PFW examines the Chiefs as they prepare for the playoffs, identifying the keys to the offense and the defense, a player to watch, and what they have to do to win the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs
10-6 / First place in AFC West
Keys to offense: For the Chiefs, moving the ball starts with establishing the run. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones form possibly the league's best backfield tandem, and they have had K.C.'s rushing attack ranked No. 1 for most of 2010. Not surprisingly, the Chiefs were 0-5 when failing to rush for 120 yards. In the passing game, QB Matt Cassel has taken a major step forward this year and needs to continue keeping his mistakes to a minimum. And if they need a big play, it will be up to Pro Bowl WR Dwayne Bowe, who has dominated at times, to make a key grab. An unheralded offensive line also will have to perform at a high level.
Keys to defense: One of the NFL's more improved defenses under Romeo Crennel, the Chiefs must do two things well to succeed in the postseason: stop the run and pressure the passer. K.C. has been up and down against opposing running backs this season, as the defensive line has had its issues. ILB Derrick Johnson has been a tackling machine and will have to keep ballcarriers in front of him. The Chiefs also need sack artist Tamba Hali to wreak havoc on QBs, not allowing them time to throw downfield against two rookie safeties. And it wouldn't hurt if emerging CB Brandon Flowers continued his shut-down ways.
Player to watch: Cassel posted an impressive 27-7 TD-interception ratio this season, but this will be his first playoff experience. If teams are able to shut down Kansas City's running game, will Cassel be able to put the offense on his back and make plays with his arm? Now healthy following an emergency appendectomy, the signalcaller's ability to handle adversity could be the difference between the Chiefs making a postseason run or exiting early.
They'll win the Super Bowl if ... the running game can get into a rhythm and control the clock and the defense gets after the QB and creates turnovers. They'll also need to win on the road, something they have struggled to do.