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Sunday's Chiefs-Chargers Game Presents (Unfair) Litmus Test Without Matt Cassel

The second of two Chargers games on the slate for the 2010 season was set-up several weeks ago as the litmus test for Todd Haley's second year. Now without Matt Cassel, it's an unfair obstacle that ruins the previously established exam. Perhaps I should explain.

The positive news for Chiefs fans no matter how the rest of the regular season plays out is that this year's roster is good. For the first time in several years, the Chiefs have a solid young roster that warrants contract extensions (i.e. Derrick Johnson, Andy Studebaker) and promises great hope for the future. The athleticism and play-making ability by this year's draft class bodes well for future growth and the current coaching system brings out the best in nearly every player. Not to mention, the Chiefs have true young playmakers on both sides of the ball -- something few teams can boast.

Consequently, the upcoming Chiefs-Chargers contest isn't about whether or not the Chiefs are good. That's already been established by the consistent first-place presence and current 8-4 record. Instead, it's about how good the Chiefs really are. As we've all seen in the NFL, it's one thing to be good in the earlier months, but December separates the men from the boys. It's one thing to have energy early, but it's another to finish well after the grind of the season takes its toll. It's one thing to win out at home, but another to seal the division on the road.

Those are the differences between young, promising teams that are good and will get better and those that are ready for the playoffs ahead. The Chiefs will have doubters based on the ease of schedule this season -- not to doubt the encouraging signs of life displayed this season, but questioning whether or not they're ready for the leap.

Before Cassel's injury, the Chargers game presented a fair question and Sunday afternoon would have given the Chiefs front office, staff and fans the answer to that question. Unfortunately, if the Chiefs lose, the question marks will still linger until the rest of the season. Then again, if they win, they rise to that challenge at a stronger level than any fan could have hoped for.

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