The Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins wrap up week four of the NFL season in a prime-time Monday night matchup at Arrowhead Stadium, with Kansas City being the only unbeaten team in the league.
Kansas City enters the night 13-2 in the team’s last 15 regular season home games and 25-4 in their last 29 regular season games overall.
Washington carries in some momentum of their own, following a Sunday night home win against the Oakland Raiders. After the 2-1 Redskins dropped their week one game against the NFC East’s first-place Philadelphia Eagles, in a game where Washington turned the ball over four times, they’ve rebounded with wins over the Raiders and the 3-1 Los Angeles Rams.
Head coach Jay Gruden leads a team coming off back-to-back winning seasons, with the defense taking the biggest stride forward in 2017.
The Redskins defense ranked 28th last season in 2016, compared to 2017, where they’re third overall through three weeks.
New defensive coordinator and former Chiefs linebacker Greg Manusky helms the defense, a unit that held Derek Carr and company to 128 total yards in week three. The Redskins blitz passers the seventh most in the league, thanks in large part to Manusky’s aggressive style.
The defense has greatly improved from 2016 with the additions of safety D.J. Swearinger, a captain in just his first year with the team, and linebacker Zach Brown, who ranked second in the NFL in tackles through three weeks.
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has yet to miss a game in his 7-year career and continues to anchor the Washington front seven, along with third-year pro Preston Smith, who has recorded a sack in each game this season. Lineman Matt Loannidis has led the run stopping charge on the defensive line, with Washington allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game.
The Redskins front seven has been successful so far thanks in part to a stellar secondary, headlined by one of the league’s best cornerbacks, Josh Norman. Swearinger and rookie first-round pick Jonathon Allen completes a strong secondary, one that will not be as beatable deep as New England or the Los Angeles Chargers.
While Washington added Manusky as one coordinator, they lost offensive coordinator Sean McVay to the Rams, along with 1,000-yard receivers Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson. The growing pains showed through two weeks, but quarterback Kirk Cousins is coming off his best performance last week with 365 yards with three touchdowns.
Balance has been an issue on offense for Gruden, who like Andy Reid calls his own plays, with the Redskins throwing the ball 23 more times in their week one loss. In the Redskins’ two wins, it’s been a split of 25 pass-22 rush and 30 pass-34 rush.
Cousins has a formidable deep ball and the gumption to sling it at will, but he’s at his best when establishing shorter passes early, developing a balanced rhythm and utilizing play action.
The offensive x-factor is running back Chris Thompson who leads the Redskins in receiving yards with 231 and all-purpose yards with 350. The fourth-year back has taken an increased role after a Rob Kelley injury week two. With Kelley coming off injury, expect a rotational backfield between Thompson, Kelley and rookie Samaje Perine.
Talented receiving options in Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder have not filled the shoes of Garcon and Jackson so far, with the trio combining for just one touchdown this year. Still, all three are more than capable for a breakout game with each keeping steady target rates.
Tight end Jordan Reed is Cousin’s favorite target, especially on third down and in the red zone, but the often-injured end is listed as questionable for Monday’s game.
History is on the Chiefs’ side in multiple ways, with Kansas City holding an 8-1 all-time record against Washington. The Redskins haven’t topped Kansas City since 1983, have never won at Arrowhead Stadium and have lost their last six games with KC by an average of 20.3 points.
Reid and the Chiefs last topped the Redskins 45-10 in 2013, where Jamaal Charles ran for 150 yards and totaled two touchdowns.
The Chiefs have also been the better Monday night and prime time team, with Washington holding a dismal 2-16 record on Monday’s. The Chiefs are 13-14 in prime-time games since 2004 and 6-6 since Reid took over, but have won their last four prime time games.
This is the first of many Chiefs games with national attention, as Kansas City plays the Texans on Sunday Night Football in week five, the Raiders in Thursday Night Football in week seven and the Broncos on Sunday Night Football in week eight.
Kickoff from Arrowhead Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.
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