After years of suffering, the Cleveland Browns have risen back to prominence. First year head coach Kevin Stefanski led this team to an 11-5 record. As a result, Cleveland made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. A commanding win in the Wild Card round over the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers has caught everybody’s attention.
The Browns jumped out to an early 28-0 nothing in the first quarter. Left and right, the Steelers were gifting them opportunities with ugly turnovers. Offensively, Baker Mayfield was locked in and his accuracy was on point. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt also refused to be slowed down by a worn out Pittsburgh defense.
Most of the time, we give our own views and opinions on the Kansas City Chiefs opponent from behind enemy lines. But, let’s shake it up a little bit. With help from FPC Browns managing editor Nick Swanson, he answered some questions I had for him. Consequently, we discussed how Cleveland fared this season and how they may look following the Wild Card win. Without further ado, let’s get things started.
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How do you expect Cleveland to come out following a win like the one they had over the Steelers in the Wild Card round?
Swanson: The whole reason the Cleveland Browns came out a guns-a-blazing against the Steelers was because of JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s comments earlier in the week. The “nameless gray faces” and “the Browns is the Browns” comments did not go unnoticed and seemed to have lit a fire under the players. They wanted to do everything they could to stick it to the Steelers and show them what kind of football team they really were, and they did that. I expect them to come out the gates hot like they did last week. Steelers rookie wideout Chase Claypool said “Browns are gonna get clapped next week” following their Wild Card loss.
I think it puts the Browns in a very similar situation, looking to prove doubters wrong and shut the Steelers up. Now, the Steelers are nowhere near the level of the Chiefs. The Chiefs are a legit team and have, in my opinion, the most talented quarterback of all time and future first ballot Hall of Famer in Patrick Mahomes. This will be the toughest challenge this team has ever faced.
What kind of coaching trends should fans expect to see from Stefanski, if they haven’t watched the Browns?
Swanson: If you haven’t watched the Browns this season, then you’ll be welcomed with a gritty run heavy offense that loves to use play action on passing downs. Baker Mayfield is at his best on play action plays because defenses respect the running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Stefanski is an aggressive offensive mind who has a “bend don’t break” style of defensive play, which will come back to haunt them if he sticks with it against this Chiefs offense. Expect the Browns to go for it on fourth down and be aggressive, especially in the red zone.
What makes the Browns running game standout more against other teams in the league?
Swanson: The Cleveland Browns have probably the most talented running back tandem in the league. Two All-Pro caliber running backs in Chubb and former Chief, Hunt, mean that this duo is the best of the best. The ability to always have an RB1 quality player means that they can easily split carries and have high end production. Hunt’s pass catching ability adds to the offense and always keeps defenses guessing when he’s on the field. Chubb’s agility and strength allows him to not only outmaneuver you, but overpower you as well.
Is this the most confident Baker Mayfield has looked in Cleveland? (If possible)
Swanson: For the first time in his young NFL career, Mayfield has a coaching staff that he can believe in. He’s still that confident and cocky SOB that we all saw at Oklahoma and he now has a coach that allows him to embrace that. His underdog mindset has proven successful at the collegiate and now professional level. With his first taste of playoff football, I don’t think we’ll see him shy away from the spotlight. The weapons he has around him and the support he’s received from his coaches, teammates and the fans, have allowed him to grow as a player and become more confident. You can see it in his play. The Chiefs better hope he doesn’t wake up feeling dangerous.
What area of Cleveland’s game is going to match up the best against the Chiefs?
Swanson: If you’re comparing one to the other, I think the defensive lines match up well. Similar levels of talent on both lines, Chris Jones and Myles Garrett are both premiere players at their respective positions. If we’re going for which aspect of the Browns team is most favorable versus the Chiefs, then it would be the Browns defensive line versus the Chiefs offensive line. This isn’t saying that the Chiefs offensive line is by any means bad, this Browns defensive line is elite. The depth that Cleveland has allows them to constantly have a quality player on the field fresh and ready to go. The defensive line should be able to exploit the Chiefs above average line.
What area of the Chiefs game should the Browns attempt to take away the most in order to win?
Swanson: The only thing the Browns can hope to do is to try and contain Mahomes. You can’t expect any defense to shut him down completely, because Mahomes is THAT dude. He’s incredible. The Browns need to focus on staying in his face and have consistent pressure. No easy throws, no standing in the pocket and not letting him be comfortable. They need to be weary of his running ability and his ability to make something happen out of nothing. The whole defense needs to have an eye on him at all times.
Is there something that we are missing on the outside that is not being recognized during Cleveland’s strong season?
Swanson: The biggest thing that people are missing or that they don’t know when they watch this Browns team is that this team isn’t at full strength. They’re without Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit, two key contributors in the secondary. This defense will look very different next season with the addition of those two and others. You’re also without Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon. If all of these pieces come back next year and are able to remain healthy, then this Cleveland Browns team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Which under the radar Browns player should the Chiefs not forget about on Sunday?
Swanson: The biggest under the radar player for the Browns next week is probably Joel Bitonio. Everyone seems to forget that he didn’t play last week against the Steelers and the line played extremely well. Just wait until he comes back for the Divisional Round. Linemen are often overlooked, because it isn’t a glamourous position, it’s a necessary one. The reason this Browns offense has been so successful this season, is because they’ve had the best offensive line in football. If Baker has enough time to go through his progressions and the running backs have holes then the Cleveland Browns can go strike for strike with this offense. Let’s not forget the last time these two quarterbacks matched up.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles to end 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.