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Chiefs at Washington: Week 6 Preview and Prediction

Here's everything you need to know before the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Washington Football Team on Sunday afternoon.
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This Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will be back in the shadows with a low-spotlight game against the Washington Football Team at noon. The Chiefs currently stand at 2-3, following a loss to the Buffalo Bills, while Washington is 2-3 following a loss to the New Orleans Saints.

The Football Team will be led by quarterback Taylor Heinicke, still remaining a fan-favorite following his fantastic performance in the playoffs last season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Heinicke has had some quality performances this season as well, but he is coming off of a rough game last week where he had zero touchdowns and two interceptions while averaging just six yards per passing attempt.

Fact to Know: The Football Team's defense has seemed to regress significantly

Last season, Washington was known for and carried by their defense. For EPA per play, they were ranked third on defense and 27th on offense in 2020. They showcased defensive superstars such as Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and their special rookie talent, Chase Young. That was just their defensive line. They also had quality seasons from Ronald Darby, Kamren Curl and Kendall Fuller in the secondary to make them an especially intimidating unit to face. 

Entering this season, most expected more of the same, but the numbers don't seem to translate to that early on. This year, the Football Team's defense ranks a stunning 30th in EPA allowed per play, ahead of only the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Chiefs. All of these defensive linemen are seemingly still playing well, having good grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF), but what has been different this season is the secondary. 

Washington's coverage has been poor, with 1,507 total passing yards allowed and six different players allowing 150-plus passing yards in coverage. For comparison's sake, the Chiefs have 1,530 total passing yards allowed and four different players allowing 150-plus passing yards in coverage. You could say that part of this is the tough slate of the offenses they have faced so far, but the Chiefs have probably faced an even tougher group of offenses. If they can't get the benefit of the doubt for that, then neither should Washington.

Matchup to Watch: L'Jarius Sneed vs. Terry McLaurin

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This season has been a tad disappointing so far for the best cornerback on this Chiefs team, L'Jarius Sneed. After allowing under a yard per coverage snap and a 66.6 passer rating last season, Sneed has allowed over 1.4 yards per coverage snap and a 152.8 passer rating so far this season. His yards allowed per reception has also increased from 8.4 last season to 13.5 this season and his reception allowed percentage has increased nearly 20%. Now Sneed has to potentially take on Terry McLaurin, one of the best young wide receivers in football, for much of this game.

Through five games, McLaurin has 400 yards, which ranks tied for 13th in the NFL, and has gone without a drop in 21 of the last 24 games. This is going to be a very tough matchup for anyone, whether it's Sneed or someone else, and he will be the clear top weapon for the Chiefs to deal with. McLaurin could get his and the Chiefs could still consider their defensive performance a success, but they better stop everything else if they go that route. Ricky Seals-Jones, Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic and Adam Humphries are the other key pieces to watch.

Key to the Game: Patrick Mahomes needs to trust his offensive line

While Patrick Mahomes' numbers have still been outstanding and the offense has been arguably the best in the league, it has been apparent that the unit has been worse than normal. While most of the responsibility doesn't lie on Mahomes' shoulders, some of it does. The interior offensive line of the Chiefs has been magnificent so far this season, with Creed Humphrey being the best rookie in the NFL in the eyes of PFF and Trey Smith and Joe Thuney doing a great job at the guard positions as well. Mahomes needs to more consistently step up into the pocket and avoid continuing this trend of interceptions and balls being spiked into the dirt that he is seeing more frequently as of late.

In a game like this, especially, this is crucial. This Washington defense seems to be all about their defensive line, as previously mentioned, so Mahomes cannot hand the Football Team pressures and sacks that they did not earn by moving into them. If Mahomes can stay composed, with how bad the opposing secondary has been so far this season, he should be able to find quality throwing options throughout the game here. 

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Washington 20

Hopefully, this game can give the Chiefs a moment to relax and play their game without having to stress everyone out so much. Washington does not look like a great team, with the offensive pieces they are missing and the major defensive regression thanks to their secondary play. With that said, they can still certainly compete with the Chiefs in this game, especially if the Chiefs' defense doesn't come to play once again.

I expect a bounce-back performance from the Chiefs, with the defense getting a turnover or two from Heinicke and the offense putting up four touchdowns — including three through the air. This is probably the easiest game of the year so far for the top receivers on the Chiefs to put up quality production, so look for Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and possibly even Josh Gordon to make some noise.

Read More: Chiefs to Start Safety Juan Thornhill Against Washington Football Team