The defending Super Bowl champions may now have some extra incentive.
The Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV roughly a year ago, defeating the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20, courtesy of 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Andy Reid’s team finished 12-4 after a 6-4 start and went on a season-ending nine-game winning streak. This year, the club set a franchise mark with a 14-2 record, despite resting his share of regulars in Week 17 – a home loss to the rival Chargers.
The defending NFL champions looked less than imposing the last month or so and it has caused some to speculate that Reid’s team may not be up to the task of becoming the first franchise since the New England Patriots (2003 and ’04) to hoist Lombardi Trophies in consecutive years.
While the Chiefs have gotten some rest the last few weeks, the upstart Cleveland Browns were busy trying to qualify for the playoffs. Kevin Stefanski’s team did just that via an 11-5 finish. Last week, the club not only reached the postseason for the first time since 2002, a stunning 48-37 win at Pittsburgh last Sunday night gave the team its first playoff win since 1994.
The Browns will be at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday looking to reach the AFC title game for the first time since 1989. And one of the club’s talented performers, who hasn’t played since injuring his knee in late October (via ESPN’s Jake Trotter), feels quite confident that Cleveland will come away with the upset win. Meanwhile, that has certainly gotten the attention of the quarterback of Andy Reid’s team – who happens to be the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
A year ago, the Baltimore Ravens finished with the NFL’s best record at 14-2, rested many of their players (including quarterback Patrick Mahomes) and were upset at home by the wild card Titans. So it is a bit understandable that comparisons are being made. But Reid’s Chiefs are in the playoffs for the sixth straight year, not comparable to the Ravens. Last postseason, Kansas City overcame double-digits in all three game and won all of those contests by at least 11 points. It’s safe to say that this is a very different set of circumstances.
Can the Browns dethrone the defending champs? Absolutely. But it’s going to take quite the effort from Stefanski’s team, one that has come a long way in a short time and has shown plenty of resiliency.