiefs have more players capable of impacting the game on both sides of the ball. Eric Berry can all but eliminate tight end Jordan Reed and Bob Sutton should be able to dedicate two members of his secondary to Pierre Garcon all afternoon without putting the rest of his unit at a disadvantage. Offensively, the Chiefs are playing their best football of the year and Washington's defense is quite literally as bad as it gets league-wide.
2. Special teams - Still somehow the forgotten factor, special teams have a profound impact on the outcome of games week after week. Washington is dead-last in average starting field position while the Chiefs remain in the top three. Knile Davis' 108-yard TD against Denver was a thing of beauty, but it's guys like returner Quintin Demps and gunner Junior Hemingway that the Chiefs rely on to find subtle ways to change their offensive and defensive fortunes.
The bottom line
I get it - Washington sucks ... buuuuuttttt I'm still kinda / sorta holy-crap terrified.
Losing three games in a row feels like (excrement). The fact that Denver and San Diego were the opponents only stokes my anger. I've been moping around for the better part of three weeks. It's time for a silver lining. I mean ... if we're being honest, it's in my nature to think the Chiefs are always much better than they really are.
With that in mind, you've reached the insufferable homer portion of our program: My search for solace revealed that while the Chiefs haven't won a game since November 3, they haven't exactly played a bad game during that stretch. Well ... like ... as a whole at least. Right?
Clearly the defense is all-aboard the struggle bus, but we've seen them play at such a high level that it seems silly to assume they can't find their swagger again. And take a gander at that offense! Jamaal looks pretty fresh (for reasons we shall not dwell upon) and Alex has been playing with a tremendous amount of confidence. Can you imagine how the last three weeks would have gone if the receivers would actually hang on to the damn ball? Same with the defensive backs, sheeeeeesh ... countless missed opportunities. The Chiefs were a play or two away in all three of those losses.
Plus this happened. Talk about special teams.
Then Kent Babb suggested the Chiefs should "totally smoke them" this week.
Early this week I was convinced this team was headed toward the gallows. All I saw was terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad football. Truth is the Chiefs dropped two games against the best team in the AFC sandwiched around a loss that directly resulted from two freak injuries in one quarter.
A few minor adjustments and the Chiefs should be able to steamroll the ‘Skins.
Chiefs 38 - Washington 23 - Ryan 99 (problems but the Chiefs ain't one)
Sunday's postgame show will begin shortly after the final whistle. Next week, the Chiefs travel to Oakland to (bleep) the Raiders and Amateur Hour returns to the Phoggy Dog in Lawrence for another LIVE broadcast. Join us at Raider-Hater Headquarters (2228 Iowa in Lawrence, Kansas) Pre-game festivities start at 1 p.m.
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