Can the Chiefs Win AFC West with Worst-Rated QB in the Division?

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystJuly 2, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 13:  Quarterback Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs watches from the sidelines during the game against the Denver Broncos on November 13, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The question is obviously loaded and assumes a lot of things. Is Matt Cassel the worst-rated quarterback in the AFC West? Is having a top-rated quarterback the way to win a division?

It's pretty clear that the NFL is a passing league now and that a good quarterback is any team's ticket to the playoffs. Quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are consistently in the playoffs.

However, the best quarterbacks in the division don't always make the playoffs. Tim Tebow is a good example in 2011 and Cassel in 2010, but that's the point. It happens, but it isn't the norm.

Tebow and the Broncos won on the back of the defense and the running game—neither of which were great. It still happened. The Broncos made the playoffs because they played as a team and won close games.

The only real debate here is if Cassel is a better quarterback than Carson Palmer, but let's just assume for a second that Palmer is a shade better as Ron Jaworski of ESPN has them rated.

The Chiefs won the division in 2010 with Cassel, but not in 2009 or 2008. Cassel statistically had more touchdowns in 2010, but had more yards and a better completion percentage in New England in 2008.

Cassel's stats suggest that avoiding turnovers and relying on his supporting cast is an important key for the Chiefs' success.

In 2010, Cassel's supporting cast included Jamaal Charles, who was 65 yards shy of 2,000 all-purpose yards, and Pro Bowl rookie Eric Berry. Tony Moeaki was also a surprise rookie tight end and had over 500 yards receiving. Those key players were missed in 2011. Cassel was injured for nearly half the season, and Charles missed 14, Berry 15 and Moeaki all 16 games.

To the Chiefs' credit, they finished the season strong under the leadership of Romeo Crennel. The only loss was an overtime heartbreaker in Oakland that featured two blocked field goals.

With improved team play and the return of Cassel, Charles, Berry and Moeaki, the Chiefs should could again make a run at the AFC West division.

Cassel and the Chiefs have an opportunity to rebound from 2011, and the league would be wise not to overlook them as a contender.