The NFL divisional playoffs continue on Sunday at 3:05 PM ET with Kansas City hosting Cleveland.
Cleveland has won two straight games as well as seven of their last nine contests after they upset Pittsburgh on the road last Sunday night by a 48-37 score as a 5-point underdog. The Steelers’ first play from scrimmage was a toss over Ben Roethlisberger’s head in shotgun formation that the Browns recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. After the first quarter ended, Cleveland had a 28-0 lead. Roethlisberger threw four interceptions in giving the Browns a +5 net turnover margin. Cleveland returned home to reunite with a handful of players and staff that did not make the trip due to quarantine requirements from the COVID outbreak that impacted the team earlier in the week.
First-year head coach Kevin Stefanski was one of the individuals that did not experience first-hand the Browns’ first playoff game in 17 years. Stefanski rejoined his team on Thursday and he will be on the sidelines for this game.
It appears that all the players on Cleveland’s COVID list last week will be available to play this week. The Browns have four players on their injury list as questionable. Tackle Jack Conklin is questionable with a knee and hamstring injuries. Cornerback B.J. Goodson is dealing with a shoulder. Tight end David Njoku has a hamstring. All three players participated in limited practice sessions this week. Tight end Stephen Carlson was added to the injury list on Friday after practicing all week with a groin injury. Cornerback Robert Jackson was played on Injured Reserve earlier in the week. The Browns also lost their second-leading tackler in defensive end Olivier Vernon to a season-ending Achilles’ injury before the playoffs started.
Baker Mayfield completed 21 of 34 passes for 263 yards with three touchdown passes against the Steelers last week to lead his team to victory. He completed 62.8% of his passes in the regular season for 3563 yards with 26 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined to run the ball 26 times for 124 yards with two touchdowns in helping Cleveland end their playoff drought with the victory. Chubb ran for 1067 yards in the regular season with a 5.6 yards-per-carry average and 12 rushing touchdowns. Hunt added 841 yards with another six rushing touchdowns.
Kansas City takes the field again after their bye week after ending their regular season with a 38-21 loss at home to the Los Angeles Chargers two weeks ago. The Chiefs rested starters including quarterback Patrick Mahomes in that game since they had already locked-up the top seed in the AFC playoffs. Mahomes enters this game rested after completing 66.3% of his passes of 4740 yards with 38 touchdown passes and six interceptions. He added 388 yards on the ground.
This game will be head coach Andy Reid’s 30th with the benefit of the bye week. In his coaching career going back to his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reid has gone 25-4 with an extra week of rest and preparation once the season has started. His teams have covered the point spread 19 times in those 29 games playing after a bye week. However, those numbers tighten since he became the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs (and his success off byes became commonplace fodder on ESPN). While the Chiefs have won eight of their eleven games coming off a bye week under Reid, they have only covered the point spread in six of those games.
The Chiefs will be tested by the Browns’ rushing attack. Kansas City ranks 19th in the NFL by allowing 122.1 rushing yards-per-game. They also allow opposing rushers to average 4.5 yards-per-carry which is 18th in the league. However, because the Chiefs are often playing with the lead, perhaps those numbers are misleading since their opponents abandon the run. The DVOA metrics at Football Outsiders rank Kansas City a 31st in the NFL in rush defense. BetAnySports
lists the Chiefs as a 9.5-point favorite with the total set at 57.