Mahomes has historically come out of the gate at his absolute best, powered in part by the annual schematic innovations that Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid springs on opponents. Here’s how ridiculous it has been: Mahomes has a 10-0 career record in September, including 34 touchdown passes and zero — yes, zero — interceptions. He has averaged 330 passing yards per game over the season’s first month, and he’s the only quarterback in NFL history to throw at least three touchdown passes in each of his first three season-opening starts.
The Cleveland Browns made some important personnel changes to address a pass defense that allowed 10.7 yards per completion last season, including signing free-agent pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney and safety John Johnson III. But they’ll be no match for early-season Mahomes.
What to watch for: The Chiefs will start two rookies and a first-year player (Lucas Niang opted out in 2020) on their offensive line, but no member of that group will be under more scrutiny than veteran Orlando Brown Jr., who makes his Kansas City debut at left tackle against the Browns’ Myles Garrett. The Chiefs’ rebuilt offensive line, with five new starters from last season, showed well in the preseason but faces a bigger challenge against Garrett and the Browns. In his one start at left tackle for the Ravens against the Browns last season, Brown held Garrett without a sack, one of the four games in which Garrett was shut out. — Adam Teicher
Bold prediction: In his return, Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will catch two touchdown passes from QB Baker Mayfield. It might not be enough against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but Cleveland’s offense can take away plenty of confidence about its potential for the rest of the season. — Jake Trotter
Cleveland Browns · LB/S
at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
A surprising draft-day slide to the back half of Round 2 has certainly fueled JOK’s fire, as evidenced by his dominant preseason performance. The rookie defender created chaos and disruption all over the field in those glorified scrimmages, but if this Cleveland defense is going to live up to the hype, the Browns need to see the hybrid playmaker dominate between the lines in real games. JOK has been expected to transition to the NFL like a blue-chip prospect from Day 1. Let’s see if he plays up to the standard in the regular-season opener.
Browns at Chiefs
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Kansas City Chiefs -5.5
What a David and Goliath moment here for Cleveland and Baker Mayfield. They had the Chiefs down on the mat in the playoffs last year, dangerously close to taking out the new AFC dynasty before Andy Reid and *checks notes* CHAD HENNE popped back up and won. The Browns are weird because they’re super into analytics and yet most analytical football sites are down on them because they overachieved last year. At the same time, their roster is awesome! Put them in a different uniform and I’m way more bullish on them most likely. Their defense isn’t slowing down Patrick Mahomes, but I don’t think the Chiefs will stop Baker and Nick Chubb either. Scoring fest here with the Browns sneaking in a last-minute cover.
The Pick: Chiefs 31, Browns 28
The Big 12 formally invited BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to join its ranks on Friday, and all four schools accepted. That means famous players and coaches from those four teams can now be classified as “Big 12 legends.”
Two prominent members of the Kansas City Chiefs come in at the top of the list.
Andy Reid played offensive tackle for the BYU football team from 1978-80 before he got into coaching. The black-and-white picture of him wearing an old BYU uniform remains a sight to behold. He is now a Big 12 legend.
“That’s great,” Reid said about BYU joining the Big 12. “That’s phenomenal. Good people up there. They deserve that opportunity. It’s great.”
Other famous BYU alums include basketball star Jimmer Fredette, former Heisman trophy winner Ty Detmer, former Chicago Bears and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon and Super Bowl winner Steve Young.
Cincinnati also provides the Big 12 with some new Chiefs flavor. Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce played college football at Cincinnati before he became one of the NFL’s best players at his position.
Edwards-Helaire isn’t the best back in the league, but he is very talented and reliable (zero fumbles on 217 touches last year) and he’s the clear lead back on one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL. With Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce demanding so much attention from defenses and Patrick Mahomes being the magician that he is, Edwards-Helaire will get to run into a lot of light boxes.
I’m taking this gift horse and riding it. Over 900.5 rushing yards.
Around the NFL
The deal carries an average value of $6.2 million, making Hines one of the top 10 highest-paid running backs in the NFL — and earning the most money per year for any non-lead back.
Hines has 170 catches during his first three seasons, sixth most among all running backs during that stretch. He also has an average of 14.9 yards per punt return, which would rank first in NFL history.
Collins’ suspension stems from missing drug tests, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Collins, 28, will be eligible to return to the Cowboys’ active roster on Oct. 18 after the team’s Week 6 game at New England.
Dallas’ loss of Collins means the Cowboys won’t have their full starting five offensive linemen for the first six games of the season. Collins played in Thursday night’s loss to Tampa Bay, but guard Zack Martin missed the game due to a positive COVID-19 test. It was Collins’ first action since missing all of the 2020 season with a hip injury.
Murray joins a revamped Ravens backfield that also includes Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell, who were signed to the practice squad earlier this week. Both players were signed after running backs J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill suffered season-ending injuries. Dobbins, who was expected to carry the load after an impressive rookie season, tore his ACL on Aug. 28. Hill tore his Achilles on Sept. 2.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
2. The importance of a strong performance from the defensive line
On the flip side, the Browns’ offensive line is their best position group — and might be the best five-man unit in the league.
They’ll run the ball at any time and at any part of the field. With how difficult their running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is to tackle, it’s important that the Chiefs’ defensive line can hold their gaps at the line of scrimmage and prevent the backs from getting open run lanes to the second level — mainly to protect the Chiefs’ linebackers.
Starting linebacker Willie Gay Jr. isn’t playing, which means the trio of Anthony Hitchens, Ben Niemann and rookie Nick Bolton will share the field in base formations against the Browns’ 12 (one running back, two tight ends) or 21 (two running back, one tight end) personnel packages. As well as Bolton has played against the run in preseason action, that grouping is shaky — and is likely worse than last year initially because of Damien Wilson’s departure.
For the Chiefs to prevent chunk plays from the Cleveland rushing attack that result in long, methodical drives, the defensive line needs to hold their own at the line of scrimmage.
A tweet to make you think
We just have to go out there and be ourselves pic.twitter.com/EyftmEPBfa— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) September 10, 2021