NFL

Kareem Hunt and Chiefs Take Aim at Washington

The Kansas City Chiefs opened the 2017 seasons with a stunning statement, going into New England and punching the defending Super Bowl Champs square in the mouth as they rolled to a 42-27 win that marked the most points ever allowed by a Belichick-Patriots team, and KC has shown no signs of slowing down. Most recently, the Chiefs had a 24-10 win over the Chargers last week, continuing as one of only two undefeated teams and proud owners of the second-best point differential in the NFL.

Quarterback Alex Smith has been playing out of his head thus far, completing 65 of 84 passes for 774 yards, seven touchdowns and zero picks for a league-best rating of 132.7. Sophomore wide receiver Tyreek Hill is building on the promise he showed last year, averaging five receptions and 84 yards per game. Two-time Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce is off to a more modest start with 15 receptions and just 144 yards, but he’s still pulling in more than 75% of the passes thrown his way, so there’s no worry there.

What’s got the Chiefs’ offense operating on a higher plane this season is the addition of rookie running back Kareem Hunt. Taken in the third round out of Toledo, Hunt didn’t fumble once in 782 carries during his college career, only to cough up the ball on his very first play as a pro against the Pats — the Chiefs’ lone turnover of the season. Since then, he’s been unstoppable, leading the NFL with 401 yards, four touchdowns, and 8.5 yards per gain combined with his 253 yards and two touchdowns receiving put him atop the heap in terms of yards per scrimmage and total touchdowns. Three of his touchdowns have come from more than 50 yards out, a total that would’ve led the NFL last season, and his six touchdowns through his first three games ties the rookie record. On an even nerdier note, fivethirtyeight.com reports that Hunt has the most fantasy points of any rookie at any position through three games going back to 2000.

Despite a time-of-possession average of 29:57 and the fourth-fewest plays from scrimmage, Kansas City’s offense ranks among the top five teams in both yards and points, and average a league-high 2.74 points per drive. What their defense has managed to do has been almost as amazing, allowing just 19 points per game, especially when you consider the loss of Eric Berry to a ruptured Achilles in week one. One wonders how long they can keep it up.

Last week, Washington beat up on the Oakland Raiders 27-10, by jumping out to a 21-point third quarter lead and coasting home as Kirk Cousins enjoyed perhaps the best day of his career, hitting on 25-of-30 for 365 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Cousins is off to another fine start as he finds himself in the top ten in every QB category that matters, but there’s still a chink in his armor: Monday Night Football. In four career Monday night games, Cousins is 0-4, with three touchdowns and three interceptions, and an 86.6 rating — a bit off his career mark of 94.3. Curiously, he’s 0-3 on Thursday. Dude just hates working during the week.

Cousins is getting it done despite his receiving corps having been gutted due to his top two targets from last season, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, falling into free agency. So far, Cousins leading receiver has been running back Chris Thompson (13 catches, 231 yards), followed by ex-Raiders QB Tyrelle Pryor (10, 116), and Jamison Crowder (13, 113) – hardly an auspicious group.

While Cousins has dragged his team kicking and screaming into the end zone, Washington’s defense has been keeping them in the game by forcing seven turnovers in the first three games (good for fourth-best in the league) and a league-best seven first downs allowed, less than half the league average of 16.2. They’ve allowed as many total first downs as seven other teams have allowed per game. Free agent Pro Bowl outside line backer Zach Brown has earned his keep with 20 tackles and a league-leading 13 assists. Third-year defensive end Preston Smith has a sack in each of his first three games, and Josh Norman continues to cause havoc for anyone who crosses his path, shouting down everyone from Amari Cooper to President Trump.

But as good as Washington’s defense has looked, they haven’t faced a team as good as KC’s and haven’t faced anyone who’s playing as well as Hunt is right now. Until someone figures out a way to stop Hunt, we have no choice but to assume he’s unstoppable. Also, the Chiefs’ defense, especially the secondary, is just gonna be too much for Washington’s ho-hum receivers.

Watch Washington vs Kansas City Monday at 8:30pm ET on ESPN by subscribing to Sling Orange

All stats courtesy ESPN and Pro Football Reference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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