LANDOVER, Md. – The toughest three-game stretch of schedule for the Kansas City Chiefs is over, and for the next couple of weeks they get back to facing sub-.500 opponents. The 9-3 Chiefs, who can clinch a postseason berth today with a victory and either a Miami Dolphins' or Baltimore Ravens' loss, need to get back to the type of team they were earlier in the season if they intend to win their first playoff game in 20 years.
Although their realistic chances of winning the AFC West championship are gone and the Chiefs appear locked in to a wild card spot, these final four games are anything but meaningless. They have more than a few things to clean up before they’re ready to beat a playoff opponent.
Today’s opponents, the Washington Redskins, aren’t that. They’re 3-9 and have lost four straight games, so they provide the perfect excuse for the Chiefs to get back to their former selves. Washington has displayed plenty of problems on offense, defense and special teams. If the Chiefs can’t take advantage, it’s an ominous sign.
Washington is second in the NFL in points allowed. The Chiefs having averaged 33 points over their last two games, so they’re in position to put up another big number today. The Redskins have played well against the run, but their pass defense has been a mess. If Alex Smith plays the way he has the past couple of weeks, the Chiefs should get there.
Injuries to left tackle Branden Albert (knee) and tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion) won’t make the job easier. Albert has quietly had a solid season, and protection against Washington pass-rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan is more a concern without him in the lineup. Fasano has a touchdown catch in each of the past three games, so his presence in the red zone will be missed.
The Chiefs suddenly have more concerns on defense. Dismiss their recent problems as the product of playing against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, but the Chiefs allowed 41 points two weeks ago to the San Diego Chargers, who at the time had a three-game losing streak.
The Chiefs are wise to take nothing for granted there. Washington leads the league in rushing and although quarterback Robert Griffin III isn’t playing as well as he did a year ago, he’s still had some big games and made some big plays.
The Redskins are also woeful on special teams, so that’s another area where the Chiefs should win today.
While the Redskins will present some problems, they’re the kind of December opponent that teams preparing to make a postseason run handle with ease. It’s getting to be time for the Chiefs to show they’re one of those teams.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Redskins 20