With Super Wild Card Weekend behind us, the NFL is down to its final eight teams. The Divisional Round features two games with the No. 1 vs No. 6 seed. The AFC’s No. 1 Chiefs will host the No. 6 Browns Sunday, Jan. 17 at 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS.
Browns playoff preview: 10 things to know about the Kansas City Chiefs https://t.co/IseCtQlCCw
— The Browns Wire (@TheBrownsWire) January 12, 2021
The Browns are coming off their first playoff victory in 25 years after beating their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, 48-37 at Heinz Field. The tone for that game was set on the first snap of the game when it was launched over Ben Roethlisberger’s head and the Browns recovered the fumble in the endzone for a TD. The Browns are the NFL’s feel-good story right now but they have a huge task ahead of them if they want it to continue.
— Dave @ BIGPLAY (@BIGPLAY_dave) January 13, 2021
Essentially the Chiefs core players have had two weeks to rest and prepare for this game because they locked-up the AFC’s No. 1 seed after Week 16. The defending Super Bowl champs exceeded their sky-high expectations so far this season and are right where they need to be to defend their championship.
What Makes the No. 1 Chiefs So Special?
If you are reading this then you probably know that the Chiefs’ QB is Patrick Mahomes, and he is the best thing football has seen since Jay Berwanger (look him up). Mahomes, who finished the regular season with 4,740 passing yards, 38 TD, 6 INT and a rating of 108.2, is definitely the No. 1 reason the Chiefs captured the best record in the NFL this season and have been the favorite all-season to win Super Bowl LV.
— Richard Young (@Yowit) January 13, 2021
Mahomes has been able to excel to the highest level because of the excellent coaching of Andy Reid and his staff. Kansas City has built a winning culture behind some smart football moves by the front office and coaching staff. This team is built for the future and only seems to be getting better.
The weapons that the Chiefs have put around Mahomes are remarkable. TE Travis Kelse (No. 2) and WR Tyreek Hill (No. 8) are both in the top-10 on the receiving-yards leaderboard and have showcased their talents all year in Reid’s system with the NFL’s half-billion-dollar man (Mahomes) at the helm. Teams focus on Hill and Kelse, but there is still Mercole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, and Sammy Watkins that serve as the No. 3 receiver at different times in the league’s No. 1 passing offense this season. Mahomes’ ability to spread the ball around to all his amazing pass-catchers has Kansas City as the only team with five different players to record over 400 receiving yards this season.
Why the No. 6 Browns Have What It Takes to Knock Off the Chiefs.
A year ago today we hired Kevin Stefanski as our head coach.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 12, 2021
The Browns are hot right now, rolling with some good luck and nice momentum coming into Kansas City on Sunday. The Browns have the No. 1-ranked offensive line (according to Pro Football Focus) and two of the most dangerous running backs in the game. QB Baker Mayfield has gotten a win over Patrick Mahomes before and he is ready to do it again. The Browns believe they can upset the Chiefs, so guess what? They sure can.
Baker Mayfield vs Patrick Mahomes next week
Their 2016 game was legendary
🍿 125 points
🍿 1708 yards
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 11, 2021
The Browns No. 3 Rushing Attack
Cleveland has built their team to play physical at the point-of-attack and run the ball. RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are two of the most skilled runners in the NFL which makes it hard for a team to stop both all game long. The Browns 145.4 rushing yards per game ranked No. 3 and their 4.8 yards per carry ranked No. 5 in 2020.
The Browns’ feature-back, Chubb, finished the season playing in only 12 games. He had 1,067 rushing yards and an average of 5.6 yards per carry which was No. 1 in the NFL. Hunt is a former NFL rushing-champ back in 2017 in his rookie season with the Chiefs – who drafted him that year in the third round. This will be the first game that Hunt has taken on his former team after they released him in 2018 because of off-field reasons.
The Browns ground-pound attack should have success against the Chiefs low-ranking rush defense. The Chiefs defense ranked 21st by allowing 122.1 rushing yards per game and 17th with a 4.5 yards per carry average to opponent running backs. Expect the Chiefs to commit an extra-defender to the box to help stop the run early in the game, which will allow openings in the downfield passing game for Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield is Hot.
The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft won his first playoff game and is geared up for more. Mayfield just got done torching the Steeler’s top-ranked defense for 263 passing yards and three TD, finishing the game with a 115.2 rating. He finished 2020 as one of the league’s top-graded QBs with a TD-INT-ratio of 26-8 and a rating of 95.9.
