Cleveland Browns (0-0, 0-0 ATS) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-0, 0-0), 4:25 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Browns 24.25, Chiefs 30.25
Spread/Total Movements: 6 to 6.5 to 6, 52.5 to 54.5
Weather: 90 degrees, 10 mph, 5% chance of rain
Browns Injuries to Watch: WR Odell Beckham (knee, questionable), DE Jadeveon Clowney (non-COVID illness, questionable), S Ronnie Harrison (ankle, questionable), C JC Tretter (knee, questionable)
Chiefs Injuries to Watch: WR Mecole Hardman (oblique, probable), LB Willie Gay (toe, IR), OG Kyle Long (knee, PUP), S Tyrann Mathieu (COVID protocols, questionable)
Brolley’s Browns Stats and Trends
Cleveland hasn’t won a season opener since 2004 (0-15-1 outright).
The Chiefs beat the Browns 22-17 as 7.5-point home favorites in last season’s Divisional Round in a game totaled at 55.5 points.
The Browns are 4-1 ATS in their five games as a road underdog.
Nick Chubb has established himself as the league’s second-best pure runner behind Derrick Henry and, like Henry, he’s the focal point of his run-heavy offense. Chubb owns a career 5.2 YPC average and he’s averaging 89.1 rushing yards per game with 26 rushing TDs in 38 games since he became a full-time player halfway through his rookie season in 2018. He also had 19 catches in his final eight games (playoffs included) after he caught a measly three passes in his first seven games. Chubb might not have the best game script this week as six-point road underdogs, and he posted 13/69 rushing and 2/4 receiving against them in the postseason.
Kareem Hunt will once again be the best #2 option in any NFL backfield this season. He actually averaged slightly more FPG (13.7) with Chubb in the lineup thanks to nine TDs, but he saw his touches (13.4) and scrimmage yards (68.3) dip. Chubb also outpaced Hunt as a receiver in the final eight games of last season (playoffs included). Kevin Stefanski went out of his way to get Chubb more involved with 19/206/0 receiving in that stretch while Hunt managed just 18/168/1 receiving. The Chiefs allowed the most receiving yards per game (48.1) to RBs last season, but Hunt managed just a two-yard catch in their postseason matchup.
Baker Mayfield is still more of a distributor with a great running game, which is reflected in his QB25 finish (16.3) last season, but his play did significantly pick up at the end of the season after a rough, three-game stretch with nasty weather in Cleveland in Weeks 8-11. He threw for 15 TDs and just two INTs while averaging 272.5 passing yards per game and 7.5 YPA in his final eight games (playoffs included). Baker struggled against the Chiefs last postseason, averaging 5.5 YPA (37 attempts, 204 yards) with one TD and one INT.
Jarvis Landry is coming off career-lows in touchdowns (3), catches per game (4.8), and targets per game (6.7) even with OBJ essentially missing the final 10 games. Landry’s overall numbers were crushed when he posted just 9/104/0 receiving in three consecutive miserable weather games in the middle of 2020. He crushed it in the final seven games of the season (playoffs included) when he averaged 6.6/68.7/.7 receiving per game for a healthy 17.8 FPG in that stretch. Landry had one of the more bizarre statlines of the 2020 season against the Chiefs last season, posting 7/20/1 receiving on 10 targets.
Odell Beckham is looking to get his once promising career back on track at 28 years old after he played in just seven games before an ACL injury ended his 2020 early. Odell has received rave reviews for his recovery but it wouldn’t be surprising if he loses some snaps to Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins as they ease him back into action in Week 1. OBJ was easily off to the worst start of his career last season with 23/319/3 receiving on 42 targets in his six full games. The Chiefs allowed the second-fewest FPG (31.5) to WRs last season.-
Austin Hooper built some momentum with Baker late in their first season together when he had a run of 14+ FP in four straight games (Week 15-Wild Card) before the Chiefs stifled Hooper and the Browns’ passing attack in the Divisional Round. He managed just 2/16 receiving on three targets.
Brolley’s Chiefs Stats and Trends
Kansas City is 2-9 ATS in its last 11 games, including a 1-5 ATS mark in its last six home games.
The Chiefs have covered in four straight season openers, and they’re 6-2 ATS under Andy Reid.
Patrick Mahomes has two of the seven-best seasons in FPG by a QB. His 2018 season ranks fourth-best (26.1) and his 2020 ranks seventh-best (24.9). Mahomes is first all-time in career passer rating by a mile (108.7), and he’s finished as a top-12 QB in weekly scoring in a ridiculous 71% of his starts since 2018. He completed 21/30 passes for 255 yards and one TD against the Browns in the playoffs before leaving in the third quarter with a concussion.
Travis Kelce broke the NFL’s single-season TE yardage record with 1416 yards in 2020, and he needed just 15 games to do it. His 20.9 FPG were the most all-time by a tight end, breaking Rob Gronkowski’s previous record from the 2011 season (20.7 FPG). Kelce posted 8/109/1 receiving on 10 targets against the Browns in the playoffs last season.
Tyreek Hill has finished as a top-12 fantasy WR in each of the last four year with FPG finishes of: WR7 > WR4 > WR12 > WR2. He leads all players in receptions (45), yards (1,718), and TDs (19) on targets of 20 or more yards downfield since Mahomes took over as a quarterback in 2018. Tyreek recorded 8/110 receiving on 10 targets against the Browns last season.
