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NFL Preview - Kansas City (0-5) at Washington (2-3)
By Scott Garbarini, Associate NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Washington Redskins are not in the position they had hoped to be in at this point of the season. It's hard to blame the schedule makers, though, for the team's undesired start.
The beleaguered Redskins will be taking on a winless opponent for the sixth straight week when the 0-5 Kansas City Chiefs make a stop at FedEx Field this Sunday for an interconference matchup.
Washington's two victories thus far in 2009 have come at home against St. Louis and Tampa Bay, teams that are a combined 0-10 this season, while both Detroit and Carolina have notched their only wins of the year at the expense of the Burgundy and Gold. The Redskins did face the unbeaten New York Giants last month, but that game took place back in Week 1.
Sunday's game will make Washington the first team in league history to play a winless club in six consecutive weeks.
Despite the Chiefs' poor start, the Redskins can't afford to take this week's foe lightly. Washington's 2-3 record has put it in the bottom of a very strong NFC East pack, and last Sunday's 20-17 loss at Carolina did nothing but further speculation that second-year head coach Jim Zorn may soon be seeking employment elsewhere.
The Redskins had an opportunity to take some of the heat off their embattled sideline boss, but allowed the struggling Panthers to put up 18 unanswered points and overcome a 17-2 third-quarter deficit.
Zorn's troops will try to bounce back against a Kansas City squad that has lost 28 of its last 30 contests and brings a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season into this weekend's tilt.
The Chiefs have been competitive at times this season, however, and nearly gave rookie head coach Todd Haley his first career win with a late rally against Dallas this past Sunday. Quarterback Matt Cassel engineered a long touchdown drive culminating with a fourth-down delivery to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe that tied the score at 20-20 with 24 seconds remaining in regulation, but the Cowboys managed to pull out a win on a 60-yard touchdown connection from Tony Romo to Miles Austin during the overtime period.
The frustrating loss was the third in a row for the Chiefs versus an NFC East member, having previously been dealt a 27-16 home setback to the Giants in Week 4 that followed a 20-point defeat in Philadelphia.
Washington, meanwhile, is just 4-9 over its last 13 games under Zorn and has scored more than 17 points just twice during that stretch. The Redskins enter this weekend's play ranked 27th in the NFL with an average of 14.6 points per game this season.
Kansas City leads the all-time series with Washington, 6-1, and has won four straight in the series including a 28-21 home victory when the clubs last met, in 2005. The Chiefs were 45-13 winners when they last visited the D.C. area, in 2001. The Redskins' only win in the series came in 1983 at R.F.K. Stadium, and they are 1-2 in series home games all-time.
Haley and Zorn will be meeting each other, as well as their counterpart's respective franchises, for the first time as head coaches.
WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL
Kansas City stands 30th out of 32 NFL teams in total offense (258.0 ypg) and dead last with an anemic 20.6 percent success rate on third downs, but the team did display some encouraging signs in its close loss to Dallas. Cassel (711 passing yards, 7 TD, 2 INT) threw for a season-best 253 yards and two scores while continuing to be judicious with the football, as the offseason acquisition has tossed 100 straight passes since his last interception. The ex-New England Patriot needs to get better protection from a suspect offensive line that has given up a subpar 14 sacks over the past four weeks, however, in order to get the ball downfield to top target Bowe (15 receptions, 3 TD) and reliable slotman Bobby Wade (14 receptions, 2 TD). Tight end Sean Ryan (13 receptions, 2 TD) and speedy running back Jamaal Charles (77 rushing yards, 12 receptions), who hauled in five passes for 54 yards against the Cowboys, also play important roles as safety valves with Cassel needing to check down often. The running game has been atrocious, with the declining Larry Johnson (226 rushing yards, 8 receptions) averaging a paltry 2.4 yards per carry and yet to find the end zone this season.
