Early Sharp Action And A Prop Bet Headlines The Browns-Chiefs Matchup
Can Cleveland (+385) carry momentum beyond Kansas City?
The Cleveland Browns are on a high, feeling better than ever after thrashing the Pittsburgh Steelers 48-37. Coronavirus difficulties proved to be no match for a Cleveland squad that tallied the most regular-season wins (11) since the 1994 campaign.
Now, an even more potent foe stands in their way, and a well-rested opponent at that. Can the Browns resurrect the Wild Card performance at the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round?
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The Chiefs had won 10-straight games before deciding to take it easy and rest some key players in Week 17. Kansas City ended up losing that contest 38-21 to finish 14-2 on the season. Between not taking Week 17 seriously and receiving a recent bye, the Chiefs will begin their playoff journey as the most well-rested team in the NFL, as they strive to become the first team in over a decade to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
Kansas City (+220) is favored to repeat as Super Bowl champions, per BetMGM.
Week 17 aside, the Kansas City offense had a few hiccups late in the season. While it’s difficult to find many faults with Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City rushing attack was up and down all season. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire provided a spark at times, but he also struggled at times and is questionable as of Saturday. CEH didn't practice on Thursday or Friday, and he hasn't played since a Week 15 hip and ankle injury.
Meanwhile, Le’Veon Bell provides another option, although he didn’t make much of an impact when given a chance. Keep in mind that the Chiefs only scored 17 points against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16 before playing several backups in Week 17. The Chiefs are banking that getting extra rest and getting to full health will be more important than having rhythm on continuity on offense.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City defense faces several question marks heading into the playoffs. To be fair, that was also the case last season. The Chiefs gave up at least 24 points in six of their final eight games after looking a lot more formidable during the early part of the season. Obviously, they've done enough defensively to win 14 games this season, largely due to the efforts of Chris Jones and Frank Clark on the defensive line. However, there are some lingering concerns about how the defense will fare against quality competition in the playoffs.
The Chiefs (-10) have failed to cover in seven of their last eight games. They've lacked consistency against the point total, posting an 8-7-1 over/under record.
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On The Up And Up
It was a long wait, but the Browns finally won a playoff game last week. Of course, beating the Steelers wasn’t as easy as one might assume it would be after taking a 28-0 lead. But between the fast start and the five takeaways, Cleveland did enough to hang on for a 48-37 win. Thankfully, the team can finally put its recent COVID trouble behind them. They'll need to be at full strength to make the AFC Championship for the first time since 1989.
All season, the Cleveland offense has revolved around the rushing attack. That’s not about to change in the playoffs, as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will be the two most important catalysts for the Browns. The question is whether the Cleveland offensive line will be anywhere close to full health after multiple players left last week’s contest due to injury. If the Browns offensive line can’t create holes for Chubb and Hunt the way they did last week, the pressure shifts to quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was sharp against the Steelers. He wasn't asked to carry the offense, but that could change if they get behind against Kansas City.
Mayfield (+1000) is the fifth-favorite among the eight remaining quarterbacks to lead the Divisional Round in passing yards, per DraftKings Sportsbook.
Of course, the Browns can’t exactly lean on their defense. In between starting the game with a defensive score and forcing five turnovers, the Cleveland defense allowed 37 points and over 500 yards of offense to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense. In fairness, the game plan changes after leading 28-0, but the Browns have had trouble defending the pass all season, and losing Oliver Vernon late in the regular-season doesn’t help. Keep in mind that despite playing the entire game with a lead, the Browns didn't record any sacks on Roethlisberger last week despite a massive 68 pass attempts.
As road underdogs this season, the Browns (+10) have gone 3-2 ATS. The over has hit in five of Cleveland's last seven games; however, the 57-point over/under line is easily the largest they've seen this season. Sharp bettors hammered the under early in the week, so this is a line to keep an eye on.
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The Browns can’t expect to jump on the Chiefs with 28-straight points like they did last week. They’ll have to do their best to run the ball effectively to help put pressure on the Kansas City defense. It sounds simple, but limiting Mahomes' drives will be key. The Browns won’t feel good about their chances if Mayfield is drawn into a shootout, which is why the Chiefs are 10-point favorites in this game.
With the uncertainty of CEH's availability, not to mention Bell's lack of skill at this point, it wouldn't be crazy to see Mahomes throw a ton. He's favored to lead all quarterbacks in air yards in the Divisional Round on DraftKings. It wouldn't be that shocking considering some of the other matchups and weather complications in other matchups. At +150, this is be a nice bet on Mahomes with Mayfield (+1000) being a very intriguing long shot.