Why am I watching? Because it’s the Browns and I’ve been waiting for this game since January 17. I would watch the Browns if they were playing softball or practicing at FirstEnergy Stadium and so would you. As the Browns prepare to take on the defending AFC Champions Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at 3:25 pm (CST) here are a few things I’ll be watching.
The Browns Defensive Line Vs. the Chiefs Offensive Line. I think every Browns fan is interested in this one. Tampa Bay proved in the Super Bowl if you pressure Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes you can slow him down. You notice I didn’t say stop, because you can’t really stop Mahomes. According to the unofficial Kansas City depth chart, the Chiefs starting center is rookie Creed Humphrey, the starting right guard is rookie Trey Smith and the starting right tackle is second-year player Lucas Niang. None have taken a single snap in a regular-season NFL game. Plus, newly acquired starting left tackle Orlando Brown played mostly right tackle during his Raven career. According to reports from the Kansas City media, Brown is struggling in the Chiefs pass dominant offense. I’m going to be watching the different Browns defensive line formations. If the Kansas City depth chart is true, this is going to be interesting. The Browns must pressure Mahomes with four players, if you blitz him, he’ll pick the defense apart.
The Browns Secondary Vs The Chiefs Offensive. If Mahomes can stay upright and there’s a good chance he might, the Browns’ new secondary will have to deal with WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce and RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Last year in the divisional playoff game, the Browns secondary consisted of Robert Jackson, Terrance Michell, Kevin Johnson, Ronnie Harrison, Karl Joseph, M.J. Stewart, Denzel Ward and Andrew Sendejo. There is no doubt the Browns have improved the talent in the secondary, but it is their first game together. I’ll be watching the defensive formations in the secondary, as well as the linebackers. The word out of Berea is LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will get a lot of playing time Sunday. Finally, I fully expect Chiefs head coach Andy Reid to go after Browns’ rookie corner Greg Newsome all game long. If Newsome struggles, I’m interested in how Joe Woods will protect him. Hopefully, Newsome can hold his own.
The Browns Offensive Line Vs. The Chiefs Defensive Line. The Browns enter the game returning the best offensive line in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, two top ten running backs, a top-ten offense and a top-five red zone offense. Chiefs defensive lineman Frank Clark is an elite talent, but he’s going to need some help. Last year the Chiefs were 31st against the run and last in red zone defense allowing a touchdown. During the divisional game last year, I think head coach Kevin Stefanski made a mistake by not running the ball more with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The two only had 19 carries between them, Chubb with 13 and Hunt with six. When they did get the ball, they averaged 5.3 yards to carry. Running the ball early and often will allow QB Baker Mayfield to successfully run the play-action offense and take some deep shots down the field. Remember, WR Odell Beckham did not play in last year’s game and will take up most of the attention of the Kansas City secondary. The Browns need to wear down the Chiefs’ defensive line with their OLine on a day where the high temperature is expected to be 95 degrees.
Sunday’s game will be a game of opportunities for the Browns. It’s an opportunity to beat the best team in the AFC. An opportunity for a Browns team to beat a team coached by Andy Reid for the first time. An opportunity to hand Patrick Mahomes his first loss in September. And more importantly, an opportunity to go 1-0.