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coleryan
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Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs: Preview and Pick

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On 10/21/2013 04:29 PM in NFL
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs: Preview and Pick

After an impressive start to the season the Cleveland Browns are resorting to their old ways and are starting to lose football games and lose bad. Meanwhile the Kansas City Chiefs are doing anything but lose this season as they are the surprise team of the year in the National Football League. They bring their unblemished record into this week against the Browns with a chance to be 8-0.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Odds

The NFL opening point spread is the Chiefs listed as (-7.5) point favorites. With the recent losing pattern being taken by the Browns, the public is betting on the Chiefs to win and to win big. The current early betting favors the Chiefs by 73 percent as money continues to flow in on the home team. Despite this money coming in, the line has actually dropped and can now be found at (-7) at several of the top rated online sportsbooks.

If the Browns want to start winning they will need to throw the ball better than they have of late. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron made up only two of Brandon Weeden's 20 pass attempts in the first three quarters Sunday. Weeden finally started to throw the two the ball in the fourth quarter with the Browns trailing big. The way that the Browns have been playing of late they could be down early in this game and looking to throw the ball.

Alex Smith completed 21 of his 28 throws (75.0%) within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage Sunday, his highest percentage in a game this season. The Chiefs had 157 yards after the catch Sunday, their second most in the last two seasons. The Chiefs can throw and that should be bad news for the Browns.

The latest football betting trends for this game reveals just how great of a turnaround that the Chiefs have had. Kansas City is 5-11-1 straight up in its last 17 games at home and 8-14-1 straight up in its last 23 games, but that has changed. Kansas City is 4-1-1 straight up in its last 6 games at home and 6-0-1 straight up in the last seven games overall. The total has gone over in 4 of Kansas City's last 6 games when playing Cleveland and the Browns are just 3-6-1 straight up in the last 10 games. The Browns will be hard pressed to snap their losing streak in one of the toughest places to play in the league.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
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10/22/2013 02:51 PM
The Browns are losers of two straight, their defense suddenly looks porous, the top receiver’s effort is under question and the starting quarterback only wishes he had Congress’ approval ratings.

But on the heels of a desultory 31-13 loss in Green Bay, captain D’Qwell Jackson was not compelled to convene another impromptu team meeting as he did in Baltimore following an 0-2 start. After answering questions Monday about a possible quarterback change and whether the Packers’ game reminded him of the hopeless defeats in seasons past, Jackson struck a defiant tone.

He believes the Browns will beat the undefeated Chiefs in Kansas City.

“We’re built to go through this,” he said of the adversity. “We’ll be fine. We’re going to go out Sunday and I’m more than confident we’re going to come out of there with a win. I really am.”

There you go, Andy Reid. That should keep your charges motivated as they await the massive Nov. 17 showdown with Denver.

What gives Jackson confidence the Browns aren’t headed toward a protracted losing streak, the kind Browns fans have come to expect over the years?

It’s the players in the room, the captain said, and the coach leading them.

“(Rob Chudzinski) said you are going to go through these times in a season and we’ve already dealt with it once already,” Jackson said. “We’re primed and ready to deal with it now. Everybody is obviously disappointed by the loss but this is a different mentality than last year and years past. It’s pretty much the same team but the mindset is totally different.”

It’s another huge test for a rookie coach and his leadership group. They passed the first one by winning three consecutive games after the Trent Richardson trade. But Brian Hoyer and his torn anterior cruciate ligament won’t heal in time to rescue them again this season.

Chudzinski said his coaches planned to meet Monday to determine whether embattled Brandon Weeden remains the starter or they turn to veteran Jason Campbell, who was leapfrogged in Week 3 in favor of Hoyer.

We're built to go through this. ... We're going to go out on Sunday and I'm more than confident we're going to come out of there with a win.

The hunch here is Weeden gets one more start if only to spare Campbell from the talons of Chiefs’ sack masters Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Since regaining his job through injury, Weeden has looked bad in back-to-back losses, a quarterback bereft of confidence. He doesn’t process the game with requisite speed or deliver enough positive plays to make you think it will eventually slow down for him.

Campbell’s best attribute right now is he’s not Weeden. That’s where the Browns find themselves on a depth chart curiously lacking a third stringer.

Many coaches have lost a room in their handling of a quarterback controversy. How does Chudzinski whet the players' appetite for another dollop of Weeden after the last two outings? Fortunately for him, few Browns have distinguished themselves in consecutive defeats.

Davone Bess has dropped balls. The running game hasn’t been good and the play-calling has been suspect. Chudzinski found himself Monday having to defend the effort of top receiver Josh Gordon, the subject of trade rumors.

