Every team in the NFL woke up with the same thought Monday morning: “How are we going to beat the Kansas City Chiefs when it matters the most?” The AFC has the additional stress that, in general, they must go through the Chiefs to even make it to the Super Bowl.
For the Cleveland Browns, the Super Bowl is not only the goal but what the team was built to do. The Browns have spent all the money in the world on the roster, traded for and signed players that they thought could help them win right away and drafted with the future and upside in mind.
Sadly, with HC Andy Reid stating he was sticking around and QB Patrick Mahomes not even 30 years old yet, Cleveland fans have to find reasons for hope surrounding those two. We have four of them, two related to the Browns and two related to the two-time defending Super Bowl champions.
Cleveland went 11-6 in 2023 despite losing starters left and right throughout the season. If the game mattered in Week 18, the Browns could have ended with a 12-5 record quite easily.
Bringing back RB Nick Chubb and OL Jack Conklin alone should be a big boost to a talented roster with a core group of young players that are still growing and developing.
To be clear, we listed these as factors, not certainties. Watson showed that he might be finding his old self against the Baltimore Ravens, his last game of the season. He also had a great game against the Tennessee Titans earlier in the year.
To beat Mahomes and the Chiefs, a team must have a really good quarterback. The QB doesn’t have to be great but must be really good. Brock Purdy was almost good enough to get the job done this year but failed.
Fans should have obvious concern about Watson returning to his old self but last year showed us glimpses that he could. Having a quarterback that can take over sections of a game will be key versus Kansas City.
Age of a couple of Chiefs key players
Going into the Super Bowl, the conversation was that the San Francisco 49ers were a better overall team but Kansas City had Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce and a better defense. DL Chris Jones, like DE Myles Garrett for the Browns, is the key to that defense.
Kelce will turn 35 early next season while Jones turns 30 this July.
We saw a slowed-down version of one of the best tight ends ever during the season but Kelce was able to turn it on when it mattered the most. He has over 900 receptions in his career which, along with all the blocking done as a tight end, adds up over time.
Jones is younger but plays a much more physical position at a higher weight. He was great again in the Super Bowl but how long can an interior player at his size be dominant? We won’t bet against Jones continuing his success but his age at his position is something to note.
Kansas City Free Agents
Speaking of Jones, the defensive tackle is also a free agent at the end of this season. He is not alone with top CB L’Jarius Sneed, LB Willie Gary Jr., OT Donovan Smith, LB Drue Tranquill, safety Mike Edwards and WR Mecole Hardman at the top of the list.
Jones is the top free agent in this year’s class, according to most including PFF, and is expected to pull in around $30 million a year on his next contract. Sneed is also near the top of the free agent rankings and is expected to sign for over $17 a season.
The Chiefs already parted ways with one irreplaceable player, WR Tyreek Hill, and still won back-to-back Super Bowls. Losing Jones or tying up serious money to a 30-year-old defensive tackle could make it tough to build the rest of the roster. Losing Jones and Sneed, two of the best players on defense, in the same offseason could really make things difficult for Kansas City... and easier for Cleveland and the rest of the AFC.
The Chiefs have put themselves into a rare air in sports: Until they lose, they are expected to win it all. The Browns are nowhere near that conversation at this point but there are a few factors that should give Cleveland fans hope.
What are your thoughts on the Chiefs future and the Browns chances to dethrone them? Does it totally depend on Watson? Do you think Jones, Sneed and more leave Kansas City in free agency? Will it matter?
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