AFC Divisional Preview: Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefsby Ethan Hewette January 17, 2021 2 comments
The Cleveland Browns (12-5) head to Missouri to take on the Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) for an AFC Divisional Round matchup. The Browns are coming off a dominant 48-37 victory in the Wild Card round. Meanwhile, the Chiefs look to shine up the cleats again this week after being the only AFC team to have a first-round bye.
After making their first playoff appearance since 2003, Cleveland went a step further, securing their first playoff victory in 25 years. In last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, quarterback Baker Mayfield tossed three touchdown passes and totaled 263 yards. Meanwhile, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt totaled 124 yards on the ground, and Hunt had himself a pair of touchdown runs. Chubb tagged on 69 receiving yards and a 40-yard receiving touchdown. Wideout Jarvis Landry continues to be one of Mayfield’s favorite targets putting up 92 yards on five receptions last week. Likewise, Austin Hooper has come on as of late, bringing in seven passes for 46 yards and a touchdown last week. All of the Browns’ weapons are hitting their strides at the right time, and the Chiefs defense will have their hands full today.
Defensively, it has been an up and down year for the Browns. Thankfully head coach Kevin Stefanski has had one of the more dynamic offenses allowing them to inch ahead in several shootouts this season. However, the Browns did have a negative point differential during the regular season allowing 26.2 points per game and averaging 25.5 offensively. This could hint at some struggles today against an explosive Chiefs offense. Therefore, the Browns pass rush of Myles Garrett, who led the team with 12 sacks, and Olivier Vernon will need to be on their A-game to help slow down this Patrick Mahomes-led offense.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs’ offense has been an anomaly. While Mahomes and company averaged 29.6 points per game this season, calling them efficient would not be the right description. However, the matchup this weekend is optimal for the Chiefs’ aerial attack. Mahomes has led this team to average 301 passing yards per game. With multiple top-tier weapons, the Browns secondary isn’t going to be able to slow them down. Don’t forget the Browns gave up 306 passing yards to Mason Rudolph and the Steelers back in Week 17, nearly costing them the game. Tight end Travis Kelce had a monster season totaling over 1,400 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. Wideout Tyreek Hill also put up 17 total touchdowns this year.
Much like the Browns defense, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s squad is going to have their hands full. Fortunately, the pass rush started to come alive later in the season for the Chiefs. Chris Jones and Frank Clark began to capitalize more on their pressures. Jones led the team in sacks with 7.5, and Clark was just behind him with six of his own. Also, rookie defensive back L’Jarius Sneed made waves late in the season. He compiled 18 tackles, four passes defended, two sacks, two tackles for loss, and an interception in his final three games of the regular season. Tyrann Mathieu led the team with six interceptions and nine passes defended.
Date: January 17th, 2021
Start time: 3:05 pm EST
Location: Kansas City, MO
Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium
TV Info: CBS
Betting Odds Sponsored by Jazz Sportsbook
Point Spread: CLE +10 (-125) | KC -10 (+105)
Moneyline: CLE +385 | KC -535
Over/Under: O 57 (-110)｜U 57 (-110)
Kansas City at -10 seems like a hefty margin to cover in a playoff game. While Cleveland may not win this game, they should keep it close. If nothing else, closing the gap late as head coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs inevitably take their foot off the gas.
Meanwhile, the books, like most people, are expecting this to be a high scoring affair. Believe it. Neither of these defenses has been as consistent as they need to be, and both offenses can quickly rack up points. Mayfield has been playing lights out recently, and Mahomes can strike at any moment. Believe it or not, take the over in this one.
Kansas City will likely need to spend a couple of drives shaking off the dust after two weeks of their starters not seeing the field. However, they start to get back in a rhythm, and by the time they reach the halfway mark, the Chiefs will have established a 24-17 lead. As the second half progresses, the Chiefs and Browns exchange scoring drives. But ultimately, the Chiefs advance to their third straight AFC Championship Game.
Final Score: Cleveland 30, Kansas City 38