Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs – NFL, Divisional Round (January 17, 2021)

By Dean McHugh in NFL
| January 14, 2021 9:52 am PDT

Sunday’s opening game sees a return to action for the AFC West winners, the Kansas City Chiefs. They face sixth seeds, the Cleveland Browns, who dismantled the AFC North Division champions in the last round.

The Chiefs have had the best of things over the past few years against the Browns, winning four of their last five head-to-head matchups. However, they haven’t met since 2018, and a lot has changed since then. They have met each other five times in Kansas over the years, and the Browns had only ever won once, way back in 2009.

Browns vs. Chiefs Odds

Browns +10-110
Chiefs -10-110
Browns To Win+400
Chiefs To Win-480
Over 57 Points-110
Under 57 Points-110

I never in a million years dreamt that the spread would fall into double digits for this game. I expected it to be around a touchdown, or perhaps a point on either side of that. The Chiefs have only covered double digits once in their last five attempts. The bookmakers are expecting this to be the highest-scoring game of the Divisional Round.

Browns Form

Cleveland stuttered over the line into the playoffs, having split their last four regular-season games, winning two and losing two. However, they put that inconsistent form behind them to power past the Steelers 37-48. In that game, the Browns got off to an unimaginable start leading the first quarter by 28 points, and there was never any coming back for Pittsburgh. The second time they have beaten the Steelers in as many weeks, having qualified for the playoffs edging a tight game 24-22.

The Browns finished the regular season, winning 11 and losing five of their 16 games. On the road, they won five and lost three. However, they only lost once in their last six road trips, which was a surprise defeat against the Jets.

Here are the latest betting trends for Cleveland:

Against The Spread

  • They have only won four of their last 12 games.
  • The Browns have won five of the last seven games against the Chiefs.
  • They have only won one of their last six games against teams from the AFC West Division.

Points Total

  • Five of their last seven games have gone over the betting total.
  • Against AFC opposition, only one of the last six games has gone under.
  • Their last seven games played in January have usually been high scoring, with five of the previous seven going over the total.

The Browns are a no thrills kind of team that likes to do things simply. However, they have perfected this over the years, which has gotten them to this point. They like to run the ball, and they don’t particularly play an attractive style of football, but it is effective as they try to grind their opponents down.

However, one thing does strike me: they tend to throw the ball a little more when they’re on the road, as opposed to playing at home. I think that this makes them less predictable and is a better way for them to play.

Their defense is much the same, but it will need to improve upon the average of conceding 26 points per game if they are to go any further in the competition. Worryingly for Cleveland fans, they have the worst defense on the road in the league, which Mahomes and the Chiefs will look to exploit.

They tend to try and pressurize their opponents into mistakes, which is highlighted by the fact that they have made the second-highest number of forced fumbles this season.

B.J. Goodson has been at the heart of that defense this season, having made the most tackles for the Browns. He left the field against the Steelers hurt but returned late in the game and is expected to make this one.

They had three different players make interceptions against the Steelers, and they will again need to be on point against the Chiefs here.

The Browns have an injury list as long as any other team in the NFL, but without any real stand out players, it’s been a team effort that has got them here, so that won’t worry them too much.

Perhaps the most significant boost for them will be the return of head coach Kevin Stefanski who missed the last game through Covid-19 restrictions.

Chiefs Form

The Chiefs ended the regular season with the best record of any team in the NFL, winning 14 and losing just two. Although one of those defeats was time out against the Chargers, they rested all of their stars so they won’t be too concerned.

Both of their defeats this season did come at the Arrowhead Stadium against the Chargers and earlier on in the season against the Raiders.

Here are the latest betting trends for Kansas City:

Against The Spread

  • The bookmakers have made life hard for them, and they haven’t won any of their last eight games.
  • They have only won one of the last five games against AFC opponents.

Points Total

  • Six of their last nine games against the Browns have gone over the total.
  • Their games have been eventful against teams from the North Division in the AFC, with four of the last six going over the betting total.
  • January has been an explosive month, with all but one of their last five games in that month going over the total.

The Chiefs like to throw the ball around, and with Mahomes at the helm, why wouldn’t you? They are averaging over 300 passing yards per game, which is the best passing offense in the league. Because of this, they don’t need to spend time controlling the game and holding on to the ball. They only average 66 plays per game, which is around the regular-season league average.

However, their offense hasn’t always fired at home, giving the Browns some hope given they have a terrible defensive away record.

One area that will be interesting to see is how well the Chiefs defense holds up against the Browns rushing game as they haven’t done particularly well against teams that run the ball this season.

Unlike the Browns, they don’t pressurize their opponents, and they are happy to sit back and let things play out as they try to read their opponents. This is why they tend to do better against passing teams rather than rushing ones.

Star quarterback Mahomes is desperate to make up for lost time, having lost out to DeShaun Watson in the passing rankings, having been rested against the Chargers.

And Mahomes sidekick, Travis Kelce, will be hoping he can continue his excellent season as he comes up against his hometown team Cleveland.

The Chiefs also have a long list of absentees; however, they have the bonus of an extra week’s rest.

Browns vs. Chiefs Betting Pick

Pick
  • Browns +10
    -110

The Chiefs have won many close games this season, which includes winning their last seven matches by scores of six points or less. Therefore, I have to stick with my gut feeling and take the Browns with the handicap. They will look to slow the game down as they usually do and grind the Chiefs down. They will need to start fast, mind you, as they did against the Steelers as following behind early and chasing the game against this Chiefs offense can only have one outcome.

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