The Cleveland Browns will visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in a divisional round playoff game with a place in the AFC championship game at stake. If they win, the Chiefs would be the first AFC team to host the conference title game for three years in a row, and the Buffalo Bills would travel to their stadium. If the Browns win, they’ll travel to Buffalo for a competition to see what long-downtrodden fan base sees their team play in the Super Bowl.
According to odds, the Chiefs started as the biggest favorites this NFL weekend with roughly 10 points, but their game against the Cleveland Browns should do the best too. While we may not have a surprising result, there should be fireworks along the way.
Of course, the Browns have already sparked a big surprise, not just by making the playoffs for the first time since 2003, but by actually winning a postseason game for the first time since 1995. On the other hand, the Chiefs are unlikely to recognize the Browns had a 28-point lead like the Pittsburgh Steelers did last week, and even if they did, Kansas City showed it was a 51:31 win this round last year against the Houston Texans was able to recover from a 24-point deficit.
Cleveland’s best chance for a second straight upset would likely come from wearing down and triggering big games against Kansas City’s 21st running defense with his powerful rushing attack, the third best in the NFL this season. Kareem Hunt announced this week that he will play with added motivation after being fired from Kansas City in 2018 after a video showed him poking and kicking a woman.
The Chiefs, for their part, can use the best passing attack in the league against the Browns’ 22nd pass defense behind superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes and record breaking tight end Travis Kelce. The good news for Cleveland in this regard is that it is getting its top cornerback, Denzel Ward, back from the Reserve / Covid-19 list, as well as another cornerback, Kevin Johnson. At least as significant, head coach Kevin Stefanski and Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio also returned from coronavirus-related absences last week.
While Stefanski is in his freshman year running a team with little playoff experience, Andy Reid of the Chiefs is in his 22nd year as head coach and led his team to a Super Bowl win last season. Kansas City retired in the first round, and Reid is legendary for his post-retirement success, with a career mark of 25-5 in the week after a week off, including 6-2 in the playoffs.
Kansas City left with a 14-win season, the highest in franchise history, but it wasn’t particularly dominant in the second half of the season. In the Chiefs’ last seven wins, none have been more than six points, and their average profit margin over that distance has been 3.9 points.
However, recent history says Mahomes and Co. may be willing to make things even better. In four playoff games of the past two seasons at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs have outperformed their opponents by a total of 43 points, and Mahomes has scored a total of 13 touchdowns and no turnovers.