The Cleveland Browns sit at home while the Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers fight for a spot in the Super Bowl today. Yesterday, on SB Nation’s main site, we learned a little bit about both matchups and how the team’s were built. Both teams in the AFC Championship and NFC Championship were mostly built through the draft but the details are really interesting.
Also on the site is the analytics telling you who will win today. So far, DVOA is 9 of 10 in this year’s playoffs.
For Browns fans, the question is obvious: ‘How can my team join championship weekend?’
While it is anecdotal here are a few things we see from the remaining four teams that might provide some information about what it takes to get to the promised land in the NFL:
- Offensive minded coach
All four coaches in championship week are offensive-minded. Again, anecdotal but Andy Reid, Zac Taylor, Nick Siaranni and Kyle Shanahan come from that side of the ball
- No dome
While it doesn’t prove anything, all four teams playing this weekend play outside. All four are above the 35-degree north latitude with only San Francisco averaging temperatures of about 40 all of January.
- Elite QB play OR Elite Roster
Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts have been elite this season while Brock Purdy is undefeated as a starter. Purdy is also surrounded by an elite roster, perhaps the best in the NFL.
- Quality Running Games
While the 49ers and Eagles use their rushing attacks as their primary weapons, the Bengals and Chiefs are able to be productive on the ground even if they don’t depend on it. Shanahan has been unique in his ability to get production out of running the ball since he was running the Browns offense while Hurts’ ability on the ground creates tension points for defenses (something Deshaun Watson will hopefully do next year).
- Recent Missed Playoffs
Three of the four final four teams have missed the playoffs in the last few years. Cincinnati, Philadelphia and San Francisco all missed the postseason in 2020 (the last year Cleveland joined) while Kansas City has been a part of the playoffs since 2014.
A losing/bad season(s) doesn’t discount a team’s ability to bounce back and get to championship weekend. The Niners, for example, have made it three times since the last time the Chiefs missed the postseason.
As noted above, the rosters of all four teams were built through the draft and undrafted free agency but each team was selective in using free agency and trades to fill out their roster. New players from other teams cannot be the core of a winning team, it seems.
Four teams in one season do not prove anything but it does provide some interesting context. If Watson gets back to his old form or close, the Browns have a lot of similarities to the four teams that are playing today. Obviously, there are a lot of other variables that play a role in winning but, based on this very selective sample, maybe Cleveland isn’t as far away as many think.
Wishful thinking? Maybe. Only time will tell.