The Cleveland Browns got their first playoff win since 1994 last weekend and Dave Gray thinks they are capable of another big upset against the Chiefs...
"I think Cleveland will put the game in Mayfield’s hands, particularly early and really try and blow them away as they did with the Steelers a week ago."
Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 20:05 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
The Chiefs kick off their playoffs with an intriguing match up with the Browns. Kansas City cruised to 14-2 this season and it felt like they rarely got out of first gear on their way to the number one seed. They will need to here though as they face a Cleveland team that has really seemed to find their identity over this past month or so.
Mahomes has been incredible...again
Patrick Mahomes may not take home the MVP award when it is announced in a few weeks - that looks like Aaron Rodgers - but for me he is the best quarterback in the league. His achievements can often get underplayed because he does so much incredible stuff. But if he had played that final week then he would almost certainly have hit 5000 yards passing to go with his 38 touchdowns and just six interceptions. That just feels normal for him but it is an absurd level of play.
Cleveland have a lot of talent on their defence, but it has not quite translated on to the field. Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are both stars but they need some help. In pass defence they sit 25th in the league this season. They did show up last week with four interceptions but Mahomes is a very different test to that Steelers passing game.
The Chiefs have so many ways to beat you. Whether it is Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce or even Sammy Watkins in the passing game or Clyde Edwards-Helaire and LeVeon Bell on the ground. The Browns have some great players, but it is hard to see how they can shut all of those down.
Mayfield has arrived
Baker Mayfield got off to a flying start in his career, but has perhaps failed to live up to that early hype since. But last week felt like he had arrived as a top NFL quarterback. It is easy to look at the turnovers from the Steelers and think he had it easy but Pittsburgh really came back at them and Mayfield and the offence played almost perfectly to hold them off.
The Browns offensive line is a top five unit for me. A year ago they were a real weakness for this team but they have added talent and really developed their players to form what is now one of the big strengths. Jack Conklin is questionable for this one and he would be a big loss if he does not play.
A lot of the analysis coming into this one is about the Browns using the run game to control the clock and keep the Chiefs off the field to limit the damage that Mahomes and co can do. But for me I see them coming out and really trying to win this one with the passing game. Kansas City's starters could well have some rust after so long without playing - it is certainly something we saw last year as they fell behind in every single playoff game.
I think Cleveland will put the game in Mayfield's hands, particularly early and really try and blow them away as they did with the Steelers a week ago. The Chiefs will find a way to score, so the Browns need to take it to them, rather than just slowing things down.
Andy Reid's record off of a bye is well documented. He is 18-3 off a bye and is one of, if not the best offensive coach in the league. But the way the Chiefs have cruised through this season actually worries me a little. They have only had a couple of tests - I am throwing out that week 17 loss with starters on the side lines - and they came up short against the Raiders in one of them. It is a year ago, but the way they fell behind in every single playoff game last year is an issue. I keep coming back to it but three weeks off is too much for me and they should have played Mahomes and the other Chiefs in week 17, even if it was just a half.
Kevin Stefanski will be in charge for his first ever playoff game after being at home due to coronavirus last week. He has really changed the culture in Cleveland and there are great signs for them moving forward. His inexperience is of course a concern, but he has been offensive coordinator in big games like this. The Browns run game is great with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, but I think we will see him come out and be really aggressive here to take the game away from the Chiefs.
Cleveland can pull off the upset
As the week has gone on I have talked myself into Cleveland here. Whether they will win outright I am not so sure, although I do think they can, but the 10 point spread is too much. They are coming into this one on the back of a huge win over their NFC North rivals and they can carry the momentum through.
I think they can get up big early and then it just becomes about if Mahomes can come back as he so often has or Mayfield and the offence can hold them off. I expect to see points here and lots of them.