The Cleveland Browns will travel to Arrowhead Stadium to face off with the Kansas City Chiefs. This matchup almost seems unfair for the Browns. The Chiefs are the only AFC team graced with a bye week, and they managed to get the Sunday game for that extra day of rest. However the Browns are going to be riding a high after putting up 48 on the Steelers at Heinz Field. The real question here is this: Can the Browns pull off a Cinderella run and eliminate the reigning Super Bowl Champion Chiefs?
For the Browns to have a chance, they must…
Lean into the two-headed monster in the backfield
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 1908 yards and 18 Touchdowns on the ground, and that’s with the former missing four games due to injury. Meanwhile Hunt caught 38 receptions out of the backfield, adding five more TDs through the air. If they can get an old school, pound the football mentality going with Chubb, they can open up quick passes underneath and the occasional rocket downfield.
In the Wild Card round, the duo combined for 26 carries, 124 yards, and two TDs on the ground, while also collecting five for 82 yards and a touchdown through the air. They need more of this if they have any chance of getting out of Arrowhead Stadium with a W.
Cleveland’s offensive line is a hurting unit. Despite being thin on the line, they’ll need the next man up to play high level football. Baker Mayfield needs time to make decisions. If he’s rushed, watch for errant throws and the Browns’ ability to keep the game close getting thrown out the window.
In order to make it back to back victories, Cleveland is going to need to put up touchdowns, not field goals. If they can get clicking, and convert in the red zone, they may actually have a shot at making the AFC Championship Game.
Trust an aggressive defense
Against Pittsburgh, Cleveland’s defense started hot, helping them to a 28-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. However then, for some insane reason, they dropped into a prevent defense instead of turning up the heat. This allowed Big Ben to complete throws underneath and get the Steelers into a bit of a groove.
Sure, The Browns won the game. But Pittsburgh outscored them 37-20 in the final three quarters. If they want to prevent (gasp) that from happening again, they need to stay aggressive, pressure Mahomes, and force mistakes. Another week of dropping back will, in fact, prevent them from winning this game.
Also, we need to remember that Cleveland picked off Big Ben four times with their two starting corners out due to COVID protocol…
In order for Kansas City to defend their Championship, they must…
Be aggressive with the pass rush
Joel Bitonio should be back after missing the Wild Card Round on the COVID list, but Jack Conklin’s status is unknown after leaving that game with a hamstring injury. With the Browns needing to shuffle the deck, expecting another jaw dropping performance from second stringers could be a lot to ask. And that’s exactly what Chris Jones, Anthony Hitchens, and the rest of the Chiefs defense must look to exploit.
Let Patrick Mahomes be Patrick Mahomes
Sometimes I wonder if Andy Reid’s game plan is simply to close his eyes and point at something in the playbook. It doesn’t seem to matter if that play goes off without a hitch, because Patrick Mahomes always finds a way to extend a broken play. And he rarely makes mistakes. This Ketchup-loving Quarterback threw for 4740 yards, 38 touchdowns and was only picked off six times. He also managed 308 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
While the Browns should probably focus on containing him, it’s a virtual impossibility. He will find a way to make things happen, and that’s what makes him the best in the game right now. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill could be poised for big games if Cleveland can’t take them away. But, even if they do, Mahomes will manage to throw a touchdown to an offensive lineman or practice squad linebacker who has never played a snap on offense. The dude is that good. Period.
My brain is saying Chiefs win, while my heart is screaming Browns win. This is likely to be a shootout. Through Weeks 10-16, Kansas City had a combined point differential of +27. If Cleveland can keep the game close, they have a legitimate chance. Nick Chubb can be the true game changer in this one. Kareem Hunt will be looking to prove something against his former team. I’m checking myself into the looney bin, and going all in on the Browns. Cleveland does the improbable, and takes this one 31-30.
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