Jackson supplied a perfect answer when asked to opine on the quarterback quandary.

“We’ve got too many problems on the defensive side of the ball,” he said.

After carrying the team for five weeks, the defense is no longer creating big plays or enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Sunday, it looked like they had forgotten how to tackle.

The defense will bounce back. The offense is reliant on long kick returns, trick plays and fourth-down gambles to compensate for Weeden’s inability to consistently generate drives. In a league in which teams routinely score 25 and 30 points, Jackson acknowledged the Browns aren’t built “to come back from a 14-0 deficit.”

Even after their 3-2 start, it was no given the team would finish .500. The four-game stretch featuring Detroit, Green Bay, Kansas City and Baltimore was going to be telling.

Browns fans don’t have a reservoir of faith in their franchise, nor should they. The Packers start 1-2 and the sky doesn’t fall because they have Aaron Rodgers and a winning track record. In Cleveland, it’s been raining anvils since 1999.

Chudzinski and the team leaders must rally the Browns again, and somebody’s got to make a play as they did during the three-game winning streak. They can’t finish 5-11 and sell fans on the idea of a changing culture.

“I know that this group is a mentally-tough, resilient group,” the coach said. “I think they’ve shown that. This is another opportunity for us to display that . . .”
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10/22/2013 02:58 PM
There comes a point in certain seasons when it's time to accept that not all Super Bowl contenders are going to look impressive. The squads that usually catch our eyes have higher-powered offenses, big-name quarterbacks with gaudy numbers and enough nonstop hype to fuel sports talk radio for weeks. Then there are those teams that slowly creep into the national spotlight with more faith than fanfare, more grit than glamour. Teams like this year's Kansas City Chiefs.

Anybody who watched the Chiefs' 17-16 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday learned something important: This team is not built to do things easily. It grinds away on offense, limiting turnovers and hoping for enough big plays to generate points. It swarms opponents on defense and produces plenty of underappreciated moments with consistent special teams. That formula has been good enough to push the Chiefs' record to 7-0. It also will be the reason they go deep into this postseason.

This Kansas City squad -- a team currently on its way to winning 13 or 14 regular-season games -- is starting to bear a striking resemblance to Super Bowl winners that thrived with limited offenses and suffocating defenses. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens rode that wave to a championship. The 2001 New England Patriots did the same thing, as did the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These are just the teams that walked away with Lombardi Trophies, but you get the point. The Chiefs are not swimming in uncharted waters here.

Kansas City wins more with chemistry than convincing performances. As Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after barely squeaking by a free-falling Houston team that is now 2-5, "Every win in the NFL is a great win, and we'll enjoy all of them. This was a great team win."

It was a great team win because the Chiefs needed every aspect of their team to earn it. They allowed a rookie quarterback who had never even dressed for an NFL regular-season game (Case Keenum) to complete 60 percent of his passes for 271 yards and a touchdown. They lost the turnover battle, blew a fourth-and-goal opportunity from the Texans' 1-yard line and watched quarterback Alex Smith throw a critical interception midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Texans new life. This seemed like the kind of game Houston could pull out, because the Chiefs weren't taking it. Then, just like that, everything changed.

Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers sacked Keenum to end a drive. His teammates, outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, then smashed Keenum on Houston's next possession, thwarting that effort. And when Keenum tried to lead his offense to a winning field goal on the Texans' final drive, Hali sacked him again, forcing a fumble that inside linebacker Derrick Johnson recovered to seal the game.

These are the plays the Chiefs have come to expect from a defense that has surrendered a mere eight touchdowns all season. Said Smith: "Unfortunately, we gave them a short field today, but they made some stops. With a defense of that caliber, it's going to be hard to drive the field against them."

"We knew [Keenum] could throw the ball," said Hali, who finished with 2½ of Kansas City's five sacks. "In that shotgun-type look, where he looks like he's going to hand it off, sometimes that slows the rush down because [you don't know if] it could be a run or a pass. Once we know it's a pass, we can go after him."

This is the same way the Ravens played when they won it all in 2000. They went five consecutive games without an offensive touchdown that year but relied on a record-setting defense that carried them to a championship. Fittingly, Baltimore's quarterback that season was Trent Dilfer, who also happens to be a former teammate and close friend of Alex Smith. Smith learned the same things during a roller-coaster career in San Francisco that Dilfer applied during his time in Baltimore: The only numbers that truly matter for a quarterback are wins.

