Why The Kansas City Chiefs Are Also AFC Favorites

CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Cornerback Brandon Flowers #24 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a touchdown with Eric Berry #29 against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 19 2010 in Cleveland Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks pertaining to who's the best team coming out of free agency and the NFL Draft. Since Kansas City resides in the AFC, let's stick to that subject for the time being.

Many pundits have given that mantle to Houston, New England, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and even Denver. One more team belongs in that discussion.

The Kansas City Chiefs have enough talent to arrive at the Super Bowl in February.

The naysayers will make the argument that Romeo Crennel isn't a good head coach and that Matt Cassel can't get the job done. Those are both fair and valid criticisms up to this point. Neither has been to the Super Bowl at their current positions and obviously are vital to the success of this football team.

Nobody would argue that Cassel appears to be the weakest link on a team that could be ready to bring home the hardware. However, he's solid enough to make the correct plays and let the talent around him take care of business.

Is it an ideal situation? Absolutely not. It would be great if Cassel was Aaron Rodgers. The conversation wouldn't be about if Kansas City could make the Super Bowl, it would be about how couldn't they? But Cassel is the quarterback for the foreseeable future, so at least for this season he's the make or break.

Everyone can spend wasteful time ripping the guy but at the end of the day, he's the man this year. Cassel doesn't need to be great, he needs to be average and above-average at critical times. He doesn't have to throw for 300 yards per game but has to make the throw on third-and-9 when the crucible is at its hottest.

Now, with that said, this group is loaded on offense and defense. I'm not saying the Chiefs will make it all the way but what I am saying is there's a chance for the first time since Marty Schottenheimer roamed the sidelines.

No Kansas City team has been this ready to win since the years of Len Dawson and Hank Stram. In the 90's it was all about Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith while the offense had Kimble Anders as its biggest playmaker. In the Trent Green era, the defense was so bad it was impossible to dream of winning the big one.

Finally thanks to Scott Pioli and yes, Herm Edwards, this team has finally set itself up on both sides of the coin.

How many teams can boast athletes like Jamaal Charles, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry, Dwayne Bowe, Tony Moeaki, Eric Winston, Kendrick Lewis and Steve Breaston? The Broncos might have Peyton Manning, but his supporting cast can't hold a candle to the aforementioned talent.

For the record, those 10 highlighted players above are split five apiece offensively and defensively. Balance.

Tom Brady is a wonderful player, perhaps the best of his generation, but his team is also lacking in many departments including an atrocious secondary and a lackluster running attack.

Joe Flacco isn't much better (if at all) than Cassel and while he has some Hall of Fame players around him, father time is rapidly approaching. Without Terrell Suggs and a long-in-the-tooth Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Ravens might be looking at their window closing.

The same could very easily be said for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger is an all-world talent but without Rashard Mendenhall and a defense that is breaking down almost on a weekly basis, new blood could rise up in the AFC.

Houston is perhaps the most complete roster in the conference along with the Chiefs and could pose the biggest threat. Its main issue was losing key pieces off the offensive line and not truly addressing a need for a receiver to compliment Andre Johnson.

Don't read this wrong, all of those teams are very capable of going to the Super Bowl. Brady makes up for a lot of deficiencies in New England, ditto that for Manning (if healthy) in Denver and Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.

Nobody would argue that the NFL has become a passing league, but the game is still a team sport with defenses and rushing attacks as well.

Kansas City and its fans have been beaten down for over 40 years, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it does, the prophecy becomes self-fulfilling, and the cycle starts anew once again.

Hope is once again a tenant in Arrowhead Stadium.

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