Kansas City Chiefs: 10 Reasons They Will Win AFC West in 2012
The Kansas City Chiefs will be the AFC West Champions in 2012. You can mark that down right now if you would like.
Kansas City may be battling in a suddenly strong division, but they hold all the cards for their future success. Not only do they have the best team, they have the most talent. These are some of the short answers as to why they will win the division.
Denver has Peyton Manning now, but there are questions regarding his health. San Diego has a strong team, but they have struggled to win games when it really counts. Oakland is slowly finding its way into the spotlight, but they still have a long way to go before they officially become a relevant team.
Long story short, the Chiefs will be walking into the playoffs as the division champions. For the longer story, let's take a look at the reasons behind it.
First things first, as it is with any team, it all starts with the coaching staff.
Romeo Crennel spent his first few years as a head coach with the Cleveland Browns, a job nobody has had success with in years. He had the skill to coach the Browns, but never had the winning percentage the organization had hoped he would bring.
Crennel took over last year after the departure of Todd Haley, and suddenly the Chiefs had new life. Winning three of their final five games, including a stunning 19-14 victory over the then-undefeated Green Bay Packers, the Chiefs found their rhythm eventually.
Now that Crennel has taken over, Kansas City will build off of his presence rather than the overbearing Haley. While Haley may have had some success with the Chiefs, his style of coaching made all of his players feel uncomfortable and disrespected. They will not have that problem with Crennel.
Kansas City players will play for Crennel because they will want to play for him. He's the type of coach players want to make happy and see succeed. This will be shown throughout the season.
Matt Cassel's Redemption
Ever since his great season filling in for Tom Brady with the New England Patriots, Matt Cassel has yet to prove that he isn't a one-hit wonder. The 2012 season is the perfect time for Cassel to give himself new life and make believers out of his doubters.
Cassel missed the final seven games of the 2011 season after suffering an injury in his throwing hand. Even during the 10 games he played in, Cassel only managed to throw for 10 touchdowns while chucking nine interceptions. These are a few of the numbers that he will look to improve upon in the coming season.
In order for Cassel to prove he has what it takes to start, he has to come out of the gates strong against Atlanta and Buffalo in the first two weeks of the season. He has the tools to do so, now he just has to go out there and show it.
Defense Coming Along Nicely
Over the past few years, the Kansas City Chiefs have been building up their defense with star players out of college. Obviously, it usually takes a few years before those players start producing at the level the team hopes for when they draft them. Next season will be the year everything starts to click properly.
Linebacker Tamba Hali is the unspoken veteran presence on defense. His speed and agility around the end produces pressure on the quarterback and allows open lanes for other defenders. With Hali running the show, players such as Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, both LSU products, are learning from one of the best in the league.
Javier Arenas and Brandon Flowers combined are one of the most feared cornerback tandems in all of the NFL. Each possesses speed and strength to challenge the best receivers in the league. Both also have an eye for the ball, which can amount to a number of interceptions.
With these five names mentioned, the Chiefs have the makings for one of the best defenses in the league and will prove it in 2012.
Talented Receiving Corps
Dwayne Bowe has proven year after year that he is one of the top receivers in the league. In 2011, Bowe caught 81 passes for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns.
Luckily for Bowe, while those are nice numbers, if he had a consistent quarterback every week, those numbers could be drastically elevated. Three different quarterbacks were used in 2011 for the Chiefs, meaning that, while impressive, his stats are a far cry from what he is capable of.
Adding Steve Breaston last season was a quality grab. His numbers (810 yards from scrimmage in 2011) also weren't up to his standards. Granted, while in Arizona, Breaston's numbers were elevated while playing alongside Larry Fitzgerald, but Bowe is no slouch either. He, too, was another casualty of the inconsistent quarterbacking.
Tight Ends Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss will provide some bigger, short yardage options for Cassel. Given their size and talents, along with Jonathan Baldwin's growth as a receiver, Bowe and Breaston will have a lot of attention diverted from them.
The Chiefs receiving corps is loaded with talent that is just waiting to shine.
Return of Jamaal Charles
One of the best running backs in the league, Jamaal Charles, only managed to play in two games and carry the ball 28 times before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Luckily for Charles, he is expected to be back in time for training camp. This will provide adequate time to rebuild his conditioning and strength before the season gets underway.