People also forget that Tom Brady was a game manager with a strong defense when he began building his legend in New England. The 2002 Buccaneers also relied on a stifling defense that masked the team's offensive shortcomings. The leading rusher on that Tampa Bay team, Michael Pittman, ran for 718 yards while only one receiver, Keyshawn Johnson, surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark that season. The Bucs were led by another quarterback with underwhelming credentials, Brad Johnson, who did what was necessary to get the job done.

These Chiefs are working with a similar blueprint. They might not set records, but they've already earned the right to claim the league's best defense. Through seven games, the Chiefs rank first in the league in points per game allowed (10.8) and total sacks (30) and fifth in yards per game allowed (306.3). The defense's play also is a major factor in Kansas City's league-leading turnover ratio of plus-11 (19 takeaways, eight giveaways).

In short, the Chiefs win mainly because they rarely beat themselves.

They also have something else going for them that those championship teams enjoyed: an obvious camaraderie that was forged through unforeseeable adversity. Those Ravens teams had to battle through offensive futility. The Patriots lost their starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, in an early-season injury that opened the door for Brady's ascension. Most of the leaders on that Bucs team had endured losing seasons and the disappointment of watching their head coach, Tony Dungy, fired a year before their championship run. Those setbacks built something called character. These Chiefs clearly are revealing their own brand of mental toughness. It comes from a 2-14 season in 2012, a campaign that also included the death of former teammate Jovan Belcher, who fatally shot himself at the team facility after killing his girlfriend last year. It's the result of playing in front of half-empty stadiums and taking routine butt-whippings from better opponents. The Chiefs have been beaten down, and they don't care how they win. They only care that they are leaving games victorious.

That was the message that safety Kendrick Lewis uttered as he strolled toward the locker room after Sunday's game. "The only thing that matters here," Lewis said, "is that we still have a zero in the loss column."




It's difficult to know how long the Chiefs will be able to make that statement, but it also doesn't matter, either. This team has gone from lousy to good in warp speed. Judging from the looks of things, Kansas City's rise from good to championship-caliber might happen at a much faster rate.
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10/23/2013 02:22 PM
Jason Campbell will take over at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in Kansas City against the Chiefs, replacing Brandon Weeden, who was ineffective Sunday in Green Bay and in the second half of his previous start against Detroit.

"It really is about production and ultimately being consistent in that area," coach Rob Chudzinski said Wednesday.

Campbell will be the 20th quarterback to start a game for the Browns since 1999. He draws the difficult task of facing the league's top pass-rushing team -- the Chiefs lead the league with 35 sacks. He has not started a game since November, when he threw for 109 yards for Chicago in a loss to San Francisco.

But Weeden has struggled the past six quarters, in which the Browns have been outscored 55-13. He ranks 32nd in the league in completion percentage, 31st in yards per attempt and 30th in passer rating.

"It's not about one person. I know everyone wanted to say it's about Brandon. But it really wasn't about one person," Campbell said Wednesday. "We all as a collective group have to do a better job play in and play out.

"One thing that I could do is try to be a leader. At the same time try to do my job to the best of my abilities. Not try to do anything to the extreme. Try to stay within the game and find your rhythm."

Campbell had six starts in 2011 with Oakland and had the Raiders off to a 4-2 start. But he hurt his shoulder against the Browns, and the Raiders soon acquired Carson Palmer, effectively ending Campbell's career in Oakland.

"I think looking at Jason, the things he brings to the table [are] his leadership, his experience," Chudzinski said. "He's been productive and successful in the league. Look at his arm strength, his mobility and those things, [then] tie in from a game-plan standpoint for what we need in this game."

Chudzinski said the position will be evaluated on a weekly basis, although he acknowledged that going back and forth isn't ideal. "I'm committed to doing what I feel gives us the best chance to win in all cases," Chudzinski said.

Wide receiver Davone Bess said the decision is out of the players' control.

"That's the easy thing to say, something had to be done and we had to make a switch. We know we got a lot of work to do and it's not just one person, starting with Brandon," he said. "We all have some accountability to own up to. That's the nature of this business. That's what it is. We all signed up for it. Gotta get better."
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10/24/2013 03:22 PM
While staying relatively healthy, the Kansas City Chiefs have gotten the benefit of facing some quarterbacks who were thrust into a starting role because of injuries.

On Sunday, the Chiefs will take on a team that's making a change at that position for a different reason.

Jason Campbell is taking over for the ineffective Brandon Weeden as the visiting Browns face the arduous task of trying to end Kansas City's reign as the NFL's only unbeaten team.

The Chiefs (7-0) have faced opponents with a combined 15-33 record and a handful that have been short-handed. Their games against Jacksonville on Sept. 8, Tennessee on Oct. 6 and Houston last week came against teams that had injured starting quarterbacks.

