Winning in the playoffs becomes more difficult. As Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said this week, “it’s a game of inches.” With that in mind, the personnel matchups for players one on one, or with certain position groups becomes more magnified. Finding any sort of ground or cushion could lead to the biggest difference in the outcome.
With the Cleveland Browns, certain players have to step up into larger roles. Whether it has been due to injury or COVID related issues, adjustments were forced to be made. Even with Kansas City, injuries have been an issue in recent games. Thankfully for the Chiefs, Andy Reid believes that everyone has progressed well entering this week’s game. With that in mind, it is now to time to list our key matchups for Chiefs vs Browns. Let’s kick things off with a wide receiver matchup against a cornerback on the outside.
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Bashaud Breeland vs Jarvis Landry
Re-signing Bashaud Breeland to a one year incentive filled $3 million deal looks to be a steal for the Chiefs. Back in November at the bye week, he had the best completion percentage allowed on Kansas City’s defense (47.6%). At the time, Pro Football Focus ranked him second among cornerbacks in passer rating allowed (24.3). What has stood out more this season, is how much Breeland has been giving up more short completions than long ones. He has been more steady against vertical routes, being able to stay step for step with receivers or breaking up passes. Breeland has been less penalized this season. Moreover, his length and physicality on the outside will be an interesting mix against the likes of Jarvis Landry.
On the other hand, Landry has been the top dog in the Browns’ receiving room. With Odell Beckham Jr. getting hurt early in the season, the door opened even greater for the former LSU receiver. He did not just step up to the plate. Landry continued to hit home runs. No other Browns receiver had more than 600 receiving yards this season besides Landry. While we have his key matchup as going up against Breeland, Cleveland won’t hesitate to move him around the formation. He can win on crossing routes, deep balls or even as a rusher on a reverse. Stopping the running backs will be a top priority for the Chiefs defense. However, they cannot allow Landry to takeover with dominant plays after the catch.
Chiefs Offensive Line vs Browns Pass Rush
As bad as the Chiefs offensive line has been this season, Patrick Mahomes was not handling pressure as well as he normally does in his last game. Wrong reads and throws stunted the offense. Leaving the pocket early and failing to diagnose in pre-snap just was not there like usual. There is reason to believe that he will come out trying to adjust to that and prove himself in that regard. If there is anything that sticks out from a majority of Mahomes early playoff success, it is how he can be comfortable against the blitz.
On the other side, the Cleveland Browns defensive line is deep. Myles Garrett is perennially one of the top sack getters in the league. Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi can provide a pop from the interior. Elsewhere, Porter Gustin has been a breakout on an already steady Browns front seven. When they were able to get after Ben Roethlisberger last week, throws were hurried and off target. This led to many takeaways for the Cleveland defense. The main question will be, can the Browns contain Mahomes throughout the duration of the contest? Additionally, will they be able to make him uncomfortable?
Chiefs Pass Rush vs Browns Offensive Line
Of the two matchups involving the trenches, this one may be more exciting. Both sides have been playing well entering the postseason. Cleveland prioritized surrounding Baker Mayfield with better protection this season. Signing right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency and drafting Jedrick Wills Jr. in the first round last April was an immense improvement. Along with JC Tretter, Joel Bitonio and an improving Wyatt Teller, the Browns boast one of the best, if not the top, blocking unit in the NFL. Injuries and COVID have complicated some of that. Nonetheless, they still overshadowed the Steelers defensive front by a large margin.
For Kansas City, they were providing more pressure in the second half of the season. And they were doing it naturally, not just consistently. Opposing teams were not able to hit on plays down the field, because the Chiefs were able to get home with four rushers. Without having to bring extra rushers, Kansas City was able to stay under control and play to their strengths. Guys like Jones and Frank Clark are pass rushers just simply built for postseason moments like these. Even against difficult matchups they have come through, as we well know from last year. Other depth players like Tershawn Wharton, Alex Okafor, Derrick Nnadi, Mike Danna and others have performed admirably as well. Mayfield is a quarterback who’s accuracy and timing can sway drastically, if the pressure is getting home.
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.