|38.3%||5||Opp. Rush %||42.4%||20|
|61.8%||28||Opp. Pass %||57.6%||13|
Against the Spread
Chiefs ATS at Home: 3-5
Browns ATS Away: 4-5
Chiefs ATS as Favorite: 6-8
Browns ATS as Underdog: 3-3
The Chiefs were the No. 1 seed in the AFC, meaning we have the “Andy Reid-led team off a bye” numbers in play. In the playoffs, Reid-led teams are 5-1 (4-2 ATS) with a first round bye and 2-1 both straight up and against the spread with Kansas City in this spot.
With a 14-2 record overall, the Chiefs were a league-best 5-0 against teams with a winning record this season.
Kansas City was in a similar spot a year ago as the No. 2 seed, beating the Texans 51-31 in a game in which they were 10-point favorites.
The Chiefs are the largest favorite of the weekend, but have not been hot themselves covering games despite consistently winning outright. The Chiefs had previously won their 10 games leading into their Week 17 game in which they rested key starters, but they have not been blowing teams out, having failed to cover the spread in a game since Week 8 against the Jets. Their past seven wins have all come by six points or fewer in the end.
The Browns are in a very unfamiliar spot. Cleveland is coming off a 48-37 win in Pittsburgh, their first playoff win since returning to the league in 1999 and first since the 1995 season.
The Browns have averaged 6.0 yards per play on offensive (10th) and have gotten more aggressive as the season has worn on. Through 11 weeks, the Browns had thrown the ball on just 46% of their first and second down plays outside of the fourth quarter, which was 29th in the league. From Week 12 on, Cleveland has thrown the ball 59% of the time on those early downs outside of the final quarter, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. On those early down passes, Baker Mayfield has completed 66.2% of his passes for 7.9 Y/A with eight touchdowns and one interception.
Of course, nobody is more aggressive throwing the ball on early downs than the Chiefs. Kansas City is tops in the league in early down pass rate outside of the fourth quarter at 64%. Unfortunately for the Browns, as strong as their offense has performed over the back half of the season, their defense is also allowing 6.1 yards per play over that span, which is 24th in the league.
The Browns only played six games this season against teams in the top half of the league in offensive EPA. Excluding the two games versus the Raiders and Texans in inclement weather, those other four games have averaged 66.0 combined points if looking for this game to live up to the lofty point total.
Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes hits the postseason for the third consecutive season coming off leading the league with 316.0 passing yards per game to go along with 38 touchdown passes to just six interceptions.
For fantasy, Mahomes scored fewer than 18.6 fantasy points just once this season and trailed only Aaron Rodgers with 22.0 passing points per game.
Cleveland is allowing 17.2 passing points per game (26th in the league), while allowing 17-plus fantasy points to quarterbacks such as Mike Glennon, Sam Darnold, and Mason Rudolph over their final seven games to go along with Ryan Tannehill (25.6), Lamar Jackson (34.9), and Ben Roethlisberger (30.0). The only passer that did not produce multiple touchdowns against Cleveland over that span was Colt McCoy.
Baker Mayfield: Mayfield threw three touchdown passes and averaged 7.7 Y/A in his first postseason game. Missing multiple offensive linemen, the Browns quarterback was hurried just twice on two of his 36 dropbacks after Pittsburgh had pressured Mayfield on 35% of his dropbacks and sacked him eight times in their previous two meetings.
Mayfield now has 14 touchdowns passes to just one interception over his past seven games after throwing 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions over his first 10 games of the season. He is averaging 20.8 fantasy points per game over that span after 12.6 per game prior.
The Chiefs pass defense has sagged down the stretch from their numbers early in the season. After allowing 6.6 Y/A and nine touchdown passes through their opening eight games (15.2 fantasy points per game), opposing passers have averaged 7.5 Y/A with 20 touchdown passes against the Chiefs over their past games (23.5 points per game). They have allowed multiple touchdown passes in all eight of those games after just twice over their initial eight games.
Nick Chubb: Chubb continued his torrid production last week with 22 touches for 145 yards and a touchdown. His 69 yards receiving were a career-high last week as he caught just the third touchdown reception of his career on a 40-yard catch and run. With that touchdown, Chubb has now scored in seven straight games, the first Cleveland player to have such a streak since Bo Scott in 1970.
Chubb has now produced over 100 yards from scrimmage in nine of his 12 full games this season and in seven of his nine games since returning to the lineup in Week 10.
The Chiefs allowed 4.5 yards per carry to backs (20th) and allowed 141.8 total yards per game to opposing backfields during the season (28th), with eight different backs hitting 100 yards from scrimmage themselves against Kansas City, but oddly allowed just 10 touchdowns to opposing backs, which was tied for second in the league.
Kareem Hunt: Hunt returns to Kansas City coming off nine touches for 61 yards and two touchdowns. The two scores covered a lot of ground as he has 62 or fewer total yards in seven of his past eight games. Hunt still has games of 102, 132, and 110 yards over that span with the multiple touchdown game last week to showcase that he still has a high ceiling, but is clearly second-hand to Chubb at this point with Chubb out-touching him 69-37 over the past four games.