In 2010, Charles accounted for more than 1,900 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. His touchdown total may not be too impressive, but gaining that many yards in one season helped propel the Chiefs into the 2011 playoffs. Now, with a healthy Charles, the Chiefs expect him to be able to duplicate those same numbers.
If Charles can gain those numbers again, expect him to be in the conversation for Offensive Player of the Year.
Loaded Backfield, Different Styles
Even though Charles will be returning, he will have some great competition for carries in key situations.
Kansas City brought in Peyton Hillis this offseason to help bolster their offense. Although Hillis had a horrific 2011 season after his amazing 2010, he still has the tools to be great and the Chiefs expect him to outdo himself this time around. Hillis brings his bulldozer style of running that will help on short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Along with Hillis, the Chiefs already have the speedster Dexter McCluster to help ease some of the burden off of Charles. McCluster's agility and speed are hard to come by in the NFL today. His ability to get around the edge in a hurry makes him a great option for any situation.
Charles brings a combination of both Hillis' and McCluster's strengths: power and speed. Essentially, any of these three can be used depending upon the down, yardage and situation. This puts Kansas City in a great position on offense.
The deepest backfield in the NFL resides in Kansas City, and they will run wild on the AFC.
Too Many Questions in Division
San Diego: Can the San Diego Chargers turn it around? Will Phillip Rivers rebound after his disappointing 2011? Can Norv Turner keep his players from revolting against him?
Denver: Is Peyton Manning's neck really healed up? Who is their go-to running back? Will injuries affect their defense again?
Oakland: Has Oakland finally turned the corner? Can Carson Palmer turn his career around as a Raider? Is Darren McFadden ready for the full-time running back role?
These are some of the many questions surrounding the Chiefs' competition in the AFC West. With these questions, we will eventually get answers, obviously, but they are glaring issues for each team.
Kansas City doesn't have as many questions. They have what it takes to overcome the questions they have and the few issues that may exist. However, their issues are minor ones that are easy to overcome, giving them the advantage over their opponents.
Dontari Poe's Potential Impact
With the 11th pick in the NFL draft, the Chiefs selected Dontari Poe out of Memphis, a pick many felt was a reach.
Although there are still some questions, being a Chief may be the best option for him at this point. His weaknesses, as stated in this profile on Poe from NFL.com, can be utilized in the Chiefs' defensive system.
Poe can't do much else besides be an effective lane-clogger within the right scheme. He doesn't have the versatility to move outside to end in a 3-4, a trend that has been seen from many teams who like to get girth and athleticism on the edge of their line. He is not very quick off the ball, and although he is a good athlete for his size, he could struggle to create "splash" plays for himself early on at the next level, where he will likely be facing double teams and much stronger interior lineman.
Normally, these weaknesses would be a bad thing, but they can be great for Poe's success with the Chiefs. He's a lane-clogger, which allows for stopping the running game. Once Poe clogs up the lane, this allows for the quicker guys such as Hali and Jackson to storm the line and help penetrate the offensive side of the ball.
Poe doesn't necessarily need to be a dominant player just yet. His weaknesses can be used as a strength for Kansas City until he develops further along. For right now, he's the perfect missing piece on defense.
They've Been There Before
One of the biggest reasons why the Chiefs will walk away with the AFC West Championship is that they have proven they can do it before.
In the 2010 season, Kansas City sported a 10-6 record into the playoffs before losing to Baltimore 30-7 in the Wild Card round. While they may have lost in their only playoff game, the Chiefs know exactly what it takes to win.
Every team has the ambition to win games and the Chiefs are no exception. The AFC West is very winnable this season, and they will put their mark on the division.
Tough Schedule Will Prove to Be Blessing
Kansas City has a brutal schedule in 2012.
These games include playing road games at New Orleans and Pittsburgh and home games against Cincinnati and Baltimore. Of course, they also have to deal with their division foes San Diego, Denver and Oakland.
While having a tough schedule such as this may be a problem for most people to pick the Chiefs to win the division, this means that Kansas City will never have a down week. By never having a down week, the Chiefs will have to bring their best stuff each and every game and never falter in order to win.
Facing a tough schedule, having high energy and top-notch playing are must-haves for every game. Their tough schedule could prove to be a blessing in disguise as it will give them a chance to show their best work in every game.
Kansas City has what it takes to win the division and will have to do so while going through a brutal schedule.
Now, it's just a matter of going out and doing it.