The matchup is one of the marquee games of opening weekend in the NFL, and provides the Browns with an early opportunity to see how much progress they have made since losing to the Chiefs in the Divisional Playoffs.
Cleveland returns to the field with every key member of the offense back, along with a defense that underwent a major renovation in the offseason. The Chiefs have a rebuilt offensive line that will be tested, but remain the class of the AFC as they look for a third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.
Here is what you need to know about the game, along with a few storylines to watch, as the Browns embark on their first season with legitimate championship aspirations since the late 1980s.
Records: Cleveland is 0-0. Kansas City is 0-0.
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
TV: WOIO CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (sidelines)
Radio: 92.3 The Fan (WKRK), ESPN 850 WKNR and WNCX (98.5)
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken, Nathan Zegura (sideline reporter)
Last meeting: The Chiefs won the last meeting, 22-17, in the 2020 AFC Divisional playoffs.
All-time series: Kansas City leads the all-time series 14-11-2. The Browns last win in Kansas City came on December 20, 2009, when they won 41-34.
Weather: 89 degrees and sunny, with no chance of rain (weather.com)
Uniform: The Browns will be wearing white jerseys and orange pants
Injury report: Browns - Questionable: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (knee), S Ronnie Harrison (ankle), DE Jadeveon Clowney (illness), C JC Tretter (knee), K Chase McLaughlin (right hamstring) and S Grant Delpit (hamstring). Out: G Michael Dunn (back) and LB Tony Fields II (illness). Chiefs - Questionable: DE Frank Clark (hamstring) and DT Derrick Nnadi (hip). Out: OL Austin Blythe (abdomen)
The line: Browns +5.5
A Few Things to Watch For
OBJ’s return: A considerable amount of discussion in the offseason focused on the idea that the Browns did not have a player capable of “taking the top” of the defense in the playoffs last year, which meant that the Chiefs could crowd the line of scrimmage, ultimately contributing to Cleveland’s loss. (We will ignore, for the sake of the argument, that running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined to average 5.3 yards per carry against the Chiefs despite the defense packing in tight.)
The return of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from a torn ACL should help solve that problem. While Beckham is not the same wide receiver that he was earlier in his career due to injuries, he is still a player who the defense needs to respect and one that can open up the field for the rest of the offense.
Beckham is expected to play on Sunday, although how much remains to be seen as the Browns have been dropping hints all summer about bringing him along slowly. A key area to watch is if quarterback Baker Mayfield can work targets to Beckham within the flow of the offense, rather than forcing the ball to Beckham to “get him involved early.” That has not always been the case in the past, but this year’s team has larger goals than individual stats, and with Mayfield entering his fourth season it is time for him to take full control of the huddle and focus on getting the ball to the right player at the right time.
Battle of the rebuilt lines: General manager Andrew Berry rebuilt Cleveland’s defense from front to back, and one area to focus on during Sunday’s game is how the defensive line does against Kansas City’s rebuilt offensive line.
Defensive end Myles Garrett is the lone starter returning for the Browns, and he will be joined by defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley, along with a defensive tackle rotation of Malik Jackson, Andrew Billings, Malik McDowell, Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai.
That unit will be going up against a Chiefs offensive line that will be starting left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., acquired in an offseason trade, left guard Joe Thuney, signed in free agency, and a trio of rookies in center Creed Humphrey, right guard Trey Smith and right tackle Lucas Niang.
Even with all the new faces on the defensive line, the Browns still hold a considerable edge in experience over Kansas City, so if they can harass quarterback Patrick Mahomes with just four rushers, that could be a key turning point in the game.
The Kelce/Hill dilemma: Like most teams, the Browns have had issues when they have gone up against Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Kelce has 13 receptions for 142 yards and three touchdowns in two career games against the Browns, and added another eight receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown in last season’s playoff game. The Browns did an OK job against Hill the one time they faced him in the regular season, holding him to four catches for 69 yards, but he had eight receptions for 110 yards against Cleveland in the playoffs.
Cleveland’s rebuilt back seven on defense will be tested by Kelce and Hill, and Mahomes will be looking for opportunities to exploit rookies Greg Newsome II, who is starting at cornerback, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who might not start but will see a considerable amount of playing time at linebacker.
If the defensive line can’t take advantage of Kansas City’s inexperienced offensive line, the back end of the Browns defense will have to carry the day for the Browns to have a chance to win.
Run baby, run: The Browns were able to run on the Chiefs in the playoffs — remember that average of 5.3 yards per carry? — and there is no reason to believe they can’t do the same on Sunday.
Cleveland’s offensive line is built to maul in the running game, and the weather is going to be hot, so a few series where the Browns show a healthy dose of Chubb and Hunt while the offensive line works over the Kansas City defense might be a decent option. Not only is it fun to watch Cleveland’s offensive line break the will of an opposing defense, the more the Browns can do to limit the number of possessions that the Chiefs have on offense, the better their odds would appear to be at coming home with a win.
The streaks: There are several streaks on the line in this game. The Browns have not won a Week 1 game since 2004, the Chiefs are a perfect 10-0 in September with Patrick Mahomes as the starting quarterback, and Kansas City head coach Andy Reid has never lost to the Browns as a head coach in the NFL. It is time for the Browns to finally put an end to all three of those.
A final quote
Myles Garrett (via a team-provided transcript):
“Go in and go win. It is a big game. They have proven that they can go to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl. They are one of the best teams in the league. We want to be ranked amongst that group. We have to go in there and attack them.”
These are just a few things to keep an eye on; now it is time to have your say. What are you looking for from the Browns in Sunday’s game against the Chiefs?