Last year, the Rams and Chiefs began to emerge from their respective franchise dark ages to become two of the annual surprise contenders in the NFL.
Following a combined 2009 record of 5-27, both teams from the show me state showed up in 2010. The Chiefs made the postseason for the first time since 2006 and the Rams missed the playoffs by one game in a week 17 heartbreaker.
Now that both franchises are on the upswing, both Sam Bradford and Matt Cassel are emerging as top-flight quarterbacks and legitimate fantasy passers.
With that in mind, Rams Herd decided to take a look at which quarterback will have the better fantasy season in our first fantasy breakdown. Which one has the better talent, coaching and supporting cast?
Rams- Steven Jackson with Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood as backups will steal some thunder away from Bradford throughout the season.
Jackson is a consistent workhorse but his production dipped a bit last year, when he only managed about 3.8 yards per carry and six touchdowns.
Josh McDaniels’ offense will emphasize the pass more, giving Bradford more opportunities to take the top off the defense.
Chiefs- Jamaal Charles is arguably the best back in the league this season as evidenced by his regular selection at the top of fantasy drafts.
Charles had an insane 6.4 yards per carry average last year and took it to the house five times. His carries were limited in 2010 but he should be unleashed this season and will take a significant portion of plays away from Cassel.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:
Rams- The Rams are going into the season with substantial depth at the receiver position but lack a stand-out target for Bradford.
Brandon Gibson figures to play a large part in the offense, but managed only two touchdowns last season with a red zone drought coming in the last six games of the season. Mike Sims-Walker flashed as a Jaguar with seven touchdowns in 2010 but only topped 100 yards in two games.
Danny Amendola will see his share of catches and the rest of the receivers are rookies (Greg Salas and Austin Pettis) or coming off major injuries (Donnie Avery and Danario Alexander).
The best option may be rookie tight end Lance Kendricks who figures to be a match up problem for defenses and will be a big target in the end zone.
Chiefs- The Chiefs are significantly more talented at receiver with the emergence of Dwayne Bowe and the complimentary presence of Steve Breaston, Jonathan Baldwin and Jerheme Urban.
Bowe is arguably a top ten receiver in the league coming off a 72 reception season for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns and looks to continue his ascension.
Breaston came to Kansas City to follow former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley and has a chance to emerge from Larry Fitzgerald’s shadow as a legit number two receiver.
Baldwin, a rookie from Pittsburgh, will have an opportunity to shine if he can keep himself out of trouble and Urban is a reliable slot target.
The Chiefs also have Tony Moeaki, who in his second season at tight end will have a better grasp of the offense.
Rams- The Rams beefed up their offensive line with the addition of Harvey Dahl at right guard this offseason.
Dahl will be the X-factor heading into the season, adding a mean streak to a St. Louis line often pushed around by opposing defenses last season.
Rodger Saffold will be in charge of protecting Bradford’s blindside once more after flying under the radar as one of the best left tackles in the league as a rookie last season.
Jacob Bell has always been an above average pass protector and Jason Brown is a solid center.
If Jason Smith can stay healthy and reach his potential as the number two overall pick in 2009, look for the Rams to have a great unit up front.
Chiefs- Kansas City’s offensive line had a stand-out year last season, paving the way for Charles’ huge season and the best passing statistics of Cassel’s career.
Branden Albert is expected back at left tackle and did a good job on a Chiefs line that allowed only 32 sacks last season.
Ryan Lilja was a pleasant surprise and flourished in both run and pass protection after spending his career in relative obscurity for the Colts.
Center Casey Wiegmann was solid but he is getting older and could falter as the season wears on.
Jon Asamoah and Barry Richardson round out the right side of the line while new signee Jared Gaither provides depth and could push Albert or Richardson inside at some point this season.
Slight Advantage: Bradford
Rams- One of the biggest offseason additions for St. Louis was nabbing offensive mind Josh McDaniels after his disastrous tenure in Denver.
McDaniels orchestrated the record setting 2007 offense of the New England Patriots and should run the offense primarily through mismatches and spreading the field with four receiver sets.
McDaniels emphasizes the pass over the run and will also get production out of the “no name” receivers in blue and gold the same way he turned Brandon Lloyd’s career around last season.
Chiefs- Kansas City lost Charlie Weis when he joined the University of Florida over the offseason.
Weis was the mastermind behind the Chiefs offensive output last year and his loss could effect the team more than fans realize.
Bill Muir takes over the offensive side of the ball with some help from Todd Haley, who coached the Cardinals’ offense on their miracle Super Bowl run in 2008.
Muir has coached around the league for 33 seasons but has never had full control of an offense before.
Bradford: 3,800 yards, 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions (2010: 3,512-18-15)
Cassel: 3,400 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions (2010: 3,116-27-7)
Going into the season, Bradford gets a slight edge on Cassel as a fantasy quarterback. ESPN’s newest mock draft has Bradford going in the seventh round and Cassel following in the eighth.
Their stats should be relatively close but Bradford combined with Josh McDaniels, new receiving depth and a retooled offensive line edges out Cassel, who has a new offensive coordinator and will lose points to Jamaal Charles.