The Kansas City Chiefs (2-10) and Cleveland Browns (4-8) will play Sunday in a game that means much more for the 2013 NFL draft than the actual 2012 NFL season.
Fans of the Browns will see familiar faces when the Chiefs roll into town, head coach Romeo Crennel, starting quarterback Brady Quinn and backup running back Peyton Hillis all have a past with the team. That trio will be looking to keep momentum going, as the struggling squad found a way to beat Carolina last week to earn its second victory this season.
The Browns haven't been able to find much success this season either. While not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs quite yet, it's looking like the current rebuilding project will take at least one more year before a playoff team is put on the field. The Browns are looking to make it three in a row on the season after winning back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders.
While many fans will say that neither of these teams have anything to play for, that's not true. Any time an organization is struggling the way these two are, job security is at a minimum. The players and coaches involved in this game will be looking for a win to show that they deserve to have their positions next season.
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
When: Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Direct Ticket
Spread: Cleveland -6.5 (via Bovada)
The Browns come in as 6.5-point favorites, and that likely has to do with the fact that they are at home and have a better record than the Chiefs.
While it may be tempting to go with the Browns here, the smart money is on the Chiefs with the points. The Browns are likely to win, but to trust them to cover any kind of spread may be asking a little too much. They're a developing team that isn't quite ready to be trusted.
Even when the Browns have won they've had difficulty pulling away from teams. The Browns beat the Raiders by three despite having multiple opportunities to blow the game open, and only beat the Steelers by six despite causing eight turnovers.
Spread: 38 (via Bovada)
The Browns have scored exactly 20 points three weeks in a row, so it's safe to say that the offense is playing good but not great.
The Chiefs have struggled mightily on offense for most of the season but did score 27 points last week against a porous Carolina Panthers defense.
We are talking about a Brady Quinn versus Brandon Weeden showdown here, so this isn't a lock, but it appears these teams are both hitting their strides and should combine for more than 38 points.
Kansas City Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/6/2012)
|DB Kendrick Lewis||Shoulder||Questionable|
|DB Eric Berry||Hand||Questionable|
|DB Brandon Flowers||Hamstring||Questionable|
|LB Tamba Hali||Knee||Questionable|
|LB Derrick Johnson||Hamstring||Questionable|
Cleveland Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/6/2012)
|DB Dimitri Patterson||Ankle||Probable|
|DB Raymond Ventrone||Calf||Probable|
|DB Usama Young||Head||Probable|
|RB Trent Richarson||Chest, Rib, Finger|
|DE Frostee Rucker||Shoulder, Finger|
|TE Jordan Cameron||Groin|
|WR Josh Cribbs||Shoulder, Chest|
Fantasy Big Plays
Kansas City: Jamaal Charles, RB
Those who own Jamaal Charles should be happy with his effort during the fantasy football playoffs. He's primed for a big game.
The Browns defense is improving, but stopping the run has proven to be problematic throughout the season. The team ranks a mediocre 16th against the run, but hasn't been able to stop it consistently.
This is a unit that allowed Jeremy Stewart and Marcel Reece average five yards per carry last week. Both of those players are converted fullbacks. An elite back like Charles should make this Browns defense look bad.
Projected Stats: 20 carries, 100 yards, 1 TD
Cleveland: Josh Gordon, WR
Much has been made in fantasy football about Trent Richardson, but it's rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon who is the sleeper here.
Gordon had a great game from a fantasy perspective last week. His 116 yards and a touchdown made him a very valuable play, and he should be able to continue that kind of production as he continues to progress as a receiver.
Brandon Weeden continues to progress as a quarterback, and it appears that he and Gordon have built a good connection. Expect Gordon to be a good play this week and beyond.
Projected Stats: 7 receptions, 110 yards, 1TD
Key to Victory
When it comes down to it, the team that gets better from play from its quarterback is likely to win.
The Browns really want to give Weeden a chance to shine and aren't shy about letting him throw it. With as many opportunities as he gets in the offense, he needs to start creating something so that teams can't simply key on Trent Richardson.
If Weeden is able to spread the ball and make good throws, the Browns will be hard to stop.
For the Chiefs we already know they can run the ball, the trick is establishing Quinn as a dangerous passer. If he can make the Browns pay for stacking nine or 10 in the box, it'll be a long day for Cleveland.
The threat of a huge day from Jamaal Charles looms large, but Cleveland's offense feels much more balanced and ready to break out. The Browns defense hasn't been the greatest unit on the field this season but seems to be improving and should be able to pressure Brady Quinn into making mistakes.
This one is a little closer than the spread indicates, but Cleveland should win.
Final Score: Cleveland 23, Kansas City 20