While it may not be time to push the panic button if you're a Kansas City Chiefs fan, they are looking to avoid a 4th straight loss when they take on the woeful Washington Redskins at Fed Ex Field this afternoon. KC (9-3) is the first team in NFL history to win its first nine games then lose three in a row. However, it leads the AFC wild-card race and can secure its first playoff berth since 2010 with a win at Washington (3-9) and a loss or tie by Miami or Baltimore on Sunday.
During the Chiefs' 9 game winning streak to open the 2013 season, they surrendered only 111 points (12.3) but faced only 2 teams currently with winning records, Dallas and Philadelphia who are tied atop the NFC East at 7-5. During their 3 game losing streak they have lost to Denver twice and San Diego yielding a combined total of 103 points. Ironically they've averaged 28 points over their 3 defeats, but offensively coming from behind has not lately been one of their stronger challenges to overcome considering they were accustomed to getting off to fast starts letting their defense wear opponents down the stretch.
Alex Smith (261/440 2736 16 TD 6 INT) has looked efficient for the most part but has a tendency to press leaving him more vulnerable to make mistakes. Smith is fortunate to have leading rusher Jamaal Charles (219-1011 4.6 9 TD) also as his top target (55-452 2 TD). Charles has big play ability to get open in the flat and outsmart secondaries and defensive backs with speed to generate good yardage after the catch. A more deep threat has been the resurgence of Dwayne Bowe (45-533 4 TD) who could have a field day against Washington's 27th ranked pass defense. Donnie Avery (34-524 2 TD) has been held in check as of late which could mean more opportunities for Dexter McCluster (42-417 1 TD). Smith has good speed out of the pocket and is not afraid to take a licking when scrambling (64-360 5.6 1 TD) and calling his own number.
Washington comes off blowing a 14-0 first half lead to the Giants only to lose their 4th straight 24-17 which eliminated the Redskins from the postseason mix. Robert Griffin III (262/430 3039 15 TD 11 INT), who completed his first 12 passes for 111 yards, finished with 207 and a TD to become the fourth player to throw for at least 3,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. He also ran for a season-high 88 yards on 12 attempts. Pierre Garcon (84-980 3 TD) had the ball stripped after a reception two plays later on the Skins final drive that would have given them the actual first down but instead sealed the loss. The officials' incorrect movement of the down marker on the Redskins' final drive led the team to believe it had a first down when instead it was third. Normally reliable Alfred Morris (206-996 4.8 6 TD) was held to a season low 26 yards on 11 carries (2.4) RGIII (82-460 5.6) like Smith is also dangerous and not afraid to take a hit in the open field, however with the season already lost it may not be worth it to absorb contact which could lead to further injury.
The Chiefs struggles steam from a lack of pressure on the quarterback, having recorded 35 sacks in the first seven games and only two in the past five. Justin Houston, who leads the team with 11 sacks, could miss a 2nd straight game with an elbow injury. Even without Houston, the Chiefs defensive line should have no problem creating pressure on Griffin. Washington will have to establish the run early and often, but it will be tough against the front seven of Kansas City. If Griffin has time in the pocket I could see him having a big day against a Chiefs secondary that has looked average the past few weeks. However with Kansas City coming into this one at 4-1 away from Arrowhead and a lot more at stake, a 4th straight loss seems highly unlikely.