NFL Kansas City Chiefs

5 Players Who Mean the Most to a Kansas City Chiefs Playoff Run

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5 Most Important Players for the Kansas City Chiefs

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs had the worst record in the NFL at 2-14. The team had some talented players, but they could not figure out how to use them correctly and were consistently being dragged down by extremely poor quarterback play.

Their turnaround this season has simply been incredible. New head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith have led Kansas City to a record of 11-3 with two games to play, and have clinched a birth in the playoffs. With some help, the Chiefs can still get a first round bye in the postseason and even home field advantage throughout.

This seems to be Kansas City's best chance at a deep playoff run for a while. They reach the playoffs every so often, but they have not actually won a playoff game since the 1993 season, when they lost in the AFC Championship Game.

This Chiefs team is built on a foundation of a great defense and running game. Led by a tough run defense and impressive pass rush, the Chiefs have allowed the fourth fewest points in the league. Offensively, while they rank in the middle of the pack in total yards, their running game and smart play by Smith have made the Chiefs the fourth highest scoring team in the league, averaging 28.5 points per game.

This Kansas City team is very talented, and with a seemingly wide open AFC, I see no reason why they cannot make a big-time playoff run. Like all teams, they will have to get great performances out of their best players in order to be successful. Here are the five players who mean the most to a Chiefs playoff run.

Daniel is a writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @D_Schmelzer, "Like" his Page on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Dwayne Bowe

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As far as pure talent goes, Dwayne Bowe has it all. Size (6-foot-2, 221 pounds), speed and athleticism are all part of what makes Bowe one of the most physically gifted players in the league.

Unfortunately, Bowe's production has not quite lived up to his potential this season. His 52 receptions for 627 yards and five touchdowns are decent, but he is capable of so much more.

Now, Smith's conservative style of play at the quarterback position surely limits opportunities for Bowe. Smith simply refuses to make a bad play. Bowe is clearly the most talented receiver for Kansas City, so he receives a lot of attention from the defense. This does not add up to a ton of targets for Bowe.

I believe that Bowe is one of the best offensive playmakers that Kansas City has, and if they are going to make a deep run this postseason, he will surely have to play a big role. At worst, he will continue to command attention and open up plays for others in the offense.

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4. Branden Albert

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Donald Stephenson has filled in nicely, but there is no doubt that the Chiefs need Branden Albert to return in order to make a deep playoff run.

Albert has really stepped up his game this season, and has become one of the premier pass blocking left tackles in the league. He does an incredible job of protecting Smith's back side, and is a good run blocker as well.

Unfortunately, Albert has missed the last two games with a knee injury. Luckily, the injury does not appear to be as serious as it seemed at first, and Kansas City could have their left tackle back as soon as this week. Albert's ability to protect the quarterback will be key for the Chiefs down the stretch.

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3. Justin Houston

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Houston is another player that the Chiefs need to have back sooner rather than later. Houston has missed the last three weeks with an elbow injury, but it also appears that he could return this week.

When healthy, Houston became a huge part of the impressive Kansas City defense this season. Make no mistake, Houston is an elite pass rusher. Despite missing the last three games, he is tied for eighth in the NFL in sacks with 11.

The Chiefs' defense is on a different level with Houston on the field, and with expected playoff matchups against Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, rushing the passer will be key.

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2. Alex Smith

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Smith has taken his game to a new level this season. He is a little too conservative for some people, but he simply does not make many mistakes. His 3,160 passing yards and 23 TDs are not anywhere close to the league leaders, but he has only thrown six interceptions. It may not be flashy, but Smith gets the job done.

When it is available, Smith is not afraid to tuck the ball and run. You may not think of him as a mobile quarterback, but he has the sixth most rushing yards of all QBs in the league with 385. All of the guys ahead of him on the list (Terrelle Pryor, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick) have plenty of runs designed for them. Smith does not; a huge majority of his runs are him improvising on the fly. He is a very smart QB with incredible decision making abilities, and will be very important for Kansas City in the playoffs.

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1. Jamaal Charles

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Jamaal Charles has taken his game to a MVP-caliber level this season. He is the focus of the Chiefs' offense in both the passing and running game.

His 1,181 rushing yards are fourth in the NFL and his 11 touchdowns on the ground are tied with Marshawn Lynch for the league lead. As if that were not enough, Charles has caught the fifth most passes of any RB with 65, and he leads the position in receiving yards (655) and touchdowns (seven).

Charles is arguably the most explosive player in the entire league and is a legitimate threat to take it to the house on any given play. He has pure sprinter speed and when in space, anything is possible. I struggle to think of any non-QB who means as much to his team as Charles, and because of that, he will obviously be a huge part of their playoff run.