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2012 NFL Preview: Healthy Chiefs could surprise in AFC West

Ben Fisher, TSN.ca

9/2/2012 11:39:00 AM

Reasons to Believe

1. Run To Daylight – As mentioned earlier, starting RB Jamaal Charles returns after missing most of last year with an ACL injury. This is the same Charles who was going in the top five in most fantasy drafts last year. Package him with Peyton Hillis, minus the crazy expectations put on him in Cleveland last year, and you have the makings of a potent rushing tandem.

2. The Rest Of The ACL Club – Charles wasn't the only high impact player lost to an ACL injury last year. The Chiefs also return tight end Tony Moeaki, who showed a lot of promise in his one full season in the league, and safety Eric Berry, fresh off a Pro Bowl selection in 2010 before losing 2011 to injury.

3. Late Season Success – Kansas City finished the year 2-1 after Romeo Crennel replaced the fired Todd Haley as head coach. But more than the record, Chiefs players liked playing for Crennel more than Haley, who carried a somewhat oppressive reputation. If the late season atmosphere can carry over for a full season, the Chiefs will be a happier and more successive team.

Reasons to Doubt

1. Maybe This Time? – Cassel has had three seasons as starting quarterback for the Chiefs, none of which were particularly impressive. Each year there seems to be a reason for people to think he's just a year away from putting it all together – the broken hand being last season's excuse – but it might be time to admit the 30-year-old simply isn't the passer to lead K.C. to where they're looking to go.

 2. Bowe's Holdout – If Cassel is to finally put it all together this year, he'll need all hands on deck, and leading WR Dwayne Bowe's training camp holdout wasn't a good sign. Bowe signed his franchise tender and reported to the team with a couple weeks to go, but he runs the risk of starting the year out of synch with his quarterback.

3. Weak Draft Class – In today's NFL, a lot of teams expect to pick up at least one immediate starter in the draft, while some teams look to draft as much as 3-4 immediate starters. Drafting in the first half of each round this year, the Chiefs likely were expecting more from their draft class but 11th overall pick Dontari Poe still needs a lot of work according to reports, and Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson, offensive linemen selected in the second and third round, are depth players at this point.

What to Expect

Despite the turmoil last year, Kansas City did well to hang tough in the AFC West. The division figures to be tougher this year however, so expecting anything more than fighting for third place division may be asking too much. A lot hinges on QB Matt Cassel's play, but if a lot of things go right (Charles, Moeaki return to form, the team continues to respond to Crennel) the team could surprise and hang tough again.