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chiefStats: Five stats that could determine the Chiefs’ game against Browns

These are the stats to know as the Chiefs take on the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Week 9 edition of chiefStats!

Last week, we took a moment to check in on Patrick Mahomes and his progress toward beating Peyton Manning’s 55 passing-touchdown record set in 2013. It turns out Mahomes needed to average 3.8 passing touchdowns per game to pass Manning at the end of the year.

Mahomes did indeed get the four touchdowns he needed to maintain his pace to pass Manning. Mahomes’ progress towards the record will be something I’ll keep my eyes on as the season progresses.

This week, the Chiefs face a Browns team which is undergoing some staff turnover. Here is this week’s Browns overview, courtesy of Bill Connelly’s advanced stats guide:

1. Interim coaches

The biggest story leading into the Browns/Chiefs game is that Hue Jackson, and Todd Haley were both fired from the Browns the week leading up to the game. This leaves Gregg Williams as the interim head coach.

Naturally, the question arose — How well do interim coaches do in their first game?

So, the average team with an interim head coach actually improves toward the end of the season. This actually works to the Chiefs’ disadvantage.

I believe the spike in win percentage during the first game for an interim head coach is due to the level of unpredictability a new coach can bring into a game. The Chiefs could see anything on Sunday, and they won’t know what Williams has planned until they play the game.

Another thing about these first games for interim head coaches is that the scores tended to swing wildly for both sides.

2. Turnover tale

Early in the season, a lot of fans thought the Browns defense was on a torrid pace in terms of forcing turnovers. A lot of fans thought that pace would slow, but the Browns have continued to force turnovers.

If someone were to ask me how I thought the Chiefs could lose to the Browns, one answer I’d give is that the Chiefs somehow turned the ball over a ton.

It’s not typical for an Andy Reid team to commit a ton of turnovers or interceptions (note, this is an old tweet, but it’s still applicable):

Turnovers could become a problem in the Chiefs/Browns game, but given Reid’s history with taking care of the ball, I don’t think the Chiefs choke the game away by coughing up the ball.

However, I would be surprised if Mahomes left this game without throwing at least one interception.

3. Browns shouldn’t pass the ball

I really don’t see any reason the Browns should pass the ball much on Sunday.

If the Browns choose to pass the ball, they’re playing to one of the Chiefs’ strengths and one of the Browns’ weaknesses.

On the flip side, the Browns have a clear advantage in the run game.

Every single sign leading up to this game points to the Browns needing to run the ball if they want to have any success. Gregg Williams is a defensive-minded coach, and running the ball will help his defense.

I will be shocked if the Browns don’t run the ball 20-plus times on Sunday. If the Browns choose to pass the ball more frequently, they’ll be playing right into the Chiefs strength while playing from their weakness.

4. Third down

Offensively, the Browns have had issues (more on that later.)

The Chiefs defense should have a chance to improve their third-down numbers on Sunday — specifically on third and medium to long.

The Browns haven’t been too bad on third down so far this season, with their obvious strengths coming in third-and-short or third-and-long situations.

The Chiefs have been strong in third-and-long and third-and-medium situations, but have been average in third-and-short situations.

Long story short, the Chiefs defense should do well on third down, and the Chiefs offense should do well in third-and-medium situations. Third-and-short and long situations could be a challenge for the Chiefs offense on Sunday given the Browns’ stats.

5. Browns offense

The Browns offense is not playing well in 2018.

This week should be an opportunity for the Chiefs defense to improve.

Currently, the Chiefs defense is allowing 6.3 yards per play, which is the fifth-worst mark in the NFL. However, if you’ve been paying attention to the Chiefs defense over the past several weeks they have been slowly improving.

This week, against the Browns’ 4.9 yards-per-play offense is another opportunity for the Chiefs defense to improve.

Will the Chiefs defense take a step forward on Sunday and continue their defensive improvement? If I had to make a bet, my answer would be yes.

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