Can Cassel, Chiefs seal deal in AFC West?

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:10 PM ET

TORONTO - Can the Kansas City Chiefs close it, can they seal the deal?

Assuming that the San Diego Chargers are going to annihilate the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos in their final two games of the season — both road games — it will be up to the Chiefs to keep on winning to hold their one-game edge and emerge victorious in the AFC West.

What an upset that would be.

At the start of the season, no team appeared to be more of a lock, more home and cooled out than the San Diego Chargers. It was assumed they’d win the division by about as far as their quarterback Phillip Rivers could throw the ball.

But when the Chiefs opened up fast and the Chargers did what they always do — break slowly from the gate — it gave the young Kansas City team hope and poise and now it is two victories away — home games against Tennessee and Oakland — from dreaming the impossible dream.

While the Titans and especially the unpredictable Raiders, are far from being pushovers and have nothing to play for, which makes them dangerous, the Chiefs have played their best when home and enjoy a 6-0 record at Arrowhead Stadium this season.

The Chiefs have been an amazing story led by the solid, and at times spectacular, play of young quarterback Matt Cassel.

Now in his sixth season in the league and second with the Chiefs, Cassel has emerged as a second-tire MVP candidate back of the Patriots’ Tom Brady and the Eagles’ Michael Vick.

In 13 games, Cassel has completed 59.3% of his passes for 2,687 yards, has thrown 24 touchdowns and been intercepted just five times.

He more than proved his worth to the team two weeks ago in a game he didn’t play. Due to an emergency appendectomy, Cassel couldn’t suit against the Chargers and without him, the Chiefs were drubbed 31-0.

Just 11 days following the surgery, however, Cassel was back leading his team to a 27-13 victory over the Rams which maintained their lead over the Chargers.

Putting his body on the line, putting the team first and then leading them to a victory simply enhanced him to a different level in his teammates and opposing players eyes.

“Philip Rivers had ACL surgery on a Monday and came back and played the next game when I was with the Chargers,” Chiefs wide receiver Chris Chambers said. “We lost that game. But ever since then, everybody had a different feeling about him. This guy’s that courageous to come out here after surgery.

“And that’s what Matt did. You forgot he’d had surgery until you saw the stitches. He’s just about the toughest player in this locker room.”

Leading up to the game, Cassel told his teammates there would be no holding back.

“Not one time did he mention anything or even (suggest) that he may have been in any kind of pain,” guard Brian Waters said. “We appreciated that. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything less.”

In a macho environment like the NFL, stuff like that really counts, as sappy as it seems.

The Chiefs, or course, have much more going for them than a hot quarterback. They also have the best running game in the league led by the 1-2 punch of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. Charles is third in the league in rushing with 1,303 yards, while Jones has chipped in with 828.

It provides the Chiefs with a balanced offence. Something few teams can boast.

Defensively they are middle of the pack, ranked 16th overall.

Cassel, meanwhile, is very much the key, the straw that stirs the drink.

“I think Matt Cassel is playing great,” Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins said this week of his Sunday foe. “Everybody talks about some of the other guys. I can’t see that another quarterback is having a better year than him.

“He’s making the throws. He’s not making big mistakes. He’s just winning ball games, and they’re playing well as a unit.”

Two games left to go to prove that they’re for real.


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