|Browns Odds||+5.5 (-110)|
|Chiefs Odds||-5.5 (-110)|
|Time||4:25 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
Patrick Mahomes doesn’t have bad games.
Since taking over as quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018, Mahomes has been one of the league’s most consistent players, leading his team to a 44-10 record without ever losing by double digits or failing to score at least 13 points.
That all changed in Super Bowl LV, a game in which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were downright dominant, winning 31-9 on their way to their first championship since 2002.
Nevertheless, the Chiefs hope to bounce back and avoid the dreaded Super Bowl hangover as they host Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns in a rematch of their AFC Divisional Round playoff matchup where the Chiefs were fortunate to escape with a 22-17 victory as Chad Henne led them to victory after Mahomes left the game with a concussion.
With a new season on the horizon, these are clearly two of the AFC’s premier teams in 2021. The Chiefs are poised to make their third straight Super Bowl, while the Browns appear to be the team that sharp bettors and analysts are predicting to take the leap into a contender.
Still, oddsmakers opened the Kansas City Chiefs as 6.5-point favorites with a total of 52.5 before sharp money pushed the side to 5.5 and the total to 54.5.
So where is the betting value for this matchup?
Let’s find out!
Football season is here but that hasn’t necessarily been the most exciting news for fans of the Cleveland Browns over the years as they’re they’re 0-15-1 straight up in their last 16 season openers. A big part of their struggles in opening games is the lack of continuity at both quarterback and the coaching staff, and thus things could be different this season as the Browns are in their second season with head coach Kevin Stefanski who led them to an 11-5 record in 2020, their most successful season since 1994.
In the second year of Stefanski’s system it’s easy to see how Baker Mayfield could take a step forward and potentially lead this team to a Super Bowl. For starters, they have arguably the best offensive line in the league with J.C. Tretter, Wyatt Teller and Jack Conklin — and the right duo of running backs to take advantage of it with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Chubb and Hunt rushed for 5.1 yards per carry in their playoff matchup against the Chiefs and we could see them have just as much success against them in this matchup as well. Unlike their divisional round game, the offensive line will actually be healthy as they’d had the unfortunate luck of losing both tackles with Jedrick Wills Jr. getting injured on the first drive of that game before losing Kendall Lamm shortly thereafter.
The success of the running game will set up the play action, which the Browns called on 29% of their drop backs last season and is a big part of their success offensively. Mayfield is almost a completely different quarterback when the Browns use play action. According to PFF, Mayfield has a higher completion percentage, more yards per attempt and throws less interceptable passes.
With the return of Odell Beckham Jr. they’ll have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the Chiefs cheating to stop the run and create explosive plays in the passing game. The Browns should be able to match Mahomes point for point against a suspect Chiefs defense.
It’s the other side of the ball where the Browns have made the biggest improvement, which should give them a chance at winning this game. After finishing 25th in Defensive Efficiency, the Browns replaced Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi with Jadeveon Clowney and Malik Jackson. Clowney did have a case of the flu this week and while he’s expected to play, it’s unlikely he’ll be 100%. Still, this is unit that will be able to create some pressure without blitzing.
The secondary is also improved with the signing of John Johnson III, as well as the return of Grant Delpit to play with Greg Newsome II, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. It will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Joe Woods can build schemes to utilize all the new talent and slow down this Chiefs offense.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is coming off the worst game of his career in Super Bowl LV but unlike the Cleveland Browns, fans should be excited to see September come around where their starting quarterback holds a 10-0 record while throwing zero interceptions.
Given his 38-8 record in the regular season since taking over as quarterback of the Chiefs, you won’t find many people willing to bet against him. Unfortunately for bettors, that didn’t bode well last season as the Chiefs only covered the spread in seven of their 14 wins, the least since the 1990 San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs were also 8-1 in one-score games, which is something that tends to regress year-to-year, so they were quite lucky last season.
Still, this team is the favorite to win the Lombardi Trophy and most are expecting Kansas City to buck the Super Bowl hangover and compete for a championship.
The combination of Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce on a team coached by Andy Reid is tough to beat, and it’s not a surprise that the Chiefs have eclipsed their win total for the past eight seasons. It’s hard to find much wrong with this offense given the presence of Mahomes, Hill and Kelce, but it is clear this team is lacking dominant receiving threats outside of Hill. While Mecole Hardman is next in line, it remains to be seen if he can be a true No. 2.
This is a team with both a high floor and a high ceiling, and they’ve addressed their issues on the offensive line that hurt them in the Super Bowl, allowing Eric Fisher to walk and upgrading at left tackle by acquiring Orlando Brown Jr. They also signed LG Joe Thuney and drafted center Creed Humphrey and guard Trey Smith. With a rebuilt offensive line, that should provide Mahomes time that he didn’t have in the Super Bowl.
If the line can hold up, we could see a typical Chiefs offensive performance, and given Mahomes’ numbers against the blitz it’s unlikely we’ll see the Browns bring it all that much. Against the blitz in 2020, Mahomes had a 129.4 passer rating, 68.6% completion percentage with 18 touchdowns against just two picks.
We know the Chiefs offense is dominant but the real issues come on the defensive side of the ball where they were 22nd in defensive efficiency and ranked 31st against the run, which is a troubling sign against one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL.
In addition, this unit struggled in play action to finish last season, allowing 8.3 yards per play and 11.2 yards per attempt in play action with 12 personnel, things that the Browns thrive at. The Chiefs just don’t grade out well metrically in key areas defensively such as Team Run Stop Win Rate (29%) and Team Pass Rush Win Rate (42%), where they rank just 26th and 18th, respectively.
Even more troubling are the defensive injuries for the Chiefs. For starters, they lost linebacker Willie Gay Jr., who is one of their best linebackers in coverage. He’ll be replaced by Ben Niemann who gives up a 122 passer rating while in coverage.
The Chiefs are fully capable of winning a touchdown-fest with Mahomes, Hill and Kelce but at some point, you need you defense to make stops and it’s possible we could see their 8-1 record in one score games regress to the mean starting here.
We’ve all read the trends: Cleveland’s struggles during the opening week of the season, Mahomes is a beast in the month of September and, more importantly, Andy Reid in Week 1. In Week 1 with the Chiefs, Reid is 7-1 straight up, 6-2 ATS with six straight wins and four straight covers. How can anyone bet against that?
Well I’m here to tell you that I’m fading those trends. I’m not a fan of blindly betting trends because they’re not truly predictive, they just tell us what happened in the past. Just as there’s a trend on Reid in Week 1, there’s one to support the Browns in this spot. The loser of the Super Bowl is 4-17 ATS in the last 20 openers the following season with the 49ers losing outright in Week 1 last year to the Cardinals.
The truth of the matter is this: Sharp money hit the Browns at +6.5 and +6, pushing this line down to where it sits now at +5.5 for good reason. The Browns are a legitimate Super Bowl contender with real advantages in this matchup. They’re a team with an offense that’s based on running the ball and play action, areas in which the Chiefs struggle.
Although the Chiefs have a high floor given the presence of Mahomes, we’ve seen this team lose to the Las Vegas Raiders, who like to run the ball and dominate the time of possession. Take a look at the box score of their Week 5 loss against the Raiders last season. I believe we could see a similar result.
I played the Browns at +6.5 earlier in the week but I believe they can win this game outright. I’m not typically in favor of playing games off key numbers but in this case I think it’s still worthy of a bet at the current number. I’ll take the Browns +5.5 and ML +225.