Browns-Chiefs Preview: AFC Playoff Contenders Square Off In Week 1

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(CBS Pittsburgh) — The Cleveland Browns came into the 2020 play with a just spot of talent, but fewer wins to amusement for it. New manager Kevin Stefansky reorganized that endowment and led Cleveland to 11 wins and their archetypal playoff quality successful astir 20 years. In the Wild Card round, the Browns downed the Pittsburgh Steelers, who they had already mislaid to doubly during the regular season. They past fell conscionable abbreviated of topping the Super Bowl-bound (and past reigning Super Bowl champion) Kansas City Chiefs.

Expectations are overmuch higher successful Cleveland this season. And the Browns aren’t going to astonishment anyone, slightest of each their Week 1 opponent. The Chiefs, down Patrick Mahomes, precocious past that Divisional Playoff triumph implicit the Browns to the Super Bowl. But their 2nd consecutive quality did not effect successful their 2nd consecutive win. On Sunday, Kansas City volition commencement what could beryllium yet different Super Bowl tally connected Sunday astatine location against Cleveland.

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Stefansky has turned the Browns into a morganatic contender successful conscionable a season. “To Kevin Stefansky the squad is bigger than immoderate 1 individual,” according to erstwhile NFL manager and workplace expert connected The NFL Today Bill Cowher. “It isn’t astir however galore touches I get here, however galore touches I get there. Kevin Stefanski is astir gathering a culture.”

“No one’s bigger than the team,” Cowher continued. “And I deliberation if helium takes it 1 crippled astatine a clip until helium truly accomplishes something. There’s a simplicity astir Kevin Stefanski…  Coaching is astir bringing radical together, it’s astir identifying what your strengths are, and, much importantly, the quality to disguise what your weaknesses are. But to person radical clasp the roles that they have. And I deliberation that’s the 1 thing, that helium has brought is humility to that shot squad and unselfishness to that shot team.”

The Browns person prime players crossed the lineup. And that starts with Baker Mayfield astatine the backmost position. “I deliberation he’s a terrific thrower of the ball,” said workplace expert connected The NFL Today Phil Simms. “He moves astir well. He’s got a large archetypal determination retired of the pocket, throws highly good connected the run. And helium has that quality. He’s got a photographic memory, from what I understand, and he’s conscionable benignant of a earthy leader. I deliberation players gravitate towards him. He grew up past year, we saw the existent endowment that helium is.”

The discourtesy that Stefansky built, oregon imported from the Minnesota Vikings, gives Mayfield immoderate flexibility, without the unit to marque things hap connected his own. Cleveland was 3rd successful the NFL successful rushing past play down Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The brace combined for 18 touchdowns and implicit 1,900 yards connected the ground. That morganatic crushed menace helped successful the play-action arsenic well. Hunt hauled successful 38 catches retired of the backfield. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry had 72 catches of his own, adjacent aft Odell Beckham’s wounded made him the focus.

Beckham’s instrumentality enhances a Browns discourtesy that could usage his velocity and play-making ability, but already knows however to enactment up points. “Odell Beckham is going to instrumentality to this squad bare but humbled,” said The NFL Today workplace expert Nate Burleson. “This isn’t the aforesaid Odell Beckham from years ago, rocking the fig 13 successful New York City, acting similar a stone star. This is an idiosyncratic who’s coming disconnected his 2nd important wounded and knowing he’s joining a squad that did it without him and astir bushed the Chiefs without him.”

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The Browns should beryllium capable to enactment up points this week, but tin they halt the Chiefs from doing the same? The upgraded defence promises to beryllium 1 of the NFL’s much carnal units. That starts with antiaircraft extremity Myles Garrett, who has the imaginable to beryllium Defensive Player of the Year. He’s bookended by caller accomplishment Jadeveon Clowney, with tackle Malik Jackson different caller addition. Linebacker Anthony Walker steps into the mediate of the Browns defense, and information John Johnson bolsters the secondary.

“They’re loaded connected defense,” The NFL Today workplace expert Boomer Esiason pointed out. “They tin walk rush, they got a bully secondary, and they yet got the close manager doing the close things and getting the champion retired of their young quarterback.”

Will Mayfield beryllium capable to support up with his counterpart Mahomes? It whitethorn precise good beryllium connected whether the Chiefs new-look offensive line tin clasp disconnected the Browns’ walk rush. The aged unit’s nonaccomplishment to support Mahomes successful the Super Bowl is simply a large crushed the squad made violative enactment an offseason priority. They signed Center Austin Blythe and guards Joe Thuney and Kyle Long successful escaped agency. The Chiefs traded distant their first-round prime for near tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and past drafted halfway Creed Humphrey and defender Trey Smith. Lucas Niang steps successful astatine close tackle aft opting retired of past season.

If the violative enactment comes together, the Chiefs discourtesy whitethorn really amended this season, which is simply a scary thought for the remainder of the NFL. Kansas City was the lone squad to enactment up implicit 5,000 passing yards past season. Tight extremity Travis Kelce hauled successful 105 passes for 1,416 yards, the 2nd astir successful the league. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill wasn’t acold behind, with 87 catches for 1,276 yards. Both return, on with receivers Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson, who besides stay threats. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who averaged 4.4 yards connected his 181 carries, is besides a pass-catching menace retired of the backfield.

The Chiefs’ high-powered discourtesy has covered for their defence successful caller seasons. The unit, portion amended against the tally than the pass, allowed an NFL-worst 415.8 yards per crippled past season. The quality whitethorn person simply been a relation of opponents playing from a shortage and having to walk more. This year’s defence whitethorn beryllium a measurement up from past year’s, fixed a fewer offseason changes. Chris Jones slides implicit from antiaircraft tackle to antiaircraft end, perchance improving the walk rush. Second-round prime Nick Bolton steps successful astatine linebacker, though chap linebacker and second-round prime Willie Gay volition beryllium retired until astatine slightest Week 4. Safety Tyrann Mathieu wears a batch of hats successful this defense, and Daniel Sorensen led the squad successful tackle past season. Mathieu, however, remains connected the team’s COVID database and could miss Sunday’s game.

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The Browns play the Chiefs Sunday, September 12 @ 4:25 p.m. ET connected CBS.

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