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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Kansas City Chiefs

Senior Fantasy Writer
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After Romeo Crennel took over the Chiefs on an interim basis and led them to a 2-1 finish last year -- including the only regular-season win a team had against the Packers -- he became the head coach. He brought in Brian Daboll to run the offense and took control of the defense himself. With his new gig came a roster full of intrigue -- and headache.

No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe has been absent from offseason programs and workouts after getting hit with the franchise tag in the spring. Signs point to him signing his one-year deal in time for training camp, but some concern over his commitment to the team tempers his expectations even though he's potentially in a contract year for the second straight season ... not that it did him any good last season when he scored five touchdowns after catching 15 the year prior. His return to not only the Chiefs' camp but to statistical prowess is paramount if there's success to be had in Kansas City.

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ACL injuries crippled three prominent Chiefs last fall, none larger than running back Jamaal Charles. He, tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Eric Berry are expected to be ready for camp following offseason surgeries and rehab, but all eyes will be on Charles. He's talked a big game this offseason saying that missing all of last year made him hungry to beat expectations. Assuming he doesn't miss much time in training camp, he should be ready to be an effective contributor for the Chiefs right away. The Chiefs sorely missed him last season, scoring a second-worst five rushing touchdowns and averaging a paltry 3.9 yards per carry (only four teams averaged fewer yards per rush). The additions of running back Peyton Hillis and right tackle Eric Winston should help the Chiefs run game improve.

Charles wasn't the only key offensive member to get hurt as Matt Cassel broke his hand in Week 10 and missed the rest of the season. He's healed and ready for camp but the pressure is on him to perform. Over 39 starts in Kansas City, Cassel has completed 693 of 1,212 passes (57.1 pct.) for 7,753 yards (6.4 yards per attempt) with 53 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. That isn't great, especially after posting better numbers in New England replacing Tom Brady in 2008 (63.4 completion percentage, 7.2 yards per attempt). Cassel must improve his accuracy and get the most out of all of his receivers in a year where everyone's learning a new offense. It won't be easy.

Things are better on the defensive side of the ball. Crennel's crew not only gets Berry back to patrol the backfield but also added cornerback Stanford Routt to replace Brandon Carr and drafted big nose tackle Dontari Poe. Pass rusher Tamba Hali has 26.5 of the team's 68 sacks over the last two seasons -- someone else has to emerge to disrupt opposing passers or else the Chiefs will become doormats in a division that includes Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and now Peyton Manning.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Matt Cassel ND
Running Backs
Jamaal Charles 4
Peyton Hillis 8
Wide Receivers
Dwayne Bowe 6
Jon Baldwin 12
Steve Breaston ND
Tight Ends
Kevin Boss ND
Tony Moeaki ND
Kickers/Defense
Ryan Succop ND
Chiefs DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Bust ... Jamaal Charles, running back
Unless you've been living under a rock you've known that Charles tore his ACL last September and will have rehabbed for 10 months when camp opens. It's already tough enough expecting a running back who tore his ACL to play to his pre-injury level, but Charles will additionally split reps with Hillis, who Charles said will work in the offense like Thomas Jones used to. To refresh your memory, Jones had more carries and more rushing touchdowns than Charles did in his breakout 2010 season. That's not to say Charles won't have plenty of opportunities throughout the year, but between Hillis' arrival, a new offense and the knee potentially limiting his speed (we'll have to see how fast he is in camp), Charles isn't quite the Fantasy darling he was a season ago. The later you can find him in drafts, the better off you are if you decide to take a shot on him.

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Sleeper ... Peyton Hillis, running back
If you don't like the risk of taking Charles in the early portion of your draft, you might like the idea of going with Hillis several rounds later. Hillis reunites with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in Kansas City just two years after Daboll helped Hillis total over 1,600 total yards and 13 touchdowns in Cleveland. The playbook familiarity there is a big plus for Hillis, who should see at the very least 10 touches per game, including short-yardage and goal-line work. And after last year's meltdown in Cleveland he's probably learned a thing or two about how to handle himself in a contract year. Perhaps this time he'll spend more time putting up numbers and less time venting. Hillis is far from the game-breaking speedster Charles is hoped to be, but he should be a good Draft Day bargain. Look for him starting in Round 8.

