WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
Kamerion Wimbley is the big name here, but with only 6.5 sacks he's hardly someone the Chiefs need to be overly concerned with. The greater threat is the blitz schemes Cleveland's defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, employs. They will confuse any protection scheme that isn't prepared.
This was the case a week ago when the Steelers couldn't handle the multiple looks the Browns gave them, resulting in eight sacks of Ben Roethlisberger. The Browns love to stack the line of scrimmage with defenders, at times even bringing men from the secondary to apply pressure. Fifteen different Browns have accounted for Cleveland's 32 sacks this season, so the Chiefs will need to be ready.
If the Chiefs can block the Browns, there are yards to be taken, because Cleveland's secondary lacks a standout player. Injuries have even forced wide receiver Mike Furrey into a role as a defensive back. The Browns' cornerbacks are all on the smallish side, so there's the potential for Dwayne Bowe, in his first game back from suspension, to use that to his advantage.
With just six interceptions and 46 plays of 20 or more yards surrendered this season, there's no mistaking Cleveland's pass defense for a unit to be feared. But as pedestrian as they made the Steelers and Roethlisberger look a week ago, if the Chiefs and Matt Cassel aren't on their game, there is the potential for an ugly game.
WHEN THE BROWNS PASS
When the Browns traded wide receiver Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets earlier this season, they effectively threw their hands up as far as their passing game was concerned. Without Edwards, the Browns lack even a single proven playmaker at wide receiver. There's some talent with Mohamed Massaquoi, who has some speed and size, and Chansi Stuckey is dangerous in the open field, but there's just not much to fear here.
The difficult matchup for the Chiefs may come when Josh Cribbs, Cleveland's standout kick returner, gets the ball in space. For some reason, the Browns don't make much of an effort to throw Cribbs the ball, but instead feature him as a runner. In this role, Cribbs is dangerous against almost any of the Chiefs' defenders, and particularly KC's safeties.
With the Browns finally appearing to commit to quarterback Brady Quinn, he has turned in some of his best performances recently. Though his season statistics are disappointing, seven of Quinn's eight touchdown passes have come in the last month and he hasn't thrown an interception since November 16.
Quinn doesn't appear to be a stereotypical young quarterback anymore – he knows where to go with the ball, gets it out on time and doesn't appear to have a huge problem reading defenses. He's only been sacked 19 times this season, but the fact just five of his passes have been intercepted is amazing considering the Browns have no wide receivers, no running game and don't pass protect all that well.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
Wondering why the Browns rank 29th in run defense? Just look at the middle of their defense, where they have two rookies starting at inside linebacker, a second-year backup nose tackle who came out of the sixth round of the draft, and no enforcer at safety. When you combine that with Cleveland's terrible offense, which has placed their defense on the field for more plays than all but two other teams, it's not hard to see why they struggle to stop the run.
Because the Browns have absolutely no one who can run with Jamaal Charles, there is the potential here for a big game from Kansas City's rushing attack. The only real burner Cleveland has faced at running back all year? Adrian Peterson, and he put 180 yards on the Browns. But even the plod-footed Larry Johnson racked up over 100 yards on this defense. If the Chiefs can't run on Cleveland, something is wrong.
WHEN THE BROWNS RUN
The lack of explosive playmakers in Cleveland's passing game is only magnified by the lack of explosive playmakers in their backfield. At the least, Jamal Lewis could run with power, but he's out for the season. His backup, Jerome Harrison, is about as average as they come – not particularly fast, not particularly big. Throw in Cleveland's poor run blocking, and it's obvious why the longest run by a Browns' running back this season is 21 yards.
In a desperate attempt to move the ball, the Browns have handed the ball to kick returner Josh Cribbs 42 times this season, including 23 carries in the last five weeks alone. Cribbs will get the ball on a reverse, from the wildcat formation, perhaps even lined up as a true running back. As previously stated, Cribbs is a mismatch in the open field against just about of the Chiefs' defenders, and what's truly shocking is his ability to break tackles. He's built compactly at 215 pounds and isn't afraid to use a stiff arm.
Because the Chiefs aren't likely to build a huge lead against the Browns, Cribbs may see more action in Cleveland's running game Sunday than ever before. After an 87-yard game against the Steelers in Week 13, he's capable of going off against Kansas City.
How electrifying is Josh Cribbs as a kick returner? Against Pittsburgh, he fumbled a punt return only to pick it up and run it back up the field, nearly scoring a touchdown. While the Chiefs have covered kicks well this season, punting in the cold at Arrowhead Stadium is always a challenge. Sunday may be a day when Cribbs can take advantage and give the Browns favorable field position. Cleveland's kickoff coverage units are among the best in the league, and placekicker Phil Dawson has missed just once this season.
While Scott Pioli lauded his head coach on Kansas City radio this week, rumors in Cleveland focused on Mike Holmgren potentially taking over as President of Football Operations. Will that be on Eric Mangini's mind Sunday? The return of Dwayne Bowe may energize the Chiefs.
The Chiefs are a different team on offense with Dwayne Bowe. For perhaps the first time all season, the edge in playmakers goes to Kansas City. Surely that will be enough to beat a team that lost to the Detroit Lions?
Chiefs 20, Browns 13
The Matchups - Chiefs vs Browns
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