In the crazy world of professional sports fandom, nothing lasts forever.
Kansas City saw that as it said maybe-goodbyes to four of its beloved Royals Sunday afternoon—the end of a baseball season the town wishes could have went on forever. Just two years ago, those same players delivered a championship to Kansas City, making memories for fans that they will never forget.
But time flies just as fast across the parking lot at Arrowhead Stadium, and the Chiefs will take the field Monday night against the Washington Redskins as the only undefeated team left in the National Football League. At the game’s end, a quarter of the season will already be over.
The Chiefs still have a very long road to a championship, and Andy Reid would be the first to tell you that, but a Chiefs-less Sunday afforded a deeper look around the league—and while what we’re seeing this early is no guarantee, it is opportunity.
So far we have the Chiefs and 31 mediocre teams.— Elliot Harrison (@HarrisonNFL) October 1, 2017
And that’s what the Chiefs have Monday night—opportunity.
For the first time in a long time, the Chiefs are the consensus best team in the league, and a win against a good Washington team would confirm it.
Perhaps Washington’s biggest strength is similar to that of Los Angeles’—a defensive front that made the Raiders’ Derek Carr very uncomfortable on Sunday Night Football. Linebackers Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan each had a sack against Carr and have combined for 5.5 on the season to this point.
“You don’t want sacks,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said this week. “Sacks are bad, you lose field position, you get into third-and-longs, penalties all that. Unfortunately [against Los Angeles] offensively we had too many of those and we can’t dig ourselves in a hole because when you do that you almost become one dimensional and now, generically speaking, you’re letting the defensive line just tee off. As you saw last week, we got into some third-and-long situations where the defense can just sit at the sticks and play everything in front of them. We really need to focus on eliminating the penalties and the sacks.”
That could prove to be tougher as the Chiefs may be without starting left tackle Eric Fisher (back). Fisher missed practice Friday and Saturday and is officially listed as questionable. Center Mitch Morse (foot) will be out for the second game in a row. On the Redskins’ defensive side, safety DJ Swearinger (hamstring) is questionable.
The Chiefs would like to see a rebound game from tight end Travis Kelce, as he was held to just a yard last week. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt will look to keep his dream season rolling. Hunt already has 538 yards from scrimmage and six total touchdowns in just three career games.
The Redskins offense is led by Kirk Cousins, and the story for his unit this year has been the emergence of RB Chris Thompson. Thompson has almost as many catches as he does rushes, so the Redskins use him in many different ways. He leads Washington with 13 receptions for 231 yards.
“They’ve got guys that can hammer you down,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “Great speed from No. 25 (Chris Thompson), a legitimate guy that can take it to the house every play, whether it’s run or catch.”
Thompson had 188 total yards and a touchdown last week in the game against Oakland. WR Terrelle Pryor, who has started slow, and 2016 first-round WR Josh Doctson are other players to watch.
Washington could be without several key offensive players in this game, as RB Rob Kelley (rib) and TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum) are questionable. Both missed last week’s game and were limited in practice this week. WR Jamison Crowder (hamstring) is also questionable.
LB Dee Ford (back) will miss the game this week, so expect to see Frank Zombo in there at right outside linebacker.
For the Chiefs to win Monday night, they will need to overcome injuries, resurrect Kelce and maintain Thompson. If they could do all that, they’ll be the only perfect team with one-fourth of the season in the books. As history happens, the reminder is to enjoy it. If you’re going to the game Monday night, look around. Breathe it in.
As you approach the stadium, take time to stop and smell the roasts. In the crazy world of professional sports fandom, nothing lasts forever.