Here’s how the Kansas City Chiefs can beat the Washington Football Team on Sunday

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The Chiefs will be seeking to right a listing ship on Sunday against the Washington Football Team at FedExField.

After winning their first game of the season, the Chiefs have been underwhelming. They lost three of their next four largely because of self-inflicted wounds, and now they’re in last place in the AFC West at 2-3 — the same record as Washington.

But the Chiefs are 7-point favorites on Sunday for a reason.

They’re 9-1 in their all-time series with Washington, including 4-1 on the road. Their lone loss occurred way back in Week 3 of 1983, and their .900 winning percentage represents their highest winning percentage against any opponent.

With Andy Reid as their head coach, the Chiefs won the previous two meetings by outscoring Washington 74-30.

Past success clearly favors the Chiefs, but they still need to play the game.

Here are four key areas to monitor as they seek a return to .500.

STOP TURNING OVER THE BALL

This will sound like a broken record, but the Chiefs have inexplicably produced 11 turnovers since Week 2. To make matters worse, normally dependable quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown six interceptions.

Entering Week 6, the Chiefs are minus-7 in turnover margin, a dismal 31st in the NFL.

But if ever there were a game for Mahomes to stop throwing picks, this is it. Washington has just two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, and the WFT defense hasn’t done a good job of pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Through five games, Washington has nine total sacks (though, for comparison purposes, the Chiefs have even fewer — an NFL-worst seven).

If Mahomes has time in the pocket, he will find favorable conditions against an exploitable Washington pass defense that ranks 27th in the league (293.4 yards allowed per game).

The Chiefs are fourth in total offense (420.4) and fifth in passing (292.2). But it all boils down to taking care of the football.

“All I’ve got to say is the turnovers,” Reid said. “The production is there; it’s the turnovers that we’ve got to take care of. I don’t want to lose track of that. But I’d tell you that you’ve got to take care of that front. That’s where it starts.”

Said a like-minded Mahomes: “We’re moving the ball and moving the ball down the field at a high rate. ... (O)nce you have turnovers happen, it kind of ruins everything. It takes that great offense that we can be and just knocks it down to a very average one.”

PLAY BETTER DEFENSE

The Chiefs’ defense ranks at or near the bottom of every major statistical category in the league. To wit:

  • total defense: 437.4 yards per game allowed (31st)

  • yards per play: 7.1 (32nd)

  • points per game: 32.6 (32nd)

  • yards rushing per game: 141 (29th)

  • yards passing per game: 296.4 (tied for 28th)

  • sacks: seven (32nd)

  • red-zone touchdown percentage rate: 77.3 (28th)

Turnovers aside, the Chiefs’ defense, which has allowed opponents to score 30 or more in four straight games, is plenty culpable. The good news? Washington ranks 20th in total offense (348.2 ypg) and 12th in scoring (25.5 ppg).

The Chiefs also face a turnover-prone quarterback in Taylor Heinicke, who has thrown five interceptions in the past four games.

FEED WILLIAMS

The Chiefs will be without leading rusher Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who landed on injured reserve with a sprained MCL (knee).

But Darrel Williams is capable of being the featured back in Edwards-Helaire’s place. While Williams lacks Edwards-Helaire’s elusiveness in the open field, he’s powerfully built and his bruising running style could help establish some rhythm.

The Chiefs’ running game ranks seventh, at 128.2 yards per game; Washington ranks 18th against the run (114.4 allowed). That’s a matchup that favors the Chiefs, and Williams embraces this opportunity as a starter.

“That would mean a lot to me because I worked my whole life to be a starter in the league, and I finally get this chance,” Williams said. “I finally get this opportunity, and I’ve just got to make the most of it.”

CONTAIN WASHINGTON’S PRIMARY WEAPONS

Washington’s offense might not boast household names, but this team has some playmakers.

Receiver Terry McLaurin has piled up 29 catches for 400 yards and three touchdowns on 49 targets, while Antonio Gibson has rushed for 313 yards and three touchdowns on 79 carries. And Heinicke has shown he can run it when needed, rushing for 127 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

Washington will probably aim to establish early its 16th-ranked run game, which averages 108.8 yards, in an attempt to control the clock and keep the ball out of Mahomes’ hands.

This likelihood has the attention of Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi.

“They’re some speed-monsters, that’s for sure,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’ve just got to be disciplined in our gaps, play solid technique, and we should be sound.”

The Chiefs must also get off the field on third down. Washington has a 30.5% third-down conversion rate, which ranks next-to-last in the league.

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