Late-round flier ... Jon Baldwin, wide receiver
Fantasy owners are hoping for Baldwin to have more games like he had versus the Chargers last season (five catches, 82 yards, one touchdown) and less games like he had against everyone else in the league (an average of 1.6 catches and 17.2 yards in his other 10 games). Crennel said the key to Baldwin is maturing as a player and as a person, and according to offseason reports he's done exactly that. Baldwin has reportedly starred at workouts, getting extra attention with Bowe absent, and has stepped up his work ethic in anticipation of a starting spot. Receivers with 6-foot-4 frames and excellent ability to jump high for a pass aren't easy to come by late in drafts, but Baldwin will be there. He's a decent low-risk gamble in case he can get off to a good start this season against the Falcons, Bills and Saints in Weeks 1 through 3.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
ATL @BUF @NO SD BAL @TB bye OAK @SD @PIT CIN DEN CAR @CLE @OAK IND @DEN

Let's start at the end, where the Chiefs have the best late-season schedule of anyone in the NFL. Their final five games: Carolina at home, Cleveland and Oakland on the road, Indy at home and Denver on the road in Week 17. Even better, that Carolina game is the last of a three-game homestand to set up that finish, so there's a lot to like about Chiefs star players long-term. It's a little rough before then with matchups at New Orleans, vs. Baltimore and back-to-back road tilts at San Diego and Pittsburgh, but those are small prices to pay for what amounts to a promising schedule.

Training camp topics

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Dexter McCluster 114 carries, 46 catches
Thomas Jones 153 carries, 5 catches
Jackie Battle 149 carries, 9 catches
Dwayne Bowe 81 catches, 1 carry
Steve Breaston 61 catches, 1 carry

The hotter topics in Chiefs camp -- Charles' return from injury, Hillis' impact on the run game, the attendance of Dwayne Bowe -- have already been brought up. There isn't a white-hot camp battle for a starting job that will have massive Fantasy implications. Even the defense's starters are pretty much set.

But that's not to say there aren't battles going on. Second-year passer Ricky Stanzi and veteran Brady Quinn will compete to back up Matt Cassel. Newcomer Kevin Boss, a Raider in 2011, will provide depth at the tight end spot and push Tony Moeaki for the starting job. And Steve Breaston will fight for playing time with Jon Baldwin, Dexter McCluster (who is on the verge of moving back to receiver) and rookie Devon Wylie.

The biggest topic in Kansas City: Will the Chiefs have enough to run with their division opponents. The Chargers averaged 25.4 points per game and the Raiders averaged 22.4 points per game. The Broncos averaged 19.3 points per game and that wasn't with Peyton Manning at quarterback. The Chiefs averaged a paltry 13.2 points per game in 2011 while their defense allowed an AFC West-best 21.1 points per game. The defense should have its act together -- it's up to the offense to do the same.

Injury update

Jamaal Charles (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Matt Cassel (hand; probable for the start of training camp) ... Eric Berry (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Tony Moeaki (knee; probable for the start of training camp).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Chargers' McCoy: Philip Rivers had 'outstanding' practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:44 pm ET) Chargers coach Mike McCoy indicated that quarterback Philip Rivers (back, chest) "had an "oustanding day" in Thursday's practice, NFL.com reports.

"A ball did not hit the ground in all the throws he made today," McCoy added. "Philip was Philip, so he'll be ready to roll."

Rivers was a full participant in Thursday's practice after sitting out Tuesday and Wednesday. He should be ready to roll for Saturday's matchup with the 49ers.


Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald progresses to full practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee) was a full participant in Thursday's practice after being limited Wednesday, the team announced.

Fitzgerald has racked up 11 receptions in two games since his two-game absence but has managed just 64 yards and no touchdowns during that stretch. He's on track to resume his regular role in his team's Week 16 matchup with the Seahawks.


Cardinals' Kerwynn Williams limited Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:31 pm ET) Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams (knee) was limited in Thursday's practice, the team announced.

Williams has shared touches with Stepfan Taylor with Andre Ellington out for the season but has amassed 175 rushing yards on 34 carries over the last two weeks. If his knee issue keeps him out Sunday, Taylor and Marion Grice would likely handle most of the touches at the position.


Cardinals QB Drew Stanton (knee) limited in practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:27 pm ET) Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, the team announced.