But if we believe this game can shootout and reach this point total, Hunt offers some upside through his volatility. When Cleveland has exploded for points or played in shootouts, Hunt has typically gone along for the ride and played a role. Cleveland has scored 30 or more points in six games this season with both Hunt and Chubb active and in those games, Hunt is averaging 13.2 touches for 77.3 yards for 19.1 PPR points per game with nine touchdowns in those contests.
Chiefs RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire is out once again Sunday with a high-ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 15. The team also has Le’Veon Bell dealing with a knee issue that they were cautious about to close the regular season. The last time that Bell was on the field in Week 16, Darrel Williams out-snapped him 47-20 and out-touched Bell 14-10.
Darwin Thompson had 110 yards and two touchdowns in Week 17 with the team getting the game out of the way, but the regular Kansas City backfield had not produced a 100-yard player in any game prior since Week 6. In the nine games after acquiring Bell Weeks 7-16, the Chiefs’ backs combined to average 22.8 touches for 105.9 total yards per game with six combined touchdowns.
The Browns have faced just 22.9 backfield touches per game this season, which is the fourth-fewest in the league, while ranking 15th in rushing points allowed per game (12.3) and sixth in receiving points allowed per game (7.2) to opposing backfields. Best bet is we see a combination of backs with Williams as the front piece, but anyone’s guess on who will get a short yardage scoring opportunity should their be goal line carries to divvy up.
Tyreek Hill: Hill sat out Week 17 with a hamstring injury and rest, but is coming off a season in which he matched a career-high with 87 receptions and set a new high with 17 touchdowns.
Hill’s usage ramped up as the season progressed. After receiving 6.8 targets per game (18.6% of the team total) through eight games, Hill averaged 11.4 targets per game over his final seven games of the season, which was good for 26.1% of the team targets in those games.
Cleveland was 18th in points allowed per game to opposing WR1 (15.3).
Hill led the NFL with nine touchdowns on targets over 15 yards downfield while the Browns have allowed a league-high 17 touchdown passes on those downfield targets this season.
Jarvis Landry: Landry has at least five receptions in six consecutive games, receiving 25.5% of the team targets over that span. Landry has also found the end zone in four of those six games after failing to score over his first 10 games played this season.
The Chiefs were solid against opposing wideouts this season, allowing a 59.6% catch rate on wideout targets, which was second in the NFL and 7.5 yards per target to the position (fifth), but just came off facing the team that ranked first and sixth in those categories a week ago.
Chiefs WRs: The Chiefs have been more dependent on running their passing game strictly through Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce this season that in years past as their ancillary pass catchers did not have many splash moments. Hill and Kelce combined to accrue 45.8% of the team’s targets, 45.7% of the receptions, 53.8% of the receiving yardage, and 40% of the touchdown receptions.
Sammy Watkins has been ruled out for Sunday with a calf injury. In the five games that Watkins missed this season already, Demarcus Robinson has seen 23 targets (19-214-2) and Mecole Hardman 17 targets (13-217-1).
Hardman caught 15 more passes this season (41) than as a rookie, but managed just 22 more receiving yards with two fewer touchdowns on those receptions. Hardman has hit 50 yards in just four games this season with more than 60 yards receiving just twice. He has four or fewer receptions in every game but one. Hardman had passed Robinson to close the season. In the final two games with this offense in full, Hardman saw 15 targets compared to just five for Robinson.
While this receiving corps has not done a ton, the matchup is right for anyone here to offer production. The Browns have allowed 14 different wide receivers to post double-digit PPR points over their past seven games.
Rashard Higgins: Higgins has had four fewer receptions in every game but three this season as the WR2, but does have a 15.1-yard average depth of target and 16.3 yards per reception when looks do come his way. Higgins has more receiving yardage than Landry in 6-of-9 games since the offense lost Odell Beckham despite the large target disparity.
Travis Kelce: Opposing teams have combated the Chiefs this season by ramping up their use of high safeties and as a partial byproduct, Kelce produced one of the greatest statistical seasons for a tight end in league history, catching 105 passes for 1,416 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averaged a career-high 13.5 yards per reception while his 9.8 yards per target were his most in a season since 2014.
Kelce enters the postseason having double-digit targets in seven of his past eight games played while catching at least seven passes in all eight of those games. The first tight end to ever have such a streak in any season.
The Browns were 28th in targets faced to opposing tight ends (7.5 per game), ranking 25th in catch rate (70.8%) and 15th in yards allowed per target (7.3) to the position, while also allowing an 8.3% touchdown rate (26th) to tight ends in the regular season then allowed Eric Ebron to post a 7-62-1 line on 11 targets on Sunday night.
Austin Hooper: Hooper has double-digit PPR points in four straight games and despite having 46 or fewer yards in seven of his eight games since returning to the lineup in Week 10, Hooper has seen his usage begin to spike with 18.8%, 28.3%, 18.5%, and 32.4% of the team targets over the past four weeks after being at 10% or lower in three of his previous four games. Hooper also leads the team with seven end zone targets since returning to action in Week 10, securing four for touchdowns.
The Chiefs were 20th in catch rate (69.6%), 22nd in yards per target (7.7) and 21st in touchdown rate (7.1%) allowed to opposing tight ends this season.
More Divisional Round Fantasy breakdowns from The Worksheet: