Oskeim Sports previews Sunday’s NFL Divisional Round matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. Oskeim provides a free NFL pick in the game; be sure to check out the online store for more winning NFL picks!
Let’s begin by looking at what the Browns accomplished last week in their shocking upset over Pittsburgh. Cleveland didn’t practice until 48 before the kick-off last Sunday due to COVID-19 issues (held virtual team meetings instead).
Despite missing head coach Kevin Stefanski, Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio, edge rusher Olivier Vernon and top cornerback Denzel Ward, the Browns left Heinz Field with a convincing 48-37 win and a date with the defending Super Bowl champions.
The key in this game will be Cleveland’s ability to control the line of scrimmage with a ground attack that is ranked 8th in the league in Rush DVOA (-0.8%). Cleveland’s offensive line is ranked 4th in Running Back Yards (4.91), 4th in Open Field Yards (1.10), and 1st in Second Level Yards (1.45). Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ defense is ranked 24th in Weighted Total DVOA (4.9%), including 31st in Rush DVOA (2.6%).
Kansas City’s front seven has allowed opposing running backs an average of 3.0 yards per carry before first contact this season and rank 25th in Adjusted Line Yards (4.67) so Cleveland tailbacks Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are poised to have productive games on Sunday. Cleveland’s offensive line also did an excellent job protecting quarterback Baker Mayfield last week against Pittsburgh.
Mayfield was pressured on just 19.4% of his dropbacks (the lowest rate for any quarterback last weekend) despite missing two starting offensive linemen and the Chiefs’ defense is below-average in Adjusted Sack Rate (6.2%, 18th). From Weeks 12 to 17, Mayfield ranked No. 5 in the NFL in QBR (79.6%) and threw three touchdown passes without a turnover in his first career playoff start.
Cleveland welcomed back starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson, who were both activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list after missing the past two games. Ward led the NFL during the regular season with 16 passes defended despite missing four games. Stefanski, who tested positive for the virus last week and missed the Wild-Card Round game in Pittsburgh, is also expected to rejoin the team by Thursday.
Since 2004, NFL Divisional Round underdogs are a profitable 22-11-1 ATS against No. 1 seeds, generating a 28.5% return on investment. Divisional home favorites of 6 or more points are just 17-19-1 ATS since 2006, while Divisional Round road teams are an incredible 21-8-1 ATS on Sundays over that span.
Grab the points with the Browns as Oskeim Sports’ Free NFL Pick for Sunday, January 17.