The Cleveland Browns are back in the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2002, and they’ve already picked up a rivalry win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, Baker Mayfield and company will try to do the unthinkable, and that’s defeating the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs have lost only two games since their magical Super Bowl 54 win, with one of them coming in a meaningless Week 17 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Who has the edge in this AFC Divisional Round showdown at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City? And what’s the best bet?
Let’s look at the matchup.
NFL Odds: Browns-Chiefs Wild Card Playoff Odds
Browns +10 (-115)
Chiefs -10 (-105)
Over 57 PTS (-105)
Under 57 PTS (-115)
Why The Browns Could Cover The Spread
If there’s one area in particular that the Browns could exploit, it’s the Chiefs’ rushing defense. Cleveland ranks third in the NFL in averaging 148.4 rushing yards per contest, which could certainly be an advantage for Kevin Stefanski’s team in going up against a Chiefs defense that ranks 21st in the league in that category.
Something else the Browns have that the Chiefs don’t is momentum. While Kansas City did go 14-2 during the regular season, the main starters for the Chiefs haven’t played much meaningful football since the team’s Week 16 win against the Atlanta Falcons. That game was on December 27, and even then, it wasn’t the most impressive outing from Andy Reid’s squad in a 17-14 victory.
The Browns just handled their biggest rival and led by four touchdowns after one quarter, so they don’t exactly lack confidence even against their most formidable challenge of the season.
It’s also worth noting that the Chiefs are 0-7-1 against the spread in their last eight games, and the road team is 5-1 against the spread in the last six meetings between these two teams.
Why The Chiefs Could Cover The Spread
Well, they are the Chiefs. Despite some of the potential concerns against a red-hot Browns team, Kansas City still has Patrick Mahomes under center, a plethora of weapons on offense, and a future Hall of Fame coach calling the plays.
The Chiefs’ offense ranks at the top of the NFL in both passing yards (303.4 per game) and total yards (415.8 per game), and Cleveland will simply need to be at its best on defense to have a chance at earning the win.
Of course, the problem for the Browns is that their defense hasn’t been consistent at times, ranking 22nd against the pass (247.6 yards per game) and 17th in total yards allowed (358.4 yards per game). They also have issues with tight ends, and the Chiefs boast the best in the league in Travis Kelce.
If Mahomes and the offense get going early, they could put up a lot of points and leave the Browns chasing for the majority of the game, which could lead to Baker Mayfield forcing throws and presenting the Kansas City defense with opportunities to create turnovers.
Final Browns-Chiefs Wild Card Playoff Prediction & Pick
This is undoubtedly a potential letdown spot for the Browns after their first playoff win since 1994, especially considering that it came against their most hated rival.
However, the backfield duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt could really challenge the Chiefs in this game. Either can break away for a 75-plus yard touchdown at any point, and they may also allow the Browns to control the tempo to keep the ball out of the hands of Mahomes and company.
There’s going to be a thought in the back of everyone’s minds that the Browns are the Browns, and that they’ll revert to their old ways on the big stage. But it’s hard to ignore how well this team is playing, no matter who the opponent is.
The over/under is a tricky bet because of a scenario where the Browns control the game by running the ball, and that likely makes Cleveland covering the double-digit spread as the best bet.
Prediction: Chiefs 31, Browns 23