Along with starting rookie Case Keenum in place of Matt Schaub, the Texans also lost top running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brian Cushing to injuries as the Chiefs posted a 17-16 victory.

"The best thing about this team, we've had a lot of bad luck in the past; we're taking success the right way, being very humble about it," linebacker Derrick Johnson told the Chiefs' official website. "Character speaks after a win and we will still come back and grind like we're losing. We'll come back and try to get to 8-0. It's a great feeling. We're loving it."

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have only two rookies who are missing and both were likely to serve as backups, tight end Travis Kelce and safety Sanders Commings. That health has helped Kansas City get off to its best start since winning its first nine games in 2003.

"This is a rough business. Injuries do take place. I get it. But we've been fortunate," coach Andy Reid said. "That's really what it is."

The defense has played a significant role in the Chiefs' incredible turnaround from last year's franchise-worst 2-14 finish. Kansas City has given up a league-low 81 points and no more than 17 in any game.

The Chiefs are fifth in average yards given up (304.6) and third against the pass with 194.7 allowed per game. With a league-best 35 sacks, they're on pace to top the 1984 Chicago Bears' NFL record of 72.

That's helped them stay unbeaten with an offense that ranks in the middle of the pack with 24.1 points and 330.7 yards per game.

Kansas City's defense will try to keep rolling against a Browns team that's allowed its quarterbacks to get sacked 27 times, tied for second-most in the league.

Weeden was brought down 21 times in his five games this season. He endured three of those in last Sunday's 31-13 loss at Green Bay while completing just 17 of 42 passes (40.5 percent) for 149 yards.

That performance caused coach Rob Chudzinski to turn to Campbell, who has made 71 career starts and is the third starter this season for Cleveland (3-4) along with the injured Brian Hoyer.

"It's a tough decision," Chudzinski said. "I believe this is in the best interest of the team, and ultimately gives us the best chance to win. I'm excited to see what Jason will do with this opportunity."

Campbell made one start and played in six games for Chicago last season.

"It's an opportunity to go out there and just get back to the game and just having fun," Campbell said. "Obviously, we want to go win games and do the best we can. But at the same time we understand we're a growing football team and our goal and mission every week is to go out and win games."

Campbell helped lead Oakland to wins over Kansas City in 2010 and 2011. The Browns blew out the Chiefs 30-7 in the most recent matchup Dec. 9.

Kansas City's Jamaal Charles opened the scoring in that game with an 80-yard run and finished with 165 yards on 18 carries. He's third in the NFL this season with 561 rushing yards and is tied for second with six touchdowns on the ground.

Cleveland, which has won three of four in this series, is making its first visit to Kansas City since a 41-34 victory Dec. 20, 2009.
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10/25/2013 04:21 PM
KEYS TO THE GAME
Three quarterback changes later, it’s Jason Campbell’s turn behind center for the Browns. Cleveland’s issues are many, including an inept running game that has produced one touchdown in seven games — that by starting RB Willie McGahee, who is averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Campbell is immobile and needs protection to get through his progressions.

The Browns, who have allowed multiple sacks in every game this season, need to win first down to give Campbell a chance. The Chiefs are allowing only 25.6 percent conversions on third down this season, and lead the NFL with 35 sacks. QB Alex Smith gets plenty of credit for managing games, but he has been sacked an average of more than twice per game and is completing 58 percent of his passes.

The Browns have the beef on the defensive line to push RB Jamaal Charles’ runs outside and give their linebackers a chance. OLBs Barkevious Mingo, Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger can crumble the pocket, but containing Charles — the team’s leading receiver with 36 receptions and two touchdowns — as a receiver becomes the major concern.

MATCHUP TO WATCH
Browns RT Mitchell Schwartz vs. Chiefs LOLB Justin Houston —
Schwartz is battling through a sophomore slump and this week has to contend with Houston in noisy Arrowhead. Houston already has 10 sacks. The Browns will give Schwartz help with a tight end.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT
Browns WR Travis Benjamin:
Coach Rob Chudzinski is trying to get more out of the fastest player on the roster, and that means expanding Benjamin’s role beyond kickoff returns. The Chiefs already know how dangerous he can be — Benjamin had a 93-yard punt return touchdown last season.

FAST FACTS:
Campbell has 297 passing yards in his past five games played, an average of 58 yards per game. … Charles has 100-plus yards and a touchdown in each of the first seven games of the season. Only O.J. Simpson (1975) had accomplished that feat in NFL history.
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10/26/2013 10:25 AM
Both teams are relatively healthy. Cleveland linebacker Quentin Groves is doubtful, while Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe is questionable.
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