History does not look too kindly on Super Bowl winners in their following year. The Super Bowl curse or hangover is well-documented and only a fourth of the victors have gone on to win consecutive titles. Patrick Mahomes and company are here to be one of those teams. By topping the AFC with a 14-2 record, the Chiefs earned some much needed rest heading into their matchup against the Cleveland Browns at the Divisional Round this January 17.
Need I remind you, that was not a typographical error. The Dawgs are in the Divisional Round. 2021 is off to an unpredictable start and the world of football was not exempted. The last time the Cleveland Browns were in the playoffs was in 2002. Their younger fans were not even born yet. Then, you realize their last playoff win was way back in 1994. The parents of said younger fans probably have not even met each other yet. Nonetheless, the Browns are here after demolishing the Pittsburgh Steelers, 48-37 in the Wild Card Round. Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 263 yards with 3 touchdowns and no picks.
Here are some predictions for the historic Wild Card game:
1. Mahomes wakes up feeling dangerous
Kansas City has the benefit of having a quarterback that the league has not figured out how to game plan against. This season, he had the second most passing yards with 4,740 behind only Houston Texan Deshaun Watson. Mahomes finished the regular season with an efficient 38 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. He has an absolute cannon for an arm. While he’s no Lamar Jackson, he can also hurt a defense with his legs.
The Chiefs have an explosive offense with tight end, Travis Kelce, who put up more receiving yards than most wide receivers with 1,416, which ranks him fifth overall for the season. Wideout Tyreek “Cheetah” Hill certainly lives up to his nickname with 1,276 receiving yards. The man is a blur and is deceivingly strong despite his relatively short stature. Add in guys like Le’Veon Bell and Sammy Watkins and a potent offense becomes even more dynamic. The Chiefs’ most consistent rusher rookie standout, Clyde Edwards-Helaire recently sat out a practice due to a high ankle injury. His status for Sunday’s game has yet to be confirmed. With a middling Cleveland pass defense, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Mahomes throws for 4 TDs.
2. Kansas City run defense slows down Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt
For most of this and last seasons, the Chiefs have been a buzz saw. If you had to nitpick though, the one chink in their armor has been their run defense. They have a below average run defense and allowed rushing 122.1 yards per game, which is good for 19th in the NFL. Chubb and Hunt are one of the most dangerous backfields around. The latter may have some extra motivation as he is going up against his old team.
If this situation sounds familiar, it is because last year the Chiefs faced off against 6’3, 247 wrecking ball, Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans. Kansas City managed to hold Henry to 69 yards and advance to the big game. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit might limit the rushing yards to a 100. That would be less by around a third of what Cleveland usually gets. Chris Jones, Frank Clark and Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu will do their best to keep Chubb and Hunt in check for the duration of the game.
3. A third receiver will go for 80 yards
It’s no secret that Mahomes’ best weapons are Kelce and Hill. Both are matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Kelce is a perfect mix of agility and physicality, while Hill has his blinding speed and burn secondaries with a go route. As Cleveland will do its best to stop these two, there is an opportunity for the third target to have a field day. Most likely, Sammy Watkins won’t be facing double coverage and can go off.
4. Andy Reid’s team wins by double digits
Everyone wants a Cinderella story, where the under-dawg overcomes all odds and triumphs. The odds however, in this matchup are just too great on the side of Kansas City. The Browns’ best bet is to grind the game to a halt with their potent rushing attack and keep it a low-scoring affair. After all, a quarterback can’t score if he never gets his hand on the pigskin.
Even then, having number 15 on your team, elite speedsters in the receiving core, arguably the game’s best tight end and an underrated defense are enough to ensure a comfortable win. Eventually, the clock strikes midnight and the glass slipper doesn’t always fit.