The Kansas City Chiefs are currently 10 point favorites heading into the divisional round against the Browns. To some this makes sense, but to others, this is baffling. With the Browns having just trounced the Steelers in their house, it feels disrespectful for the oddsmakers to completely dismiss the Browns as a threat. Even Chiefs Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins was dismissive of the Browns being real “competition”.
I wouldn’t go that far lol..!— King me (@sammywatkins) January 11, 2021
It does make a touch of sense though. This is a team that was down double-digit points in all three of their playoff game last year, and yet they won them all. After being down 24-0 against Houston, the Chiefs outscored them 51-7. Down 17-7 against Tennessee, the Chiefs outscored them 28-7. Down 10 in the fourth quarter against the 49ers, the Chiefs outscored them 21-0. It seems as though even when the Chiefs play their worst, they can flip a switch and beat anybody.
I assume this is what the oddsmakers are predicting for the Chiefs’ upcoming game. Much like the Seahawks, however, the Chiefs limped into the playoffs and could be on upset alert.
The Chiefs Struggles
The Chiefs, and specifically Patrick Mahomes, haven’t played well since week 12 against Tampa Bay. Even then, Mahomes was virtually shut out in the second half as Tampa almost came back. In Mahomes’ final four games, he posted an average “QBR“ of 73 on a scale of 0-100. So against the Broncos, Dolphins, Saints and Falcons, Mahomes averaged a C performance. Not exactly what we expect from the former MVP.
To be fair to Mahomes though, the Dolphins and Saints have very good defenses. Both top 10 in points allowed. So it would make sense that they’d cause him some problems. Although, the Broncos and Falcons rank 25th and 19th defensively by Pro Football Reference. In other words, these are games for a struggling Chiefs offense to “get healthy” against. However, Mahomes struggled mightily in both games as he only completed 58.5% of his passes, and narrowly beat both teams.
In fact, in his final four games, Mahomes completed just 60.7% of his passes. And to make matters worse, Andy Reid sat him and other key starters week 17. Historically, playoff teams who rested their starters in week 17 have a first playoff game win percentage of .333. Teams that didn’t rest their starters week 17, have a first playoff game win percentage of .786. Why is that you might ask? Probably because three weeks without playing football is a LONG time.
On top of never being able to fix their issues towards the end the season, they must also shake off the rust against a hot and motivated Browns team. A true recipe for disaster.
The Browns Can Absolutely Win
The Browns have a tailor-made offense to stump and embarrass the Chiefs’ defense. Heading into this game, the Chiefs run defense and pass rush rank among the bottom half of the league. So with the Browns having the number one offensive line in the NFL, they can not only protect Baker, but they can pound the football and control the clock. Something the 2019 Colts demonstrated against the Chiefs to perfection in week 5.
If the Chiefs play the run and force Baker to throw, he’s shown he’s perfectly capable of doing so. Since week nine, Mahomes’ Pro Football Focus grade is second in the league to Baker’s… first. Obviously, if they dare Cleveland to run, it could be the quickest divisional game in NFL history. Nonetheless, this match-up will be a stereotypical pick your poison game for the Chiefs. Either way, they could lose.
The only thing that will stop the Browns from winning this game is their sub-par defense. Especially if Mahomes and the offense do flip the proverbial switch. Though you can’t necessarily count out the Browns in a shootout. In games where both teams scored over 30 this season, the Browns are 5-1. So those that think the Browns will just lay down if their defense can’t stop the Chiefs, are simply wrong. Assuming things stay the way they are and the Browns don’t crumble due to sheer expectations, we could very well see the Browns in the AFC championship.