Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs Odds & Pick

January 17, 3:05 PM EST

Betting Odds

Point Spread: 
CLE +10/KC -10

The Cleveland Browns take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. The Chiefs are nice and rested, having sat some guys in a meaningless week 17 game while also having last week off as the AFC top seed. Meanwhile, the Browns have been slugging it out, first confirming their playoff stature with a win over Pittsburgh before repeating the win last week against the same Steelers team in the wild card round. Can they continue their roll in Arrowhead, or will the defending Super Bowl champs announce their arrival into the postseason with an emphatic showing?

KC More Beatable This Year?

We have some contrasting data as to whether this Chiefs team is more beatable than last season's title-winning team. On the one hand, they've always looked like the class of the league this season, the one team that stayed on top while other contenders battled it out for the remaining spots. They won ten in a row before losing a throwaway game in week 17. Patrick Mahomes had another MVP-worthy season, Travis Kelce broke the record for yards by a tight end, and the rest of the offense was in top form.

But when going against offenses like what Cleveland can bring to the table, some mind has to be paid to defense. And while the Chiefs have some things to like on that side of the ball, it's obviously the weak-point of the team. And even with Frank Clark, Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones, and others, they're not always particularly stout. And it's a big reason why in the last eight games, their 32-29 win over the Saints as 2.5-point favorites is their only cover in that span.

Reasons to Fear the Browns

Firstly, they've gained some momentum, and even if that came in the form of two straight wins over a slipping Steelers team, it has been impressive, particularly last week's showing where they blew up for 48 points. For them to be able to deliver that type of performance on the road and in this heightened context shows that they at least have some underdog appeal. Just by virtue of going against a less-than-premier defense with all these offensive tools alone makes them an X-factor in this matchup.

With Mayfield dialed in and not undermining his team with mistakes, they can really do damage. The 1-2 punch of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb gives them a lot of balance offensively, and Chubb's legs are looking really lively this postseason. With ample aerial talent like Jarvis Landry, their two backs, Austin Hooper, Rashard Higgins, and others, it's a deep cast of difference-makers. One concern is that at the end of the season and even in the Wild Card round, the offensive line started suffering some setbacks and enters this spot a little banged-up.

Why This Will Be Hard For Cleveland

Kansas City is nice and refreshed after phoning it in on week 17 and having last week off. Though sometimes, a team can be caught cold by an opponent that is more battle-tempered as of late. But this being on the road in Arrowhead against a rested Chiefs team presents a lot of problems. And while the Browns have a certain amount of upside with their high-octane offense, some issues should manifest on the field on Sunday.

Cleveland has a strong defensive front that could pay off on Sunday. But with Mahomes dishing off to guys like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and others, the state of the Cleveland pass-defense comes into focus. Shaky, even under ideal conditions, Cleveland is now even more banged-up, missing three starters, including their top two corners. It's hard imagining that not presenting some problems on Sunday. After allowing 47 completions last week from Ben Roethlisberger, a potential Cleveland backer this week would almost have to put the blinders on to not cringe at this matchup quirk.

When we look at Cleveland's best avenue to an upset win, one would cite how the Browns' offense matches up with the Kansas City defense. But it might actually be the Cleveland defense that will be more up against it this week. In a game like this, where the Browns would need all their power to surface, extra deficiencies in the area that defends against what the Chiefs do best just might be too much to overcome. And while they're not totally lost with an offense that can at least theoretically hang with the Chiefs in a footrace, their margin for error is a lot smaller than Kansas City's.

Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs Prediction 1/17/21

Cleveland showed a lot of moxie getting to this spot, not to mention a lot of offense. When looking for these little X-factor upset candidates, the Browns check a lot of boxes. They're a wide-range team that can be pretty hard to stop on the high end of that range. There are just certain matchup components within this game that might be too hard for the Browns to buck. I don't think that the Browns' secondary can come up with the right answers. It's going to take a lot of twists and turns in Cleveland's favor to keep this one from getting out of hand. I'm taking Kansas City at home.

Free Pick: 
Take the Chiefs -10