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Browns need flawless effort to threaten Chiefs in playoff game on Yahoo Sports app

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The Cleveland Browns pulled off the biggest stunner of the NFL’s wild-card round, jumping out to a 28-0 lead while running roughshod over the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers for Cleveland’s first playoff win since the 1994 season.

Their reward?

A considerably tougher task in a trip to Arrowhead Stadium to face reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Browns and Chiefs kick off the Sunday slate of divisional-round playoff football in a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield meet after the Chiefs' 37-21 win against the Browns on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Patrick Mahomes in his prime presents a much tougher task than a struggling Ben Roethlisberger. (John Sleezer/Getty Images)

Do Browns have a chance?

Expectations are low for the Browns. They’re the weekend’s biggest NFL underdog with the Chiefs opening as 10-point favorites. As impressive as Cleveland was against Pittsburgh, Kansas City presents an entirely different challenge.

The Browns won last weekend thanks in large part to their 5-0 edge in turnovers. Cleveland pounced on Pittsburgh’s mistakes while playing nearly flawless offensive football. If it’s going to have any chance on Sunday, it’ll need to run back that same formula.

Chiefs are rested, mostly healthy

Kansas City’s offense is the same juggernaut that anchored last season’s Super Bowl run, leading the league in yardage while posting 29.6 points per game. Mahomes may not win MVP this year thanks to a resurgent to Aaron Rodgers but he has been the same MVP-level quarterback while throwing for 316 yards per game with 38 touchdowns and six interceptions.

With Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill in their primes, the well-rested Chiefs are primed to feast on the Browns’ 17th-ranked defense.

Kansas City averaged just one turnover per game during the regular season, tied for fourth-best in the league. This is all to hammer home that the Browns need to catch some breaks and make them count.

Cleveland’s almost all the way back from COVID shutdown

The good news for the Browns is that they come into Sunday’s game in considerably better shape than last week. After playing without Kevin Stefanski on the sideline, the Browns have their head coach back at practice after his bout with COVID-19. Just being back at practice is a leg up over last week.

Cleveland couldn’t practice leading up to the wild-card round because of a coronavirus outbreak. They’re mostly back to normal this week. And they’ll have No. 1 cornerback Denzel Ward, who’s expected to play Sunday after a self-described “rough” bout with COVID-19. They also activated backup cornerback Kevin Johnson from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

As of Thursday, Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio was the only active member of Cleveland’s roster remaining on the reserve/COVID-19 list. According to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, he’s expected to return in time to play Sunday. Either way, the Browns won’t be facing Mahomes and Co. with a depleted secondary.

The Chiefs famously dug double-digit holes in each of their three playoff wins last season en route to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The Browns have a red-hot offense helmed by a confident Baker Mayfield that’s certainly capable of putting up points early and often Sunday.

Can they score enough to keep things close enough and threaten an upset? It’s a big ask against the best offense in football with head coach Andy Reid given an extra week to prepare.

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