Analysis

Five things to watch for on Sunday versus the Browns

Coming off the bye, the Chiefs are facing the red-hot Browns. There are many things to look out for in the Chiefs playoff game on Sunday.

It’s not very common to see a 28-point lead in the first quarter of a playoff game, but that’s what the Browns did last Sunday against the Steelers. Sure, you can argue that the Steelers were overrated or fraudulent, but a playoff game is still a playoff game.

The Browns are not the Browns of before, so the Chiefs do have a decent challenge ahead of them on Sunday. Here are five things you should look out for in that game.

How will the Chiefs defense handle the RB duo of Cleveland?

The Browns RBs had 124 rushing yards and 82 receiving yards against the Steelers. Their offense was rolling and they kept finding mismatches in the Steelers D. That begs the question though, who will be covering the RBs on Sunday? The Chiefs LBs have a long history of blowing coverage against RBs, and Sunday would be one of the worst times to exhibit that.

Now, on the rushing side of that, who on the DL will step up and stop Hunt and Chubb? Last year, Mike Pennel was largely responsible for stopping Derrick Henry and others, but we will see if he can give that help this time around. Derrick Nnadi has taken a good enough step in run D this year to be able to slow them down as well. Kareem Hunt seems to feel extra motivated for his “personal” game against the Chiefs, so we’ll see how that works out for him and Nick Chubb.

The performance of the Chiefs 1st half offense

The Chiefs, as I’m sure you’ve heard in the media for a while now, have been having slow starts to their games as of recently. It feels like it takes a while for things to click, but that could be a problem against the Browns offense that can score a lot more than recent opponents like the Falcons or Dolphins.

Their defense is very subpar though, as they allowed 37 points and four TD passes last Sunday. The Browns did shut down the run game for the most part though, allowing only 3.4 ypc and 37 yards to James Conner. That forced Big Ben to throw the ball 68 times for four INTs.

The Chiefs must get the ground game going on Sunday to get success early. CEH may be available, but if not, they may turn to the other RBs like Le’Veon Bell, Darrel Williams, and Darwin Thompson. It will be very interesting to see how the Chiefs start after the one-week bye, especially considering how the playoffs started last year against the Texans (24 point deficit).

Who will fill Sammy Watkins’ role?

Sammy Watkins is out with an injury going into Sunday. This isn’t a new sentence to hear with Watkins, but it does carry some significance with the WR rotation. Watkins is known for showing up big in playoff games, but without him, who will get more playing time?

This may open the door for potentially a new WR or a bigger role for Demarcus Robinson. Last week, we saw Byron Pringle shine in a loss against the Chargers. Maybe he could be plugged in for a significant amount of plays? Pringle has yet to play much in a playoff game, so it would be intriguing to see what he brings to the table. Mahomes is sure to make weapons out of whoever lines up at WR, so we’ll just keep an eye out for who receives a larger role on Sunday.

Mahomes Magic

It feels like the obvious thing the watch for, but an amazing part of the game nonetheless. Mahomes has been historic in the playoffs, especially looking at last year’s Super Bowl run. Aaron Rodgers may be the MVP this season, but all that matters is who ends up with that ring. Mahomes has struggled statistically lately (for him at least), but he’s still on a winning streak. The Chiefs will look to him as their leader going into Sunday against the Browns.

The Browns had four ints last week, but it was probably in large part to the 68 pass attempts from Big Ben. Mahomes is a much more rounded QB and could use his legs this Sunday, as he did last year many times in the playoffs. The Browns have allowed 358.4 ypg this season, almost identical to the 358.3 ypg the Chiefs allow.

However, the Browns let up 26.2 ppg and 247.6 pypg (passing yards per game), which is worse than the Chiefs defense. Mahomes will likely look to strike through the air to create plays against the below-average Browns secondary. All of the media’s eyes will be on Mahomes’ performance on Sunday, so hopefully, he puts up a show.

Will the Chiefs get pressure on Baker?

This is a huge point of attention for Sunday. The Browns OL has been extremely solid this year, evidenced by them being 3rd in rush yards and 7th in ypc. However, the Chiefs have the defensive weapons to get pressure. Frank Clark and Chris Jones could be two impact players in terms of pressure this Sunday. They seemed to heat up last postseason so hopefully, history will repeat itself as the Chiefs try to “Run It Back.”

If those two are unsuccessful in getting pressure, the Chiefs may try to blitz with Tyrann Mathieu or the LBs. This could leave certain receivers open along the middle, something they need to stop to be able to succeed in this game. If they can draw pressure quick enough though, Baker may get flustered and throw balls up in coverage for turnovers. Turnovers mean more Mahomes’ time, which is always a good thing to have in key games. We’ll watch to see who can get into the backfield to rush the Browns and force some crucial mistakes in the game.

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