5 Reasons Why Matt Cassel Is a Top-10 Quarterback in 2011
Players love nothing more than winning championships, but if they'd love something as a very close second, it's when upper management in the team places the right pieces around them, so they can reach their potential.
For quite some time now, Kansas City has been a team slowly building back into a contender.
Cassel is entering his third year with the Chiefs and under coach Todd Haley, the offense couldn't be more conducive to Cassel's success.
Here are the five reasons why Matt Cassel will be a top performer for fantasy football in 2011.
5. Offensive Familiarity and Continuity
Matt Cassel and Todd Haley are a dynamic duo for the offensive attack of the Kansas City Chiefs heading into 2011, their third year together.
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Let's not understate the importance of staying in one system an entire career or for a good length of it.
Tom Brady in New England, Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, Brett Favre in the West Coast offense all those years in Green Bay and his two with the Vikings.
Just a few of the best quarterbacks of all time, and they were lucky enough to be kept in the same system the entirety of their careers to date.
Unfortunately for some quarterbacks, they become lost in the verbal shuffle of changing offensive schemes or systems, which can lead to them having trouble calling protections and route audibles on gameday. In their first offense, "Z right sluggo" might have meant the same as "45 sluggo trigger."
Matt Cassel (since being traded to Kansas City) has been fortunate enough to take his previous offensive system from the Patriots to Kansas City and keep it in place, and he's grown as a player because of it.
You'd be surprised at how much a few years in the same system can improve a player's performance.
4. With Experience, Comes Expertise
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The more Cassel plays, the more likely he'll reach his potential, as long as he's kept upright.
It's like watering a nice plant. If you do a good job of keeping a watering schedule and it keeps nurtured, the plant should grow into full bloom and you'll reap the rewards of your work.
The same can be said of Cassel. He came from out of nowhere essentially, not starting a single game since high school and then backing up Tom Brady after getting out of USC.
Not exactly the two best situations to grow as a player with live game experience. If you can't get on the field, you can't get any better.
Cassel's big opportunity landed to him like his dad tossed him car keys to the Ferrari. Essentially, in replacing Tom Brady, his job was to not screw up too bad. How did Cassel respond to the task at hand? He thrived, with a few growing pains here and there.
He led the 2008 Patriots to a record of 10-5 as a starter, throwing for more than 3,600 yards and 21 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions.
He was then franchise tagged during the uncertainty of Brady's knee injury recovery, eventually traded to the Chiefs.
This 2008 season served as an audition, of sorts.
Following up his coming out party of 2008, he took a step back, passing for just 2,924 yards and as many touchdowns as interceptions (16) for his new team.
The Chiefs struggled to a 4-12 record behind Cassel's inconsistent play, but as the Chiefs offense grew, 2010 looked to be more promising for the Chiefs going forward.
Cassel and the Chiefs surprised many, with him leading the team to a 10-6 record, good enough for first place in the AFC West and a home playoff appearance (their first home playoff game since 2003).
Cassel's 3,100-plus yards and 27-to-seven touchdown to interception ratio were a great turnaround from his down 2009, and his 2010 season also saw the breakout of his top wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe.
Now entering his third season with the Chiefs, he'll look to use his experience in the system and in the huddle to further develop into one of the more elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
3. Shiny New Toys
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Every quarterback loves getting new offensive weapons. Be it a speedy running back who opens up the passing game more or the physical red-zone tight end who snags just about anything between the 20 and goal line, they're all more than welcome additions to an offense.
If Matt Cassel hopes to achieve greatness in Kansas City and potentially make a deep playoff run, he'll need some help alongside him to make his hopes become reality.
With Bowe, Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki and now the new additions of Steve Breaston and rookie Jonathan Baldwin, the Chiefs have been more than helpful in giving Cassel some offensive weapons.
It's now up to him to make the jump to the next level of quarterbacks (Ryan, Romo, Cutler) and demonstrate the full capabilities of a Cassel-led Chiefs team in 2011.
2. A Schedule With Few Hurdles
Head Coach Todd Haley should have the Chiefs ready for any and all challenging opponents this season
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Looking at the Chiefs 2011 schedule, they play four games which strike me as "challenging" or ones where they may be "over their head."
Here are those games:
At Detroit, Week 2
If Matthew Stafford and the key players for the Lions are healthy at the start of the season, this should be a hard fought game, testing the Chiefs' offensive line and Cassel's decision making with a ball hawking safety in Louis Delmas and the now dominant defensive duo of Auburn's Nick Fairley and last year's defensive rookie of the year, Ndamukong Suh.
At San Diego, Week 3
The second standout game for me when looking at the Chiefs' schedule is the very next game. The Chargers are closing a window of opportunity to make a championship run while quarterback Phillip Rivers is consistent enough and able to play at his peak level still.
If the Chargers defense plays hard enough, Rivers and company should be more than enough to keep the Chiefs in a tight one on the road for the second consecutive week.
At Indianapolis, Week 5
If Peyton Manning's neck recovery goes as planned, he should be playing prime football by Week 5 and pose a serious challenge to the Chiefs' young defense. One could argue Cassel has more firepower available to him, but a solid counterargument to that point, is that Manning can more than make up for a lack of talent around him, with that of his own.
This game might get away from Kansas City if they don't keep the ball out of a motivated Manning and Colts team looking to become the first team to ever play in the Super Bowl the year they host it.
At New York, Week 14
Finally, I see the game at the New York Jets in Week 14, which very well may be factoring into playoff matchups or division races as a huge portion of their season's final act.
Can Cassel and company take down the Jets and Rex Ryan's ego? It seems every season the Jets are penciled in as a threat to go deep in the playoffs, so I can find no better pre-playoffs litmus test for the Chiefs than this Week 14 matchup.
1. His Potential for a Huge Season Is Off the Charts
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Matt Cassel has been building toward an elite season for some time now, and with all the weapons at his disposal, his familiarity with the offense and pieces in it and his growth as a quarterback in the National Football League, one can only surmise he'll be primed for a next-step season.
He's built thick to take hits. He makes accurate reads and throws, and is well liked by his teammates, by all accounts. Cassel has the recipe to make some home cooked playoff success, and if he can keep all the key ingredients together, there's no reason he can't be both an effective on field player and valuable fantasy football player as well.
With the offensive weapons of Bowe, Moeaki, Baldwin and running back Jamal Charles to solidify the other half of the attack, I'd be genuinely surprised to see Cassel fail to crack 4,200 yards, 28 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions, as well as a home playoff berth.
High expectations? Perhaps.