The Kansas City Chiefs stared adversity in the face in last year's NFL playoffs, and surged all the way to a Super Bowl win. They have earned themselves the #1 seed in the AFC with a 14-2 record, and now they begin their quest for a repeat as they host the Cleveland Browns in a game that kicks off at 3:05 PM ET at Arrowhead Stadium.
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AFC Divisional Round
CLEVELAND BROWNS at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, 3:05 PM ET (Sunday)
BetAnySports NFL Playoff Betting Odds: Chiefs -9, Total 56.5
It might be important here to mention that KC coach Andy Reid has much more often been a pointspread winner when coming out a bye week (16-9 ATS).
That having been said, one has to ask whether this is a line that is a bit inflated. There has been some movement back on the Browns, obviously, as the Chiefs had been -10 earlier in the week.
By now, there aren't many NFL fans or bettors who are not aware of how explosive the Chiefs can possibly be. So we don't want to go down everyone's stats, except to mention that Patrick Mahomes has put together MVP-type numbers, with 4740 yards and 38 touchdowns. And for a guy who is such a gunslinger, having only six interceptions is remarkable.
We wouldn't deny that Cleveland could be in for a long day, considering that their defense is not top-shelf. Let's face it -the Browns' drive stats are not impressive. They are just 22nd in yards allowed per drive. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have gained more yards per drive than anyone. And they can move the chains as well as anybody, as they have been forced into a three-and-out only 14.2% of the time.
No doubt they have a similar advantage against other teams. So then why have they had such a problem creating margins? And what do the Browns have at their disposal that can keep them in the game?
Well, the first thing that sticks out is their ability to run the ball. Cleveland has, in the backfield, has former NFL rushing champion Kareem Hunt, who was booted from the Chiefs after beating up a woman. And they also have Nick Chubb, who averaged 5.6 yards a carry. The Browns were third in the league in running the football, and naturally, they will keep doing it (46.4% of the time).
The Browns have kept the ball 51% of the time. But I'm not so concerned with time of possession, but rather the fact that they can probably bully this KC defensive line. The Chiefs have the lowest "Power Success Rate" in the league and don't stop their opponents behind the line of scrimmage very often (30th in "Stuff Rate"). So Cleveland will likely keep moving forward.
And when they pass, it's good to know that Baker Mayfield has conditioned himself not to give the game away. Mayfield is not going to be your first option when it comes to throwing the ball far down the field, but he has thrown just one interception in the last ten games.
When teams get to the red zone, the difference between doing it well and doing it poorly is the difference between three and seven points. Cleveland is the third best NFL team in the red zone, scoring TD's 73.6% of the time, while KC is the league's worst red zone stop unit, allowing TD's at a 73.6% rate. That's significant when you're talking about a pointspread like this, when you have an opponent that can run the ball and stay away from mistakes.
KC has covered just one of its last eight games. Their last seven wins have come by an average of 3.8 points, with no margin larger than six during that period. I'd say this spells out a formula for a game tighter than most people expect. So we're on the dog.
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