The 7-1 Kansas City Chiefs are firmly atop the AFC West by two games, and they go into Cleveland in Week 9 after handing the Denver Broncos a 30-23 loss in Week 8. The Chiefs’ normally weak defense showed up against the Broncos, sacking their quarterback Case Keenum five times and picking him off once.
Chiefs’ second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes seems unstoppable, leading the league in passing yards (2,526) and touchdowns (26). Mahomes is kept safe by his offensive line, who have only allowed 10 sacks all season, and he’s thrown only 6 interceptions, tied for 12th overall. The Chiefs, who score a league best 36.2 points per game, will face a Browns team that only puts up 21.1 points per game – only eight NFL teams score less.
What makes the Cleveland Browns interesting in Week 9 is certainly not their unimpressive 2-5-1 record or even their highly impressive first-pick-overall rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. What will be fun to watch is how the team responds to having both their head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley fired immediately after their Week 8 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 18-33.
Football fans watched those two go at each other during episodes of HBO’s Hard Knocks that featured the Browns during their training camp, so few were surprised to see owner Jimmy Haslem and general manager John Dorsey announce their forced departure. How will the Browns respond to their new interim head coach, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and their new interim offensive play caller, Freddie Kitchens, who was promoted from running backs coach?
If the Chiefs win this matchup, they’ll move to 8-1 and stay firmly atop the AFC West. But if the Browns pull off a miracle and come out with a win, they’ll be 3-5-1 and the whole AFC North will wonder if their new leadership will continue to make a difference.
Who’s favored to win this Week 9 Chiefs-Browns matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
We’re going to compare the Chiefs and the Browns and attempt to answer those questions and more.
The 2018 Chiefs offense outstanding
When it comes to overall production, the Chiefs have a top-three offense that averages 425.2 yards from scrimmage per game. Mahomes, receivers Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and company average a fourth-best 310.4 passing yards every outing. Last year’s All-Rookie running back Kareem Hunt has run for 592 yards this season, the fourth most total rushing yards in the NFL.
And then add to all those offensive weapons the receiving skills of tight end Travis Kelce, a Second-team All-Pro last season who has caught 44 balls this season for 642 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Browns are ranked 26th against the pass, having allowed opponents to pass for an average of 275.6 yards per game, so expect the Chiefs to move the ball down the field at will.
The 2018 Browns offense brand new
The Browns offense is young, with rookies starting at quarterback (Baker Mayfield), running back (Nick Chubb), wide receiver (Antonio Callaway) and at left tackle (Desmond Harrison). They usually fail to score in the first quarter (they average 1.8 points per first quarter, league worst) and the first half (they average 5.8 points per first half, league’s third-worst) and they allow Mayfield to be sacked 20 times in five-and-a-half games.
Discord between Jackson, who called the offensive plays last season, and Haley, who called them this season, ultimately led to their firing, so it will be interesting to see how Mayfield runs his offense without having to endure that kind of drama. With three of his receivers on injured reserve and a fourth, Rashard ‘Hollywood’ Higgins (knee) week-to-week, Mayfield will depend primarily on veteran Jarvis Landry and rookie Callaway.
Tight ends David Njoku and Darren Fells have also been dependable targets. Njoku has caught 31 passes for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns this season, while Fells has gone 6-for-7 for 90 yards and a touchdown.
For Cleveland to have a chance at beating Kansas City, they’ll have to figure out how to turn their field goals and opponents’ turnovers into touchdowns. If Mayfield’s Browns can’t match Mahomes’ Chiefs score-for-score, the game could get out of control well before the second half.
Chiefs Defense ranks 31st in the league, Browns D ranks 28th
Despite both teams’ defenses ranking in the NFL basement, they’re similarly great in one important category – preventing third-down conversions. Kansas City allows opponents to convert on only 34.0 percent of their third downs, ranked fifth overall, while Cleveland only allows 34.9 percent, ranked sixth.
The Chiefs defense has sacked opponents 24.0 times, tied for second most, while the Browns have a total of 20.0 sacks, tied for 16th. The Chiefs have 8 interceptions, tied for eleventh, while the Browns have a league-leading 12. Whichever defense ends up disrupting the opposing quarterback the most will give their own offense a major advantage.
A fun matchup to watch will be Browns disruptive rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, tied for second-most NFL picks with 3, against the Chiefs’ speedy Tyreek Hill. With Chiefs’ safety Eric Berry (heel) still day-to-day, Jordan Lucas will most likely continue to see more playing time in the Kansas City secondary.
Special Teams Stats Comparison
Kansas City’s 14-year veteran punter, Dustin Colquitt, has been a Chief his whole career and so far, he’s punted 21 times for a net average of 42.4 yards per punt, ranked fifth in the league.
Cleveland’s punter, Britton Colquitt (and Chief Dustin’s brother), is in his third year and has punted 59 times (most in the league) for a net average of 38.1 yards per punt, ranked 26th in the league.
Kansas City’s placekicker, Harrison Butker, was an All-Rookie last season and so far he’s 13-for-14, his longest was a 46-yarder. He has missed one extra point attempt (35/36).
Cleveland’s front office hired rookie placekicker, Greg Joseph, after the Browns initial kicker missed critical field goals and extra points in the first two games. So far, he’s 10-for-12, his longest was a 45-yarder. He has missed two extra point attempts (6/8).
Kansas City’s punt returner, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, is ranked 6th in the league in return average. He’s returned 12 punts for 175 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 14.6 yards per return, his longest for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Cleveland’s punt returner, safety Jabrill Peppers, is ranked 19th in the league. He’s returned 17 kicks for 172 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 10.1 yards per return, his longest being 33 yards.
Chiefs–Browns prediction and odds
The oddsmakers have the Chiefs favored over the Browns by 9 with an over/under of 51.0.
CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:
Pete Prisco goes with the over and has it Chiefs 32, Browns 20.
John Breech takes the even and predicts it Chiefs 31, Browns 20.