With its long-standing scoring problems, Washington will be relying once again on a defense that's kept the team in just about every game this year. The Redskins have yielded the third-fewest passing yards in the league (171.2 ypg) and are tied for fourth overall in total defense (290.8 ypg), and limited Carolina's talented running back duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to a combined 79 yards on 28 rush attempts a week ago. The unit is stout along the interior, where two-time All-Pro tackle Albert Haynesworth (12 tackles, 1 sack) effectively ties up blockers with his 350-pound frame and allows steady veteran London Fletcher (59 tackles, 1 sack) to make plays from his middle linebacker spot. The Redskins have also done a good job pressuring the passer in recent weeks, with end Andre Carter (21 tackles, 3.5 sacks) producing a career-high 2 1/2 sacks and a fumble in the Carolina loss and rookie outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (15 tackles, 2.5 sacks) having notched at least a half-sack in three straight games. End Phillip Daniels (14 tackles), one of Washington's better run stoppers, tore his right triceps against the Panthers but has elected to delay surgery and try to play through the injury.
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
Washington is coming off a season-low 198-yard output that played a pivotal role in last week's defeat, with quarterback Jason Campbell (1108 passing yards, 6 TD, 5 INT) squeezing out just 145 yards in the face of a relentless Carolina pass rush that sacked him five times on the afternoon. The Redskins have major concerns on the offensive line at the moment, with their top two blockers -- six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels (shoulder stinger) and right guard Randy Thomas (torn triceps) -- unavailable for Sunday's test. The makeshift front wall's protection liabilities forced tight end Chris Cooley (22 receptions, 2 TD) to stay in and pass block more versus the Panthers, and the sure-handed standout finished without a catch for the first time in nearly five years as a result. Campbell also found it tough to air it out to big-play receiver Santana Moss (21 receptions, 337 yards, 2 TD), who was held to a pedestrian 44 yards on four grabs last weekend, while primary running back Clinton Portis (338 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 2 total TD) gained just 57 yards on 19 carries in the loss. The Redskins are just 25th in the league in rushing offense (94.8 ypg) and Portis hasn't put forth a 100-yard effort since Week 12 of the 2008 campaign.
Provided Campbell gets ample time to throw, he should have plenty of chances to exploit a Kansas City stop unit that allowed Dallas' Austin to rack up a whopping 250 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 10 catches last Sunday, one week after the Giants' Steve Smith burned the group for 134 yards and a pair of scores on 11 receptions. The Chiefs have surrendered an average of 270 passing yards per game (29th overall) along with 10 touchdowns through the air in five games. A secondary which features a pair of second-year cornerbacks in Brandon Flowers (16 tackles, 1 INT, 5 PD) and Brandon Carr (15 tackles, 7 PD) hasn't gotten much support from a pass rush that has generated a meager six sacks on the year, which helps explain those poor numbers. The defense hasn't been great in containing the run either, ranking 25th in the NFL (132.8 ypg) in that category. Inside linebacker Demorrio Williams (35 tackles) is the leading tackler of a front seven that possesses few impact performers.
Neither Cassel nor Campbell are top-tier fantasy quarterbacks, but both make for serviceable fill-ins for those whose main signal-callers are on a bye this week. Cassel has thrown two touchdown passes in each of his past three games, while Campbell draws an inviting matchup against the porous Chiefs. The success that opposing wide receivers have had versus the Kansas City defense in recent weeks puts Moss in the must-play category, while Cooley owners shouldn't be deterred by last Sunday's goose egg. Bowe is the only sure choice among the Kansas City receiving corps, since Cassel is very adept at spreading the ball around, and Johnson is on the sit side until the once-mighty running back shows he can consistently produce. Keep an eye on Charles for future reference, as it would be no surprise to see Haley have the young back more involved in the game plan in coming games. Portis should get enough touches to make the hobbling Redskins workhorse a worthwhile flex option.
The Chiefs are going to get a win sometime this season, and it's reasonable to believe this could be the week with the Redskins having shown plenty of vulnerability. It remains to be seen, however, as to whether a woeful Kansas City defense can exploit Washington's weaknesses up front, and the Redskins have enough playmakers to allow Campbell to take advantage of a shaky secondary if he can remain upright. Washington is too inconsistent on offense to make this a blowout, but still should be able to withstand a Chiefs' attack that is rather one-dimensional and come up with a victory that will provide a momentary source of relief.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Redskins 19, Chiefs 13
10/15 16:51:23 ET