The 7-0 Chiefs, fresh off a tight, 17-16 home win over the Texans, have been by far the league's most consistent team, riding a dominant defense and a strong rushing attack to their best start since 2003. The Browns, meanwhile, have stopped and started through an up-and-down 2013 season with a three-game winning streak sandwiched between a pair of losses. They were dismantled by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last Sunday in a disheartening 31-13 defeat.
Meet the Chiefs
The Chiefs offense won't blow you away, but they're solid and dependable. Quarterback Alex Smith has cooled off recently and hasn't thrown a touchdown in the last three games, but he's kept his interceptions to a respectable four on the season and had a 67.6 percent completion percentage last week against the Texans. Jamaal Charles is the engine that makes this group go: he's third in the league in rushing yards, has eight total touchdowns and is second on the team in receiving. Donnie Avery leads that receiving list, while big-contract wideout Dwayne Bowe sits in third with just 42 yards per game.
Kansas City's real strength is in their defense. They're allowing just 304 yards per game and their 11.6 points allowed per game makes them the best scoring defense in the league. Their dominant defensive front has piled up 35 sacks this season, including 19 from pass-rushing specialists Justin Houston and Tamba Hali alone. The back end has been just as impressive, with the secondary, led by cornerback Brandon Flowers and safety Eric Berry, holding opponents to just 195 passing yards per game.
Meet the Browns
The Browns' inconsistent season has followed followed along a path of quarterback changes. Last year's first-round pick, Brandon Weeden, looked bad in the team's opening losses and was benched for career backup Brian Hoyer, who started the next three Browns wins but was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Week 5. With Weeden back under center, the team has dropped the last two games, prompting the Browns to promote Jason Campbell to the starting job this week.
The offensive struggles have spoiled a strong performance by the defense so far in 2013. The unit is giving up only 319 total yards per game and ranks in the top 10 in both run and pass defense. Joe Haden anchors the secondary and has developed into one of the league's top cornerbacks, and rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo recorded a sack in each of his first three NFL games.
Local Takes: Chiefs
Arrowhead Pride notes that Kansas City's place as the lone undefeated team brings added pressure moving forward.
7-0 calls for an adjusted mindset. We're not the underdogs anymore.Sure, the media at large is going to obsess over the Chiefs schedule and claim the team is a fluke to an extent. But do you really think the Cleveland Browns care even a little about whether the Chiefs have a "soft schedule?" Absolutely not. They see a chance to knock off the last undefeated team in the NFL...
The Chiefs are no longer just another opponent. As of right now, the Chiefs are a trophy buck. The giant stuffed animal that no one has ever won at the amusement park game. We are Mike Tyson in Punchout. The No. 1 ranked champ. Which means every team the Chiefs face is going to bring their best game.
Local Takes: Browns
Zack J. Miller at Dawgs by Nature was calling for the quarterback change before it was announced.
I don't know who will start Sunday, but I do know if I were calling the shots, it'd be Jason Campbell, or anyone not named Brandon Weeden for that matter. I just don't see the harm in giving Campbell a shot. If he's awful, so what? At least we tried something different. With Weeden you know what you're getting; terrible/slow reads, laser throws (when not always necessary), and crippling decisions under pressure. He tried the underhand-backhand-flip-toss-pass AGAIN. That alone should get him benched.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Morgan Freeman's speech to Chiefs fans is the new greatest thing ever (video) http://t.co/NFeWQeJwMg— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) October 22, 2013
Despite a TD, PFF says Joe Haden & #Browns held WR Jordy Nelson to lowest receiving output of season. Only 4 catches, 29 yards vs. Haden.— Dawgs By Nature (@DawgsByNature) October 22, 2013
@adamteicher - Chiefs beat writer
@MaryKayCabot - Browns beat writer
If #Browns QB Weeden starts vs. Chiefs, one league insider told me today, "he's on a very short leash. V. little margin for error''— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) October 22, 2013
The Browns will need a near-perfect game from their defense to even have a chance in this one. If they can limit Charles and force Smith to beat them through the air they'll have a good shot to keep the Chiefs offense at bay, but that won't mean much if they can't put up points. Campbell will be under a constant barrge from the Chiefs defensive front, pressure that will likely lead to turnovers. Look for a defensive score in this one.
Pick: Chiefs 24, Browns 13
The Chiefs opened as nine-point favorites at home, though the spread is trending downward in several of the major sportsbooks, according to Oddsshark.com.