Three Chiefs’ players that must step up on Sunday against the Browns

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As we head into Divisional weekend, let’s take a look at how the Browns will approach this game, and in turn what Chiefs need to play their best football to help take Kansas City to a third consecutive AFC Championship game.

The Browns come into this game as a 10-point underdog. Their defense, which has been spotty at best, forced five turnovers last week. The team took advantage of those opportunities given to them by the Steelers’ and QB Ben Roethlisberger.

This week comes a new challenge against an offense that doesn’t just throw short crossing routes, but a team that can push the ball down the field at a high level, with the best quarterback in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes, leading the attack. 

I believe the Browns’ are going to go into the game utilizing their running game and play-action game out of 12 personnel and wanting to control the game with their offensive-line, physicality, and two-headed monster rushing attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Those guys form the hardest running back duo to face in the NFL, and the defense will be faced with a big task. That being said, here are three Chiefs’ that MUST step up to help win this divisional playoff game:

Anthony Hitchens

Hitchens has been under a bit of a microscope for the Chiefs, fans especially, due to the large amount of his contract and inconsistent play leading up to this year. Speaking as someone who has been quite critical of his play in the past, Hitchens has easily put together his best season this year in Kansas City.

Hitchens being the MLB, or Mike linebacker, always gets the entire defense on the same page. Making sure the defensive lineman are lined up in the right spots and everyone is practicing gap integrity will be major to stopping this offense.

Not only are his pre-snap abilities key, but Hitchens’ best asset is his ability as a tackler. He’s very strong once he gets in position and his arms around you. That is going to be a major asset because Chubb and Hunt’s feet never stop upon contact, and something I think is not talked about nearly as much as it should be for a linebacker is their average depth of tackles.

Hitchens playing downhill and attacking vs. the run is going to be an asset that this defense has missed since he’s been out on the Covid list going back to week 15. 

Frank Clark

Frank Clark over the last couple weeks of the season started to really bring it on and make more of an impact on games, both pass rushing and against the run. When GM Brett Veach, traded and signed for Clark to his five-year, $105 million deal, he said he believes Clark is a top-5 edge defender in the league. Sunday is no better time for him to present himself and show up in a major way if the Chiefs are going to be successful.

While his pass-rushing has been inconsistent this year, for lack of better terms, his ability against the run has always been there. 55 is going to need to stay onsides and set good, hard edges to not allow those outside zone runs to hit and to force the ball back into his help.

A lot of these plays won’t show up on a stat sheet, but if you know what to watch for then you will know Clark’s role is major. Not only stopping the run, but also playing disciplined football and respecting the boot game from Kevin Stefanski’s offense, being in the right spot to make plays, and not trying to do too much. Playing physical against this o-line is going to be tough, but it will be imperative for the success of this team. 

L’Jarius Sneed

The best rookie DB in football this season is going to need to step up, just like he’s been doing all year. The 4th round DB from Louisiana Tech has been nothing short of a revelation for this team, who needed another playmaker and is in my opinion the third best player on the defense this year already.

If it weren’t for his injury, I think he’d be top three in the defensive ROY conversation. Not to sound like one of those media pundits that always makes comparisons to HoF guys, but Sneed truly reminds me of a Charles Woodson lite. He is long, fast, physical, can play multiple positions, and is a true playmaker.

Whether it’s at the Nickel or as an outside corner, against the run or pass, Sneed can do it all at a high level. He’s also very physical in the run game and knows his run fits, which will be huge this week. Another reason I put him on here is because with OBJ out, Jarvis Landry has become the top target and he spends a lot of time in the slot, where these two will be matched up.

I’m very excited to watch Sneed play and see if he can step up and continue to carve his niche not only on this team, but in the entire NFL as a true playmaker.