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Can the Browns upset the defending Super Bowl Champions? NFL Divisional round prediction vs. Chiefs

Our preview and prediction for the Cleveland Browns’ playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In case you missed it, I did a 40-minute walking tour this week outside of the Cleveland Browns’ headquarters in Berea. As I walked around the outside of the facility and nearby streets, I told a few stories about Cleveland’s win last week over the Steelers, what to expect vs. Kansas City this week, what DBN’s tour of Berea was like six years ago, how things look during training camp, and how it was the first time the Browns had ever made the playoffs since I started DBN in 2006.

And now, we’ve taken it a step further: facing the top-seeded and defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes is awesome. I love the way the Chiefs’ offense works, from their playcalling, to their player performance. One area they may not be as strong in is with their rushing attack, but that’s not a detriment because Mahomes is that damn good. Their defense has played well enough this season to get them to 14-2, and I think it’s fair to say that their defense is better than Cleveland’s. My gut tells me that Kansas City will win this game. Some fans will hate me for feeling that way, for “settling” for anything less than being the sole survivor, but sometimes it’s hard to find happiness in life. It has been a difficult year for many reasons, but football, sports, and the Browns in particular have offered so much happiness to me. Sure, a little bit of stress with that Week 16 loss and then the COVID situation, but how can you not like last week’s win over the Steelers?

Cleveland has a lot going for them. Their offense is one of the best in the NFL. Baker Mayfield is playing at a really high level. The defense knows what they are. They went a long stretch without generating turnovers in the second half of the year, but they stepped up last week to help force five turnovers on a big stage. The Browns get their top cornerbacks back this week. We hope the offensive line is fully in tact. Confidence won’t be an issue for Cleveland; in fact, the adversity they’ve faced can only make them stronger. Mahomes and the Chiefs will be strong too, but anything goes in the playoffs. That’s why this game is not a done deal. I don’t know how often the Browns will get to this stage, so hey, let’s live and die with picking a Cleveland victory. Let’s Go Browns. Browns 35, Chiefs 31.

Other DBN Staff Predictions

Here are predictions from staff members at DBN (will be updated as more predictions come in).

rufio: “Before I forget, here is my prediction for the week:

No one believes in us now, and no one has believed in us all year, really.

But I believe the Browns present the biggest matchup problem in the AFC for Kansas City. Our defense isn’t going to shut them down, but really no defense is. If our defense is built to do anything, it is to slow down a team like the Chiefs. We are our best in the red zone, forcing teams into field goals instead of touchdowns. And when we are playing well, we are opportunistic and create turnovers. We have a corner who we can risk in solo coverage on occasion, and a pass rusher who can wreak havoc against that OL.

Offensively, we can keep up in a high-scoring game and we have the versatility to grind a game out on the ground and eat clock if we need to. Perhaps most importantly, I love our OL in this game and I feel like we have a chance to make any play successful due to our matchups up front.

This is the recipe for beating the Chiefs, and we’re going to do it:” Browns 42, Chiefs 34.

Barry Shuck: “The Browns will run the ball whereas the Chiefs will throw. This we know. Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes has been sacked seven times in the last three games. This bods well for Myles Garrett and Adrian Clayborn. KC does not start fast whereas Cleveland does and then will allow huge leads to disappear. We all know the Chiefs can – and do – come back against large leads. Show me the Browns linebacker who is going to cover Travis Kelce.

Both defenses are not good. Kansas City has allowed the 21st most rushing yards which plays right into Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt’s wheelhouse whereas the Browns are ranked 19th against the pass. In essence, points will be scored.

The linebackers for the Chiefs often play out-of-position which hurts the pass rush. Cleveland’s offensive line has done a terrific job at protection, so expect the same in this game.

The key to this game? Keep Mayfield and Company on the field. If Mahomes is not playing, they ain’t scoring. Prediction that Mahomes will not throw more than three TD’s in this game. There are those who predict a KC runaway, but hopefully the Browns can keep it close and pull it out.” Chiefs 35, Browns 32.

Thomas Moore: “The Chiefs present a very different challenge for the Browns than the one they faced last week against the Steelers, but the path for a Browns victory is there. Cleveland needs to take advantage of every trip into the red zone and come away with touchdowns, not field goals. That might be achievable given that the Browns were the league’s third-best team in the regular season in red zone scoring efficiency, while the Chiefs allowed a league-high 76 percent conversation rate on touchdowns in the red zone. The Browns were also the league’s best team running the ball to the right, while the Chiefs were ranked 31st in stopping runs to that side. (It would be nice if the Jack Conklin were going to play for sure, but you can’t have everything.)

On defense, it will be more of the same for the Browns. Play zone, keep the receiver in front of you, and for god’s sake tackle someone! Do that, and the Browns have a real chance to walk out of Arrowhead on the right side of the scoreboard.

No one is ready for this Browns season to end, so let’s go with it for at least one more week.” Browns 45, Chiefs 42.

Ezweav: “So here’s a stat you probably haven’t considered...when was the last time a team won back to back Super Bowls? Makes you think for a second right? No it wasn’t the Patriots beating the Seahags & Yams, since there was also a loss to the Iggles in between. No, the last time there was a successful title defense goes all the way back to the Patriots of ‘04 & ‘05.

Why might this be? Is it just an outgrowth of the general parity the NFL accomplished after implementing the salary cap back in the early 90’s? Could be. Certainly there were more back-to-back winners prior to then.

Might it be something else though? Let us consider that winning the Super Bowl requires a lot of planned stuff going right as well as getting some lucky breaks. It can’t help but take a Herculean mental toll on anyone that goes through it, and it’s not easy (I’m guessing) to get up for that again the following year. Such is why the losing team also often finds themselves struggling the year after (see: San Francisco)

I’d submit that with this being a game of inches and momentum, you could (and I will) probably surmise that the difference between winning and losing, irrespective of other factors, is the ‘ol which-team-wants-it-more consideration.

Maybe the reason for lack of repeat champions is no more complicated than they just don’t have that killer mentality with the same intensity after tasting the sweetness of ultimate victory the first time.

In looking at these two teams, it’s very possible, likely even, that the Cleveland Browns are the hungrier team right now. It isn’t to say that the Chiefs are complacent, just that the determination to accomplish the impossible goal gets watered down once that goal is accomplished. This of course is excepting the freaks that are Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

And Pat Mahomes himself is seriously freaky. Maybe he’s got the sort of championship drive that matches his unprecedented quarterback talent. We’ll see, but I think it’s our guys that have the eye of the tiger here. Oh and I wouldn’t want to be a KC player trying to tackle Kareem Hunt this week.” Browns 46, Chiefs 32.

Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.