Most games with a 90+ PFF Grade this season:
🔸 Aaron Rodgers – 4
🔸 Patrick Mahomes – 4
🔸 Baker Mayfield – 4 pic.twitter.com/YkRGtbTcDP
— PFF (@PFF) January 13, 2021
The Chiefs defense in 2020 ranked pretty well against the pass, holding opposing QBs to the fifth-lowest completion percentage in the league. The Chiefs rely a lot on the blitz to get pressure on the QB which sometimes leaves them exposed down the field. Cleveland’s steller O-line gave up 26 sacks this season which has them tied for No. 6 lowest. The Browns should be able to give Mayfield time to find his men down the field when he needs to.
The Browns offensive line was READY 💪
They didn't give up a single pressure or sack.
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) January 13, 2021
Keys to the Game:
Browns Pass Defense
If and only if the Browns find success running the ball and Mayfield plays well, then the Browns have a shot to win this game. I say that because the Browns could dominate this game for 3+ quarters and still lose because Mahomes is able to lead quick-scoring drives. The key to the Browns advancing to the AFC Championship Game is if their secondary can slow down Mahomes and the Chiefs’ scoring attack.
One year ago today, the Texans jumped out 24-0 on KC.
Then Mahomes went seven drives with seven touchdowns to cap an epic Chiefs comeback.
They were scoring so much they ran out of fireworks 😳 pic.twitter.com/vrzXpleZgD
— ESPN (@espn) January 12, 2021
CB Denzel Ward and Kevin Jonson have been activated from the reserve/Covid-19 list after missing the wild-card victory over Pittsburgh. It is key that the Browns have their guys back, but the whole-secondary is going to have to play mistake-free football for four quarters if the Browns want to pull off the upset. During the regular season, Cleveland had the 26th-ranked coverage secondary, according to Pro Football Focus.
Straining for Greatness https://t.co/oc66wSSagx
— Denzel Ward (@denzelward) January 13, 2021
Because defensive fronts and backs work together, it’s worth noting that the Browns have the sixth-highest pressure rate of 29.1 percent. But, Myles Garrett and the Browns DL will need to be better than last week, because Roethlisberger was not sacked once on his ridiculous 68-pass attempts. Under pressure this season, Mahomes owns a passer rating of just 73.9. In other words, if Cleveland is to defeat Kansas City, it will likely be due to exceptional pressure that’s fortified by sticky coverage from Ward and his DB mates.
Chiefs Rushing Attack
Look, if the Chiefs can run the ball effectively and stop the run they will win their second Super Bowl in as many years. 56.6 percent of the Chiefs’ rushes came against a light box in 2020 which is the second-highest in the NFL. They face light-boxes because teams play a lot of two-high safeties to try and take-away Mahomes’ deadly deep-ball. Once KC is running the ball effectively they truly become unstoppable because the whole playbook opens up for coach Reid.
Chiefs rookie-RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire hasn’t played since Week 15 due to hip and ankle ailments, and his status for Sunday remains unclear even though he practiced on Wednesday. Despite missing three full games over the course of the regular season, CEH still piled up 1,100 scrimmage yards, which ranked fourth among rookies.
Le’Veon Bell, who made his K.C. debut in Week 7, has posted 353 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns for the Chiefs. The three-time Pro Bowler did average 128.8 scrimmage yards per game in his four postseason outings with the Steelers. That said, Bell was dealing with an ailment of his own (inflamed right knee) down the stretch of the regular season.
Bell and CEH hold the keys to the castle for the Chiefs.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) November 25, 2020
No. 1 Chiefs vs No. 6 Browns — Betting Breakdown
Chiefs odds to win: -500
I do not think it is smart to bet against the (14-2) Chiefs to win this game, they are clearly the better team playing at home. If you want to bet against Kansas City, take the points.
Under Patrick Mahomes, here's how the Chiefs perform in the playoffs:
⁃ 35.8 points per game
⁃ Never scored lower than 31 pts
⁃ Every win by 11 points or more
⁃ ONLY loss was in OT where Mahomes never got the ball
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) January 13, 2021
Browns point spread: +10
The Browns are 10-point underdogs heading into their Sunday afternoon postseason matchup with the Chiefs. The Chiefs are 0-4 against the spread in their last four home games and their last four against AFC opponents.
The Browns can keep this game close if they can limit their mistakes. Mayfield should be locked in and ready to take down Mahomes. I think the Browns put up a fight and keep this game interesting.