The Cleveland Browns have a top rushing attack with a boom-or-bust passing attack. Will they test the Chiefs’ defense?
The 0-16 Cleveland Browns are still in the minds of many NFL fans. Imagining the Browns as a threat to the Chiefs could still hard for some to comprehend. Yet, this is the case in 2021
The Browns took the Chiefs, and quarterback Chad Henne, to the brink in the 2021 playoffs, narrowly losing 22-17. This was another case of the Chiefs’ defense stepping up, limiting the Browns to only 112 yards on the ground and quarterback Baker Mayfield to a 64.5 QBR, all well below the regular season averages.
Cleveland relied heavily on the ground attack in the regular season, ranking third in rushing yards and fourth in rushing attempts. Led by running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns had the fifth most rushing touchdowns with 21 in 2020. Chubb and Hunt are both signed through 2022, with Chubb signed through 2024.
The running back tandem is clearly a priority for head coach Kevin Stefanski. Behind the running game, Stefanski coordinated a quick turnaround for the Browns, including the organization’s first playoff appearance since 2002.
Like the Bills, Cleveland will take another step forward if quarterback Baker Mayfield does. The 2020 Browns’ passing attack was nothing exceptional, finishing in the bottom half of the league for passing yards per game and completion percentage.
While Mayfield has flashed his potential, consistency in the playoffs is important to the Browns’ success. His 71 regular season QBR is good for 10th in the league, so Mayfield may be poised for another jump in 2021.
What about against Kansas City?
Remember the 22-17 game? That was not an offensive shootout, that was a defensive, in-the-trenches game.
Even while Kansas City was not the best against the run in 2020, they held Chubb to 69 yards on 13 carries, well below his per game average.
Mayfield was also held below his QBR average, while that was without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Browns may live and die by the run, but having OBJ on the field does change expectations for the offense.
Barring any crazy run plays, expect the Chiefs to keep the running game in check in week one. Forcing Mayfield to throw the ball will be the difference between winning and losing.