Kansas City Chiefs: 5 Players Key to Winning the AFC West

J.P. Scott@TheJPScottSenior Analyst IJune 11, 2012

Kansas City Chiefs: 5 Players Key to Winning the AFC West

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    Hopes are high in and around Kansas City this offseason.

    As the season creeps closer, chatter around the league is starting to indicate the Chiefs will be the favorite in the AFC West in 2012.

    For that to happen, however, certain players are going to have to stay healthy, step up and lead.

    Here are five players who will be key to the Kansas City Chiefs winning the AFC West.

Dontari Poe

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    The mammoth defensive tackle with freakish strength is going to be essential to Kansas City's defense reaching its full potential.

    On every play, Poe will have to engulf the opposing center and draw at least one other blocker to him to maximize his effectiveness and justify his high draft position.

    If he can do this, guys like Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali should be free to wreak havoc from sideline to sideline.

Eric Berry

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    We've seen what Eric Berry can do when he's healthy.  Berry is clearly a star in the making who will need to play at a Pro Bowl level in 2012.

    The AFC West is an "air it out" division if there ever was one.  Berry will need to be roaming center field as both a leader and enforcer, making opposing receivers think twice about running routes in his vicinity. 

    He'll need to stay healthy, as the Chiefs face one of the NFL's most difficult schedules.  One week without him could be the difference between a division title and missing the playoffs.

Devon Wylie

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    It's no coincidence that Scott Pioli signed off on drafting Wylie.  His similarities to Wes Welker—who Pioli helped bring to New England—are uncanny.

    This will mark the first time since quarterback Matt Cassel has been in Kansas City that he will have a natural slot receiver to throw to.

    Wylie will provide a valuable outlet to Cassel as well as draw defenders underneath, giving Bowe, Baldwin and Breaston one-on-one matchups down the field.

Jamaal Charles

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    The role of the NFL running back is supposedly diminishing in a pass-happy league.  That said, five of the league's top six rushers last season were on teams that made the playoffs.

    You need a closer to win close games.  Charles is both a closer and a game breaker, a rare combination who can score every time he touches the ball as well as get necessary yards to milk the clock.

    He'll be a valuable piece in Kansas City's collection of weapons—a collection that is sure to keep opposing coordinators up at night.

Matt Cassel

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    The history of success in the NFL runs through the quarterback position.  Since his arrival in Kansas City, Cassel has been average at best.

    He is capable of doing great things with ample talent around him, as he demonstrated during his fill-in season in New England.

    In 2012, Cassel will have more talent in his huddle than he has had at any point in his career.  If he can find a way to get the ball safely to his playmakers, both the Chiefs and Cassel are in for a big year.