Can Offense Carry KC?

For months now, Chiefs fans have had to wait and see how potent their team's offense would be against the league's best. Tonight, Kansas City will get to see their first glimpse of a new offense that features one of the most creative minds in all of football at its helm, a rookie workhorse, and a quarterback who needs to step up to the challenge.

There's no question that 2010 will be a big year for offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. He's hoping to redeem himself after a forgettable departure from the University of Notre Dame and looks to resume his successful NFL career by grooming a new quarterback into a winner. Weis very well may serve as the heart of this Chiefs team that is going to rely on quarterback Matt Cassel to win more than four games.

The Chiefs themselves enter 2010 with plenty of expectations as possibly being a "sleeper" or "surprise" team. But ultimately, they just need to make a huge step forward. That first step comes against San Diego, the defending AFC West division champions, the thorn in the Chiefs' side for the past few seasons. In order to make progress, the Chiefs need to score points, and scoring plenty of points against the defending division champions will send a clear message throughout the league on Monday night.

In 2009, the Chargers had a pedestrian defense in just about every category: passing defense, rushing defense, and interceptions and sacks accumulated. The Chargers allowed an average of about 117 yards rushing per game while allowing about 209 yards passing.

Todd Haley is an offensive-minded coach, and it's no secret that the team's heart will rely on offense in 2010 and upcoming seasons. That heartbeat begins with Cassel, who clearly didn't have the arsenal in 2009 that he has now. With a full offseason under his belt working with top receivers Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers, Cassel hopes to use the weapons around him to punish opposing defenses.

In the preseason, Cassel was merely mediocre when leading the offense, but when he gave the ball to the formidable forces around him, points were scored and the Chiefs looked like a threat. Cassel clearly can't carry the team on his shoulders, but needs to rather pass off the duties to the folks around him.

Running back Thomas Jones is the perfect rusher for Cassel to rely on during the game, based on his leadership and bruising play on the field. Bowe and Chambers have played so well you would think that they've been lining up together for at least a decade. Rookie Dexter McCluster gives Cassel the perfect opportunity to give defenses a heart attack as a slot receiver option.

Now enter San Diego – a frequent visitor to the NFL playoffs. For far too long, the Chargers have been hailed as an offensive juggernaut led by quarterback Philip Rivers and stellar tight end Antonio Gates. Long forgotten now are the days of LaDanian Tomlinson, Vincent Jackson, and Marcus McNeil, the latter of two which are holdouts from the team for the foreseeable future. While the Chiefs are looking to pounce on the Chargers on the offensive side of the ball, the Chargers themselves are licking their wounds from the humiliating losses they've endured this past offseason on offense.

The Chargers haven't necessarily relied on their defense like they have in recent seasons, like when they boasted a 14-2 record in 2006. But they still feature a formidable set of linebackers consisting of Shaun Phillips, Larry English, and Shawne Merriman, which will give the Chiefs a challenge in the middle of the field. I expect Bowe and Chambers to have solid games against this San Diego defense tonight while they roam near the sidelines of the field, but don't plan on seeing record-breaking performances.

To say the least, Cassel needs to rely on his receivers in order to beat San Diego, no matter how tough a win might come. Bowe, Chambers, and even McCluster need to stay towards the edges of the field in order to open wounds on the San Diego secondary. Cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason definitely aren't the type of receivers who can handle Bowe, Chambers and McCluster for 60 minutes on end.

Clearly, the San Diego defense is changing, and this is the perfect opportunity for the Chiefs' offense to beat the Chargers and take a lead in the AFC West. I won't go so far as to say that the Chiefs will blow out the Chargers for a win tonight, but I will say they will give San Diego a run for their money. The Chiefs are no longer a joke on offense (or even defense and special teams, for that matter). Cassel may very well be inconsistent at times, but there are plenty of tools around him to make Weis the happiest man in Kansas City.

I can make the argument that Philip Rivers is just as mediocre a quarterback as Matt Cassel; he's just had plenty of help around him for years now to make him successful. However, now that playmakers like Tomlinson and Jackson aren't around, Cassel could very well outshine Rivers in this contest.

On Monday night, the Chiefs can't let the Chargers continue their dominance in this bitter rivalry. In 2009, the Chiefs lost to the Chargers by both 29- and 30-point margins. Those two wins by San Diego contributed to their 13-3 overall record and 5-1 record in the AFC West. In front of the entire nation, the Chiefs need to prove themselves on offense with a quarterback who needs to find his footing and an offensive coordinator who's willing to pull out all the stops in order to topple the reigning kings of the division

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