The Cleveland Browns are making the most of their first postseason appearance since 2002, facing the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs Sunday.
The Browns, who stunned the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round, opened as low as +7.5 NFL betting underdogs at Kansas City midway through their blowout win last Sunday night. However, the NFL odds markets quickly tacked on extra points, with this line currently at Cleveland +10.
Here are our NFL free picks and predictions for Browns vs. Chiefs on January 17, with kickoff at 3:05 p.m. ET.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Betting Preview
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Browns: Olivier Vernon DE (Out), Odell Beckham Jr. WR (Out).
Chiefs: Willie Gay LB (Out), Rashad Fenton CB (Out), Sammy Watkins WR (Out), Clyde Edwards-Helaire RB (Out), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif G (Out), Damien Williams RB (Out).
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Betting Trend to Know
The Chiefs are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games as favorites. Find more NFL betting trends for Browns vs. Chiefs.
Against the Spread (ATS) Pick
The extra points on this spread started to show up as the Browns gave up gains in the second half of the win over Pittsburgh. Cleveland, which jumped out to a 28-0 lead and finished the day with five takeaways (four INTs), definitely took its foot off the gas in the second half and was outscored 27-13 in the final 30 minutes.
While we won’t see the same offensive explosion from the Browns in the Divisional Round – as the Chiefs won’t give them that many extra cracks at the football – the base of that blowout win is Cleveland’s greatest strength: the run game.
The combo of Nick Chubb and former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt combined for 206 total yards of offense and three touchdowns in the Wild Card victory and are the best rushing duo in the NFL. The downhill style of Chubb and the ankle-breaking wheels of Hunt make a dynamic attack that is just as good catching the ball as they are on handoffs.
Kansas City wrapped the regular season 21st in rushing yards allowed (122.1 per game) and ranked 31st in rushing defense DVOA at Football Outsiders. It also gave up an NFL-high 846 yards receiving to running backs on 93 catches—9.1 yards per reception to the position.
Controlling tempo and possession is only part of the puzzle when it comes to beating Patrick Mahomes & Co. and eating TOP alone won’t do it—you need to score too. Luckily for Cleveland, it rarely leaves money on the table when in a position to score. The Browns rank fourth in red-zone TD percentage (scoring touchdowns on over 72 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line) and as they showed against Pittsburgh, can cash in off mistakes and takeaways.
The Chiefs looked disinterested at the end of the year, boasting a slim +3.85 margin of victory between Week 9 and Week 16 before packing it in for a meaningless Week 17 matchup. Kansas City went just 1-6 ATS in that span, including fall short of three double-digit spreads.
There’s a risk of a letdown after such a big win for the Browns, but that fear was also there last weekend after they qualified for the tournament by the skin of their teeth. Cleveland is “feeling dangerous” heading into Arrowhead with all these points.
PREDICTION: Cleveland +10 (-110)
As mentioned, I don’t see Cleveland hitting 40s on the scoreboard again and the last thing the Browns want is to get into a shootout with Mahomes. I initially liked the Under in this game and now that the number has climbed from 54.5 points to 57, I like it even more.
Outside of using their dual-threat RBs as much as they can, the Browns passing game will want to pick apart K.C. in the middle of the field and tack on the YAC gains. Jarvis Landry is the go-to target across the middle who can add those yards after the catch and TE Austin Hooper has really emerged as a weapon over the past month.
The Chiefs secondary allowed a total of 2,085 yards after the catch this year (fifth-most in the league and more than Jacksonville and the Jets), which means when Baker Mayfield does connect on throws it will be within the hash marks, keeping the clock ticking.
On defense, Cleveland wants to keep everything in front of it, which can be tough with the gaps at safety right now. While the defense gets a huge boost from the return of star CB Denzel Ward and top slot corner Kevin Johnson, the Browns will rely on Myles Garrett and this front four to hurry Mahomes and stop those homerun plays from developing.
Mahomes was sacked only 22 times all season but 10 of those came in his last five games. Anytime teams have had success against the Chiefs, it’s come when getting hits on Mahomes. The loss of stud rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has taken a lot of the bite out of this K.C. rushing game, with Le'Veon Bell picking up just four yards per carry and Damien Williams getting limited snaps.
Cleveland could let it rip with the pass rush and make this ho-hum ground game do the damage. Going Under the rising total of 57 points.
PREDICTION: Under 57 (-110)
First Quarter Pick
The Chiefs have been in hibernation mode for a while now, sleepwalking through the final weeks of the season (outside of that showdown with New Orleans in Week 15) and putting their feet up with one of the exclusive first-round byes in the postseason.
Just like me getting off the couch after 11 hours of watching football each Sunday, Kansas City could be a little slow going in the opening frame. The Chiefs do have a bad habit of slow starts (we all remember last year’s Divisional Round game versus Houston) and scored just 10 total points in the four first quarters between Week 13 and Week 16 before sitting the starters in Week 17.
Cleveland, on the other hand, is riding the momentum of its Wild Card win, erupting for 28 points in the opening frame of that game. Over the last three games, the Browns have scored a combined 40 first-quarter points while giving up just seven points against in those frames.
While winning this one outright is going to take a perfect effort from Baker and the Browns, they could have the edge on the scoreboard after 15 minutes Sunday.
PREDICTION: Cleveland first-quarter moneyline (+220)
Browns vs Chiefs Betting Card
- Cleveland +10 (-110)
- Under 57 (-110)
- Cleveland first-quarter moneyline (+220)
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