After the first two games of the Divisional Round were played on Saturday, Sunday will start with an AFC matchup between the Cleveland Browns (11-5) and the Kansas City Chiefs (14-2). The Chiefs will host this one from Arrowhead Stadium, with kickoff scheduled for 3:05 pm ET.
After just sneaking into the playoffs in Week 17, the Browns came out on fire in the Wild Card round against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Leading 28-0 after just the first quarter, the Browns went onto win 48-37. In the victory, Baker Mayfield threw for three touchdowns, and Kareem Hunt scored two himself.
As the top seed in the AFC, the Chiefs enjoyed the weekend off last week as they received a bye through the first round. Despite losing their final game of the season, one where they rested many of their starters, the Kansas City Chiefs had the best record in the NFL at 14-2. Still, of their two losses, both of them were at Arrowhead Stadium, where they will play on Sunday.
The Chiefs are the overwhelming favorites in this one. They are -480 to win while the Browns’ moneyline sits at +370. The spread features Cleveland +10, while the over/under for total points is 56.5.
By The Numbers
Offensively, both of these teams were in the top half in scoring this season. The Chiefs rank 6th, averaging 29.6 points per game. The Browns are 12th overall averaging 26.8 points per game.
Defensively, it is once again the Chiefs that hold the upper hand. They rank 10th in scoring defense allowing opponents 22.6 points per game. The Browns fall to 23rd, allowing an average of 26.8 points per game.
Browns Look For Upset On The Road
For the last couple of decades, the Browns have always embodied the notion of being an underdog. With no one expecting much from the franchise, standards were never held very high. That is changing this year as the team has not only made their first playoffs since 2002, but they are looking to make some noise by beating the defending champs.
Leading the way under center for the Browns is quarterback Baker Mayfield. This season, Mayfield threw for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 165 yards and another score.
The rushing attack is the Browns’ strongest point. They have the most dynamic backfield in the NFL with the combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Chubb rushed for 1,067 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, while Hunt added 841 yards and six scores. Hunt also had 38 receptions for 304 yards and another five scores. To beat the Chiefs, they will need to get the ground game going early and often.
The Browns also get some reinforcements back against Mahomes, and the Chiefs as defensive backs Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson were both activated from the COVID list.
Chiefs Look To Get Back To Conference Championship
As well as the Chiefs played during the regular season, they know that they will have to step it up in the postseason. Even more important, if they want to get back to the AFC championship and eventually the Super Bowl, they can’t overlook the Browns.
Leading the way under center for the Chiefs is Patrick Mahomes. This season, Mahomes threw for 4,740 yards, 38 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He also rushed for 308 yards and another couple of scores.
Through the air, he has two of the best targets in the game in Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. This season, Kelce had 105 receptions for 1,416 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hill had 87 yards for 1,276 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Kansas City Wins, But Can They Cover?
As well as Cleveland played last week, I have a hard time betting against a rested Chiefs offense in this one. Patrick Mahomes showed last year that he knows how to win in the postseason, and their offense is just so dynamic, especially going against a poor Browns’ defense.
The question becomes whether Kansas City can cover the big 10-point spread. This is an area the Chiefs struggled with this year. In fact, despite a 14-2 record, they were just 6-9-1 against the spread.
Of their 14 wins, only five were by over 10 points, with the last time being all the way back on November 1. While I like the Chiefs to win outright, I like the Browns to cover the 10-point spread.