With their playoff win over the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cleveland Browns are on their way to Arrowhead Stadium. The Kansas City Chiefs and the Browns have been through long, disastrously painful stretches during their respective franchise history. This makes for one of the many reasons, as to why this should be a compelling matchup going into their Divisional Round game.
In addition, we have college rivalries being renewed, a player facing their former team and two clashing team identities. The Chiefs are hoping to get back certain players off of the injury report. Meanwhile, there will (presumably) be returns for the Browns with players coming off of the COVID list. Headlines can often be overstated or inflated. All of the potential hype does not necessarily always come to fruition when kickoff commences. However, these are the main stories that have garnered our attention leading up to Chiefs vs Browns.
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Big 12 Battle
We have only seen one meeting between quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield in the NFL. It was Mahomes’ first year as the starter, and Mayfield’s rookie season in 2018. The Chiefs walked away with a 37-21 road victory, with Ohio natives Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt leading the charge. The history runs much deeper for these two quarterbacks.
Everybody remembers their head to head meeting in 2016 in the game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. It was a true Big 12 conference air show, turned up ten more notches. Oklahoma won the contest 66-59, as many records were broken at the time.
Both sides combined for an FBS record 1,708 yards of offense. Mahomes set FBS records in total offense individually (819 yards) and passing yards (734 passing yards). Mayfield broke an Oklahoma school record in touchdown passes with seven. Together, both passers combined for 1,279 passing yards, the most ever in a college football game.
Mayfield originally began his college football career at Texas Tech. He became the first walk-on true freshman quarterback to start an FBS season opener in 2013. A stellar season was highlighted by being named one of ten semifinalists for the Burlsworth Trophy. This is awarded to the best Division I football player to begin his career as a walk-on. Furthermore, Mayfield earned the Big 12 Conference Freshman Offensive Player of the Year for 2013.
Though, the accolades and notoriety were short lived with that school. Baker announced that he would be leaving the program due to “miscommunication” with the coaching staff. He would eventually transfer to Oklahoma. And immediately afterwards, Mahomes was the guy who took over his starting job at Texas Tech in 2014. So while there may not be any instantaneous rift between the two individually, this makes for an exhilarating talking point throughout the week.
The Return Of Hunt
In what was an amazing start to the career of running back Kareem Hunt, turned ugly in his second season. A TMZ released video of him in an altercation with a girl in a Cleveland hotel, showed Hunt shoving and kicking the female. This was followed by his swift release from the Kansas City Chiefs. The team had to make a difficult decision. Many of the Chiefs players were close friends with Hunt, and news eventually arose that he had lied to the team about the incident.
It may be treated as a situation where Hunt is “out for revenge”, during this week. However, any kind of “wrongdoing” on Kansas City’s part is just not true. But, if he has truly grown and matured in his time with the Browns, than more power to him. This headline will be two-fold with his return to Kansas City, but also in how the Chiefs defense will attempt to stop him.
Reid vs Stefanski
Two respected head coaches will get to show off their offensive minds in the meeting between the Chiefs and Browns. Both have become the “life savers” for each franchise. Elsewhere, both coaches’ offenses dominate in different styles.
Cleveland is known for their hard nosed, physical running style and play action pass game. Heavy tight end sets are also a staple of the Kevin Stefanski offense. With the aforementioned Hunt and Nick Chubb, the Browns have a luxury at the running back position. Both would probably be considered starting RB1’s for any team in the league. Both combined for 1,908 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns this season. That is already admirable, but more impressive considering Chubb missed four games due to injury. With a commanding offensive line and their rushing attack, that appears to matchup well against the Chiefs’ 21st ranked run defense, in terms of total yards allowed.
On the other hand, Kansas City is known for their blazing speed and winning through the air downfield. Mahomes turned in a tantalizing season once again. Yet, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill were even more impressive as they set new career highs and records. It is really grueling to know just exactly how some Browns defensive backs will play once returning from the COVID list. Getting Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson back would be monumental. The Chiefs and Andy Reid should still feel good about this matchup on paper, however.
This season Cleveland ranked 22nd in passing yards allowed, 25th in passing touchdowns allowed and 18th in interceptions. More importantly, you have to be able to put up plenty of points to best the Chiefs. Cleveland ranked 21st in points allowed in 2020. And believe it or not, they had a point differential of -11 on the season, despite going 11-5. It is safe to say they have proven to be up and down at times, especially defensively.
First Of Many?
This will be the first ever playoff meeting between the Chiefs and the Browns. Despite two lengthy team histories in the NFL, we have not really seen a ton of recent meetings either. Only three times have Kansas City and Cleveland met since 2013, when Reid became the head coach. The Chiefs hold the all-time lead in 26 head to head meetings with a record of 13-11-2.
We briefly mentioned the disappointing stretches during each team’s franchise history. This season was the first time the Browns had made the playoffs in 18 years. Sunday’s Wild Card victory over the Steelers was their first playoff win since Wild Card weekend in January 1995, following the 1994 season. They defeated the New England Patriots in that contest at home. The win over Pittsburgh also gave them their first playoff victory on the road since 1969.
Moreover, the Chiefs have enjoyed plenty of newfound playoff success in the last few seasons. Over the course of the previous two postseasons, Kansas City won their first home playoff game in 25 years, hosted back to back conference championship games for the first time ever, brought the Lamar Hunt Trophy back home. Last season’s Super Bowl win was of course their first in 50 years.
Possibly, this could be the first of multiple playoff matchups between Kansas City and Cleveland.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.