Stanton hurt the knee Sunday against the Rams and appeared destined to miss Week 16's matchup with the Seahawks, but coach Bruce Arians indicated Wednesday that Stanton could play this Sunday in a best-case scenario. Arians did say Wednesday that Ryan Lindley would start against the Seahawks, and he's still the favorite to line up under center, but Stanton's absence isn't a foregone conclusion at this point.


Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch doesn't practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:18 pm ET) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (back) did not practice Thursday, the team announced.

Last week, Lynch was able to take part in practice in a limited fashion Thursday after taking his customary day off Wednesday. This week, he's looking at two DNPs heading into Friday. Lynch was listed as probable in Week 15 but could be facing a questionable tag (or worse) in Week 16. If Lynch isn't able to play Sunday, the Seahawks would likely expand the roles of Robert Turbin and Christine Michael.

Joining Lynch on the sidelines for Thursday's practice were tackle Russel Okung (chest), guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle), center Max Unger (knee/ankle), tight end Tony Moeaki (shoulder), wide receiver Paul Richardson (hamstring) and defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (ankle).


Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker good to go for Titans
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:11 pm ET) The Titans will have both Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker Week 16 against the Jaguars.

Both players came into the game listed as questionable. Wright is dealing with a hand injury. Walker has a knee issue. Both players will attempt to play through their injuries.

The team will also have Byron Stingily and Kamerion Wimbley. Both Stingily and Wimbley were listed as questionable. Daimion Stafford, who came into the contest listed as probable, will also be available. 


Titans list inactives for Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:07 pm ET) The Titans have listed QB Zach Mettenberger, DB Jemea Thomas, LB Zaviar Gooden, LB Dontay Moch, OT Terren Jones, OT Taylor Lewan and DL Mike Martin as inactive Week 16 against the Jaguars.

Both Mettenberger and Lewan were listed as doubtful heading into the contest. Neither was expected to take the field. Gooden was listed as questionable due to a hamstring injury. The other four players listed are healthy scratches. 


Jaguars' Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee active vs. Titans Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:02 pm ET) Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (foot) and wide receiver Marqise Lee (elbow) are active for Thursday night's Week 16 matchup with the Titans.

Bortles was listed as questionable to play on the team's final injury report but was reported to be starting earlier Thursday. Lee was listed as probable to play after catching four of his 10 targets for 14 yards in Week 15.

Players who were on the team's final Week 16 injury report who are also active include defensive end Ryan Davis (hip) and safety Josh Evans (foot), both of whom were questionable to suit up Thursday.


Jaguars list Week 16 inactives vs. Titans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:01 pm ET) The Jaguars listed the following players as inactive for Thursday night's week 16 battle with the Titans: wide receiver Tommy Streeter (abdomen), defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee), defensive end Andre Branch (groin), cornerbacks Teddy Williams and Jeremy Harris, safety Matt Daniels and guard Tyler Shatley.

Streeter and Miller were listed as questionable to play Thursday on the team's final injury report, while Branch was previously ruled out. The Jaguars have three quarterbacks active for the game, including first-stringer Blake Bortles (foot), who was listed as questionable to play.


You'll want to stick with Tre Mason
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:31 pm ET) In two games since blowing up for 164 total yards and three touchdowns, Rams running back Tre Mason has a total of 99 yards on 33 carries. Neither performance was good individually, and Week 15 against Arizona was especially bad. Subtract the fumble from his 33 yards, and he scored a grand total of one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues.

So why would you consider using him in your championship game with the Rams hosting the Giants in Week 16? For one thing, the matchup is a night-and-day difference. You had to expect Mason to struggle against the Cardinals, who rank sixth against the run, allowing 90.4 yards per game, but would have guessed the Redskins, his Week 14 opponent, rank seventh? It's not a matter of teams choosing to beat them through the air either. They're one of 10 teams that have allowed less than 4 yards per carry.

The Giants, meanwhile, rank 30th against the run, allowing 135.1 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. It doesn't mean Mason is a lock for big numbers. The Redskins' Alfred Morris, who most would consider a superior running back, had just 49 yards on 14 carries against the Giants last week. But after splitting carries early on, Mason has become the clear workhorse of the Rams backfield. You don't sit a running back with that role when he has a favorable matchup, especially when he's performed as Mason has this season.

Jamey Eisenberg agrees, naming Mason the CBSSports.com Start of the Week for Week 16.


 
 
 
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