5 Reasons the Kansas City Chiefs Will Win the AFC West in 2012

Christopher Amick@https://twitter.com/#!/TheAmickCorrespondent IJuly 13, 2012

5 Reasons the Kansas City Chiefs Will Win the AFC West in 2012

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    Last season was one of the most disappointing years in recent memory for the Kansas City Chiefs, and many things will have to go right in order for them to win the AFC West in 2012.

    Fortunately, the Chiefs have a very talented roster and a coach who has those players willing to go into battle for him.

    With Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry returning from injury, there will certainly be improvement in many key areas.

    The AFC West also added Peyton Manning, so the division will be that much more difficult to win.

    Here are five reasons why the Chiefs will be atop the AFC West in 2012.

Matt Cassel

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    This truly is a make or break year for Matt Cassel.

    The native Californian had a banner year in 2010 when he tossed 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

    Unfortunately for Cassel, he followed that with a dismal 2011 campaign which ended with him being injured after nine games.

    To be fair, the Chiefs were decimated by injuries and Cassel lost his two most important offensive weapons when Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki were lost for the season.

    If Kansas City wants to contend, it will take a career year for Cassel at the quarterback position.

    His contract only inflates in value over the next two seasons, so this year will be huge in telling if Cassel is the guy to lead them into the future.

Eric Berry

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    Eric Berry is one of many Chiefs players that are returning from serious injury this season, and Berry gets his own individual mention here because he is on the cusp of being one of the brightest stars in the league.

    The man who is nicknamed "the fifth dimension" was well on his way to becoming a premier NFL safety when a devastating knee injury ended his 2011 in the season opener.

    Berry combines the instincts of Ed Reed and the hitting prowess of Troy Polamalu. He struggled some in the early parts of his rookie year, but once he settled in, Berry was an unstoppable force.

    Ninety-seven total tackles and four interceptions was the final line on Berry's first NFL season and he is poised to become an elite superstar.

    Berry has been declared fully healthy, and the Chiefs will surely need him to win an AFC West crown in 2012.

Romeo Crennel's Steady Hand

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    When Todd Haley was fired last season, the play of the team dramatically improved.

    Romeo Crennel was a breath of fresh air after his volatile and brash predecessor was let go.

    During his first run as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Crennel didn't have much success. He made the playoffs once, but was fired in 2008 after a disappointing 26-41 record in four seasons.

    Now, Crennel is getting a rare second chance at leading a franchise at the ripe age of 65, and he is determined to make it work.

    His nice demeanor may not be good for a lengthy run in Kansas City, but the players on the roster right now are itching to play for Romeo Crennel.

The Defense

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    In 2011, the play of the Kansas City defense was a tale of two halves.

    The first half included two early season blowouts to Detroit and Buffalo, while the latter showcased a formidable defense that shut down the explosive Packers offense and harassed Aaron Rodgers

    Rodgers ended that day with only 235 yards passing and a touchdown while being sacked three times by Tamba Hali.

    Hali is becoming a top-tier pass-rusher, and is the centerpiece to what is becoming a very good defense.

    The former Nittany Lion is joined by a host of other young talent including Brandon Flowers, Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry.

    The pieces are in place and Romeo Crennel is an elite defensive mind, so there is no reason the defense should not be good enough to win the division.

Players in Contract Years

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    The Chiefs have two key players in the final year of their contract this season.

    If history holds true, Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Albert will be having career years in 2012.

    Receiver Dwayne Bowe recently got franchise tagged by Kansas City and will be looking to show his worth to the Chiefs and other teams.

    Albert has done a solid job of locking down the left tackle position since he was drafted in 2008 out of Virginia. 

    He may not be a Joe Thomas type, but Albert has done a commendable job and there will be plenty of teams willing to throw him some big money if he hits the open market.

    These two players are vital to the Chiefs success, and they should be on the top of their game in 2012.