Mecole Hardman has been a role player through his first two seasons, but fantasy owners are hoping that changes with Sammy Watkins gone — Demarcus Robinson could still be a thorn in his side in two-WR sets. His 7.8 FPG last ranked him as the overall WR82, and he finished as a top-36 weekly WR just three times in 16 games. Hardman caught all four of his targets for 58 yards against the Browns last postseason.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s rookie season got derailed by an ankle injury and by the acquisition of Le’Veon Bell as his touches per game dropped from 21.3 through six weeks to just 11.9 the rest of the season. He still averaged 84.6 scrimmage yards per game but his five touchdowns left a lot to be desired. CEH is hoping to bust out this season behind a revamped offensive line. He missed the Chiefs’ matchup with the Browns last postseason as Darrel Williams stepped in and posted 17/94 scrimmage.
Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.3 (23rd)
Plays per game: 63.3 (20th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 52.5% (28th) | Run: 47.5% (5th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 43.3% (26th) | Run: 56.7% (7th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 60.8% (29th) | Run: 39.2% (4th)
Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.7 (9th)
Plays per game: 65.7 (8th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 62% (5th) | Run: 38% (28th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 56.6% (6th) | Run: 43.4% (27th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 71.3% (3rd) | Run: 28.7% (30th)
The Browns and Chiefs might have two different identities on offense, but they both do them well. The Browns were among the most run-heavy offenses in the league in HC Kevin Stefanski’s first season, ranking top-8 in run rate in all three key game situations. Their run-first tendencies culminated in a whopping 432 carries for their running backs, which tied the Vikings for second-most. Of course, the question on Opening Day is just how long can the Browns rely on the run with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense breathing down their necks? Cleveland had this exact game-script play out in their 22-17 Divisional Round loss to Kansas City last year, with Baker Mayfield dropping back to pass 38 times compared to just 13 runs for Nick Chubb and 6 for Kareem Hunt. With the Chiefs airing it out and pushing the pace, I think we’ll see a similar game-script in Week 1 with the Browns having to chase the game and throw to catch-up.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
This game is lined with the highest total of the week at 54 points, so one would think that’s good news for Browns WR Odell Beckham. It might well be, but keep in mind that his matchup with CB Charvarius Ward is one of the most “underrated” difficult matchups in the NFL. He was the top overall coverage man in adjusted yards per coverage snap a year ago. It’s also a tough matchup for WR Jarvis Landry with CB L’Jarius Sneed, though it’s not as tough a draw as Beckham gets with Ward.
I actually do believe, based on the Chiefs’ coverage tendencies and the history of QB Baker Mayfield, that this is a good spot to use Mayfield, and the projected total would suggest the same.
A key note to make is that Chief DB Tyrann Mathieu is on the COVID-19 list and is uncertain to go for Sunday. That would impact the production of Browns TE Austin Hooper, a player both the team and Mayfield have said they anticipate getting more involved this year.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Chiefs are the Chiefs. You know you’re playing Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce as all, arguably, the #1 players at their given positions. With RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire recently declaring himself “100% healthy” and improved in areas where he was deficient as a rookie, he’s a safe RB2 with upside. I will be keeping an eye on the rotation behind CEH between Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon.
#Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire is content with where is pass pro is trending — and he noted that offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is happy with it. Also said that Patrick Mahomes trusts him, which is the biggest thing.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) September 8, 2021
If I’m playing a Chief receiver outside of Hill, it will be Mecole Hardman, who popped up on the injury report this week with an oblique. It doesn’t appear serious, but in the event he can’t go, Byron Pringle ends up on the FLEX radar.
For Cleveland, it’s interesting that we’re so interested in what might be an improved offense, but don’t really have folks we can trust. The guy I want in my lineup the most is actually Baker Mayfield, whom we have ranked as a top-10 QB this week because of the shootout potential. If I’m pairing him with a receiver, it’s Jarvis Landry as a WR3. We likely have Odell Beckham lower than the rest of the industry — he’s a WR4 for us, though playing him is defensible. He’s just a player who has screwed us multiple times. Keep an eye on training camp star Donovan Peoples-Jones. He’s not a Week 1 option, but he apparently was earning plenty of looks from Mayfield.
The Chiefs hemorrhaged points to RBs last year, mostly because they view defending the pass as more important than defending the run. That’s justifiable, but it’s a tough thing to do against Cleveland, which might have the best RB duo in the NFL in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Look, you drafted Chubb in Rd. 2 despite concerns about his receiving production, so you’re playing him — we have him as an RB1 this week. But given the shootout potential, Hunt in a #RevengeGame as a low-end RB2/high-end FLEX is also a justifiable play. The Chiefs did stymie him in the playoffs last year, though, holding him to just 2 receiving yards.
If I’m streaming TEs, and I might not be this early in the season, I will look to Austin Hooper. The Browns commented that they wanted to get him more involved in 2021, and Chief S Tyrann Mathieu (COVID) might not be able to suit up.
Andy Reid on Tyrann Mathieu, who is still in the NFL's COVID protocol: "We'll just see how things go."— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) September 10, 2021