The Cleveland Browns are close.
What does that mean?
What it means is that there is a reason the Browns are showing up near the top of the odds table to win the AFC in 2021.
The Kansas City Chiefs were supposed to be an unstoppable force with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback.
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers exposed the Chiefs and made them look like a team picking near the top of the draft.
Mahomes was chased around all game and took hit after hit, while Brady stayed upright and never faced much pressure.
The Tampa Bay gameplan made it clear the Chiefs are beatable.
Browns fans saw that in the Divisional Round, but Mahomes missing most of the game with an injury changed the reasoning behind the fact.
So what can the Browns take from the way the Bucs handled the Chiefs?
Odds to make it to Super Bowl LVI
— Spotrac (@spotrac) February 8, 2021
1. The Chiefs Can be Beaten
Mahomes was always the guy who could erase any deficit in a matter of minutes.
Plenty of fans likely thought the Chiefs were still going to win even with a halftime deficit Sunday.
But the run of luck was up thanks to a great defensive strategy by Todd Bowles and the Bucs.
This defensive gameplan will likely be copied by teams throughout the 2021 season.
The one factor to note is that the Chiefs were down several offensive lineman.
Still, they are no longer this unbeatable force.
That role still belongs to Brady and wherever he plays.
2. Tyreek Hill Can be Neutralized
The talk leading up to the Super Bowl was how Tyreek Hill had a historic first quarter against the Bucs in Week 12.
He was able to get behind the defense at will and the Bucs stood no chance.
That was until they changed up the strategy Sunday and made sure he never got behind the defense.
The Chiefs kept running Hill deep, likely tiring him out, and bringing a pass rush that didn’t allow the routes to develop.
Patrick Mahomes passer rating when targeting Travis Kelce + Tyreek Hill
❄️ Super Bowl – 59.8
🔥 Rest of season – 130.6 pic.twitter.com/ztTevb7hbM
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) February 8, 2021
This is a receiver who uses his legs to destroy opposing defenses.
He had eight receptions for 110 yards against the Browns and it was clear he was too fast for the secondary.
The fact the Bucs had a chance to see Hill in person during the regular season likely made the ultimate difference.
You simply cannot replicate his speed in practice and they were able to adjust for his generational speed.
The Browns finally got a good glimpse at Hill in the postseason and should be able to pair that with what the Bucs did to take down the Chiefs.
Adding speed and talent in the secondary would be nice too.
3. Browns Should Have Super Bowl Expectations
Browns fans witnessed a tight Divisional game against the Chiefs that could have gone either way.
In the moment, it was a crushing loss.
But after taking some time to reflect it showed us all that the Browns are legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the AFC.
A year of playoff experience, along with some added talent this offseason, puts the Browns atop the AFC right alongside the Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills.
Baker Mayfield finished the season looking like the franchise guy, Nick Chubb is already a star, Myles Garrett is one of the most elite defenders in football, and the list goes on.
There were some misplaced Super Bowl expectations back in 2019.
Year 2 of Kevin Stefanski brings real expectations and missing the playoffs would be a shock.