Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs
September 12th, 2001. 9.25pm UK Time / 3.25pm KC Time
It is over 600 days since Arrowhead Stadium was full. That will be all change on Sunday as the Chiefs Revenge Tour kicks off with a home game against the Cleveland Browns. It’s going to look and sound spectacular. SPECTACULAR.
These 2 AFC Heavyweights last met in the Divisional Round last season, we all know how that panned out : Patrick Mahomes’ concussion scare, Chand Henne’s run, Andy Reid’s massive play calling stones. Some will point to the 1 score win to claim Cleveland were close but, if we’re being honest, before Mahomes left the game they were clutching at KC’s coattails, we were well on top and cruising to a regulation win. Kelce and Hill were torching the Cleveland secondary and the Chiefs Defence was keeping the much vaunted rushing double act of Chubb and Hill largely in check.
The Chiefs have undergone major surgery on the OLine, so much so the starting 5 on Sunday will be completely different from the last meeting between the 2 sides. Stalwarts Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher were released while Joe Thuney is a big name, big money addition at RG and LT Orlando Brown came in as the Chiefs de-facto 1st round draft pick. Alongside those 2 the Chiefs will likely be starting 3 rookies. Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith look every bit NFL ready starters through camp and preseason and Lucas Niang has beat out a couple of veterans for the RT spot. If they hold up when live bullets start flying the Chiefs might just have their OLine for the next 5 years in place.
Outside the OLine the biggest addition might be Jarran Reed from Seattle. The DT has come in to shore up the center of the line. Frank Clark’s best season came when the played together and he will allow Chris Jones to rush from the edge, something he’s been keen to do for years and something’s he looked like a natural at through the preseason.
Cleveland’s success last year was built on their offence and that’s pretty much unchanged heading into this season. The biggest factor on the offensive side might actually be the return of superstar WR Odell Beckham Jr. If he can recapture fitness and form the Browns will have a genuine play-making deep threat receiver to let Mayfield show off the arm talent everyone believes he has.
It’s on Defence where the Browns are all change. Jadeveon Clowney is the biggest new name but they will field new faces all across the backfield. The Chiefs took them apart last time out so it’s easy to see why changes were needed, they’ll face a stern test early doors to see if those changes have worked. 2nd round rookie LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah certainly talks the talk, will he be able to walk the walk though.
Sometimes you have to take the low hanging fruit so the obvious answer here is the new Chiefs OLine vs the Browns pass rush. Clowney and Miles Garrett are one of the best edge duos in the league so the aforementioned live bullets will be coming hot and fast. If the rookies in red can hold up and give Mahomes a clean pocket expect him to rack up some pretty impressive numbers. On the flip side we’ve seen that if he gets flushed early there’s a route to slowing down the Chiefs Offence.
What the bookies say
Chiefs by 5.5
As mentioned earlier, the Chiefs had the Browns on the rack when Mahomes was on the field last time out and I see no reason to think the Browns have improved enough to change that dramatically. Early signs for the revamped OLine are positive, as are noises about the balance it will provide to the Chiefs offence. Tyrann Mathieu has cleared Covid protocols and can play, the cohesion, versatility and leadership he brings will be vital. Chris Jones looks like a starving man ready to feast on sacks this year.
Yes, the Browns run the ball better than most, but despite countless ‘experts’ telling us controlling the clock and grinding the ground game are the routes to beating the Chiefs I’m here to tell you they’re wrong. To beat the Chiefs you need to score big, turn the game into a shootout. See the Raiders last year and the Rams and Patriots in Mahomes first season as a starter. Can Mayfield and the Browns do that? Not for me. Chiefs to win a game that’s closer on the scoreboard than on the field (again).