Browns, Chiefs clash with trip to AFC title game on the line


CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs meet for the first time ever in the post season Sunday afternoon where the winner will take on the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship game.

With a win, the Chiefs would be the first AFC team to host three consecutive conference championship games while the Browns look to advance to the conference final for the first time since January 1990.

The Chiefs have won three straight and four of their last five in the series against Cleveland.

The Browns are coming off their first playoff win since the 1994 season as head coach Kevin Stefanski will make his playoff head coaching debut Sunday after missing last week's wild-card game due to COVID-19. Cleveland is back to full strength in that regard with all coaches and players available this week.

Kansas City, who had seven named to the Pro Bowl, won their fifth straight AFC West title while winning 14 regular-season games for the first time in franchise history. Chiefs coach Andy Reid would tie the Steelers' Chuck Noll for the fifth-most postseason wins with his 16th on Sunday.

What to watch for – Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield authored one of the most memorable collage football games in 2016 that saw Mahomes rack up 819 yards of offense and Mayfield account for 7 touchdowns, but it was Mayfield’s Oklahoma Sooners who came away with the victory, 66-59 over Texas tech. Mahomes bested Mayfield in 2018, their first NFL meting, in Cleveland, 37-21. The stakes are the highest they've been between them for round 3.

Mayfield threw for 263 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions last week in Pittsburgh and he has not thrown an interception in his last five games. He will need to be careful throwing in the direction of Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, who had a career-high six interceptions this season.

Cleveland is 11-0 this season when they’re tied or lead the turnover battle. Last week against the Steelers the Browns forced 5 turnovers and scored 24 points off them. They’re also 10-0 when leading at halftime this season so a fast start is essential.

Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio and cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson are back from COVID-19 after missing last week’s game. Their returns come at an opportune time after guard Michael Dunn and cornerback Robert Jackson, who replaced Bitonio and Ward against the Steelers, both were placed on injured reserve this week. The return of Ward and Johnson should help a Browns secondary that gave up 501 yards passing to Pittsburgh last week.

With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combining for 1,908 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground this season, Cleveland averaged 148.4 yards per game rushing, the most for the franchise since 1978. The Browns are 12-2 this season when Chubb or Hunt score a touchdown this season.

Hunt will face the Chiefs for the first time since they released him in 2018 after a video emerged of him shoving and kicking a woman. Hunt, who has gotten his life and career back on track after being suspended eight games for violent altercations, spent two seasons with Kansas City and led the NFL in rushing as a rookie in 2017. He scored twice last week against Pittsburgh. Chubb is the first player since Miami’s Mercury Morris in 1972 to rush for at least 1,000 yards and score 12 TDs on 190 or fewer attempts in a season. Chubb had 76 yards rushing, 69 yards receiving and a TD against the Steelers. He’s been over 100 yards from scrimmage in three straight games with TD runs in six of his past seven.

Browns receiver Jarvis Landry, who caught five passes for 92 yards and a touchdown last week, has caught a TD pass in five consecutive road games, including last week's win.

Kansas City led the NFL in total offense at 415.8 yards per game while their defense allowed 22.6 points per game, fifth best in the AFC.

Mahomes was second in the NFL with 4,740 yards passing and fourth with 38 TD passes despite sitting out Week 17. Mahomes has 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in four postseason starts at Arrowhead Stadium and he has thrown at least two TD passes in four straight postseason games.

Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was fourth among rookies with 1,100 yards from scrimmage despite missing three games to injuries. He is questionable for the game with ankle and hip injuries.

Kansas City's dynamic wide out Tyreek Hill was second among receivers with 17 total touchdowns this season. He has at least one touchdown and 60 yards receiving in his last two playoff games.

Unanimous All-Pro Travis Kelce, a Cleveland native, had a career year with 1,416 yards receiving in 15 games, the most in a season by a tight end in NFL history. He has four touchdown receptions in his last three postseason games. Kelce has 632 yards receiving in the playoffs.

Last Week – Browns beat the Steelers 48-37; Chiefs had a bye

The last time – Nov. 4, 2018: Chiefs 37, Browns 21

Series history – Chiefs lead 13-11-2

Rankings (Regular season) – Browns No. 12, Chiefs No. 1

Points per game: Browns 14 (25.5), Chiefs 6 (29.6)

Total yards per game: Browns 16 (369.6), Chiefs 1 (415.9)

Rushing yards per game: Browns 3 (148.4), Chiefs 16 (112.4)

Passing yards per game: Browns 24 (221.2), Chiefs 1 (303.4)

Points allowed per game: Browns 21 (26.2), Chiefs 10T (22.6)

Total defensive yards allowed per game: Browns 17 (358.4), Chiefs 16 (358.3)

Rushing yards allowed per game: Browns 9 (110.8), Chiefs 21 (122.1)

Passing yards allowed per game: Browns 22 (247.6), Chiefs 14 (236.2)

Turnover ratio: Browns 9 (+5), Chiefs 8 (+6)

Probable starters for Browns – Offense: WR Jarvis Landry, LT Jedrick Wills Jr., LG Joel Bitonio, C JC Tretter, RG Wyatt Teller, RT Jack Conklin, TE Austin Hooper, WR Rashard Higgins, QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb, FB Andy Janovich

Defense: DE Myles Garrett, DT Sheldon Richardson, DT Larry Ogunjobi, DE Adrian Clayborn, WILL Mack Wilson, MIKE B.J. Goodson, CB Denzel Ward, CB Terrance Mitchell, SS Karl Joseph, FS Sheldrick Redwine, DB Kevin Johnson

Injury report – QUESTIONABLE: RT Jack Conklin (hamstring), LB B.J. Goodson (shoulder), TE David Njoku (hamstring), TE Stephen Carlson (groin); EXPECTED TO PLAY: DE Myles Garrett (shoulder), DT Sheldon Richardson (neck), RG Wyatt Teller (ankle), C JC Tretter (knee), RB D’Ernest Johnson (finger), WR Jarvis Landry (hip), LB Malcolm Smith (ankle)

Uniforms – White jerseys, orange pants

Broadcast – Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX and the University Hospitals Cleveland Browns radio network. TV: WKYC TV-3 (NBC)

Kickoff – 3:05 p.m. Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City, Missouri

Our prediction – Chiefs 34, Browns 33

Our prediction record – 10-7