DATA DEPENDENT: Numbers, predictions, and upsets in Sunday’s NFL Divisional Playoffs.

Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs

The Cleveland Browns are coming off an emotional victory of a PIttsburgh Steelers that imploded for an entire half before finding its feet. To the Browns’ credit, Baker Mayfield & co. piled it on when they had a chance. That was a good thing because their second half performance was a far cry from the first and they almost let the game slip away. Regardless, the Browns have made the playoffs and won a game for the first time in a long time. Expect them to stick to the formula that got them to the post-season promise land, namely pound the football through its run game while passing enough to keep their opponents’ secondary honest. During the season, they had the 5th least pass attempts in the league, totalling 3701 yards (6th worst). For some perspective, their opponents today, the Kansas City Chiefs, threw for 5005 yards (1st in league). Mayfield has thrown for 27 TDs. The Browns ran the ball 495 times (4th most) for 2374 yards (3rd most) and 21 TDs (6th). Clearly, that’s their secret sauce.

The defending champs Kansas City Chiefs are the polar opposite of the Browns. Led by Patrick Mahomes they’re first in the league in passing and average in rushing (notable that they aren’t further toward bottom). They’re a much more balanced team and it shows in their record. Chiefs haven’t been lights out this season and have struggled once in a while. However, when they need to, they’ve been able to turn it on at will. The Chiefs have been decent defending against the rush (1954 yards allowed). They’ve allowed 4.5 yards per carry. They’ll need to be a little better against the Browns’ run game. Still, for a little context, the Browns have allowed 4.5 yards per carry.

OFF STATS: Browns 369.4 YDS/G; 25.5 PTS/G | Chiefs 415.8 YDS/G; 29.6 PTS/G 

DEF STATS: Browns 358.4 YDS/G; 26.2 PTS/G | Chiefs 358.4 YDS/G; 22.6 PTS/G

KEY PLAYERS: Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb | Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce 

BETTING (Moneyline/Spread): Browns (+350/+10) | Chiefs (-450/-10)

DRAFT KINGS FANTASY POINTS: Josh Allen (32.07); Stefon Diggs (29.27); Jonathan Taylor (26.77)

PICK: Chiefs beat the Browns.

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Buccaneers and Saints

This is the marquee matchup of the weekend and perhaps the playoffs. Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees. Two future Hall of Farmers. Two Super Bowl winners. Two players in the twilights of their careers. The Bucs have thrown the ball a lot this season (626 attempts) whereas the Saints have thrown less than you’d expect (522 attempts). However, with Alvin Kamara at their disposal, it’s not unexpected. For an “old” man, Brady has been pretty prolific this season, throwing for 4776 yards (4th most) and 42 TDs. Brees has thrown for 3945 yards and 28 TDs. Not exactly a career year but hey. On the other hand, expect the Saints to pound the ball. They’re right behind the Browns in terms of rush attempts (494 carries) for 2265 yards and 4.6 yards per carry. Tampa Bay is on the other end when it comes to rushing. However, the Bucs have had the best run defense in the league, allowing only 1289 yards, 3.6 yards per carry, and 10 TDs. Alternatively, the Saints have been very good against passing games, allowing 333 yards total and 6.7 yards per attempt.  

OFF STATS: Buccaneers 384.1 YDS/G; 30.1 PTS/G | Saints 376.4 YDS/G; 30.1 PTS/G 

DEF STATS: Buccaneers 327.1 YDS/G; 22.2 PTS/G | Saints 310.9 YDS/G; 21.1 PTS/G

KEY PLAYERS: Tom Brady, Ronald Jones II, and Mike Evans | Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara

BETTING (Moneyline/Spread): Buccaneers (+135/+3) | Saints (-162/-3)

DRAFT KINGS FANTASY POINTS: Josh Allen (32.07); Stefon Diggs (29.27); Jonathan Taylor (26.77)

PICK: Buccaneers beat Saints.


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