Updated: August 30, 2012, 12:01 PM ET
Jamie Squire/Getty Images JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (20): Matt Cassel, whose 2011 season was cut short by a hand injury, has plenty of weapons at his disposal in Kansas City.

Expert Picks (Consensus: third)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Chiefs:

1. Pick your poison: I know everyone is worried about Cassel. But he has a ton to work with. The Chiefs' offense is loaded. Bowe is back after sitting out all of camp, second-year receiver Jon Baldwin can be great, Steve Breaston is solid, and young receivers Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie will get slot opportunities. Tight ends Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss will give defenses fits and running backs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis will keep defenses honest. Cassel doesn't have to be great. He just has to spread the ball to all his weapons.

2. Belief in leadership: There was little chance Romeo Crennel wasn't going to be promoted from interim coach to permanent coach in the offseason. Crennel's players love him. They love his calm personality, they love that he cares about them, they love that he is a proven NFL winner and they love that he treats them like men and he trusts them. This is a pretty happy place to be around these days.

3. Baldwin will be unleashed: The Chiefs are going to give Baldwin a chance to have a big season. He has been a training camp and offseason star, and he definitely benefited from the lack of Bowe at camp. But Baldwin will get his cracks in the regular season with Bowe around. Baldwin is an athletic freak who can make the spectacular catch look silly easy. He is a big threat in the deep game. He will be fun to watch.

4. Back end of defense key: The Chiefs' secondary has a chance to be stellar. Safety Eric Berry, who was a star as a rookie in 2010-11, is back after tearing an ACL in Week 1 last year. Fellow safety Kendrick Lewis is an underrated young player, and cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Stanford Routt are a stout pairing. There is plenty of depth in the secondary, starting with cornerback Jalil Brown. This unit has a chance to be tremendous.

5. Poe no instant savior: The Chiefs took Memphis' Poe with the No. 11 overall pick because the athletic nose tackle fills one of their last needs. He will get a chance to play as a rookie, but don't expect him to instantly become one of the team's best defensive players. He is going to be a work in progress. Playing nose tackle is one of the more difficult assignments on the field, and Poe will have an adjustment period. The Chiefs just want to see him blend into the defensive line and give a full effort as a rookie. The dominance can come later.

-- Bill Williamson, ESPN.com

Inside The Numbers

Cassel may have taken a step backward last season after leading the Chiefs to a 10-6 record in 2010-11. Cassel completed 59.5 percent of his passes with a plus-1 touchdown-to-interception differential last year after a plus-20 differential in 2010-11. The Chiefs were 4-5 in games started by Cassel last season.

Cassel ranked 20th in the NFL among qualified QBs with a 48.8 Total QBR last season, a dip from his 50.9 rating in 2010-11 and 60.9 rating in 2008-09 with the Patriots. Cassel struggled most throwing downfield, throwing three times as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns (two) on throws of 15-plus air yards last season. He had a paltry 35.9 completion percentage on such throws.

• Bowe had seven drops on passes intended for him last year, and Chiefs quarterbacks were intercepted seven times when targeting Bowe. The 14 combined drops and interceptions were tied for the second-most in the NFL. Baldwin was not much better, dropping 12 percent of his targets, worst in the NFL among players with 50 targets.

• The Chiefs' rushing game should get a boost from the return of Jamaal Charles and signing of Peyton Hillis. Last season, Kansas City averaged the fewest yards (3.2) per rush up the middle and second-fewest yards after contact (1.5) per rush.

• The Chiefs excelled when Crennel took over as interim head coach in Week 15 of last season. The Chiefs' defense allowed three touchdowns over the last three games, tied for second-best in NFL, and was one of three defenses to average under 300 yards allowed per game (Eagles and Steelers).

-- ESPN Stats & Information


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