One of the more lopsided matchups on paper for Sunday's game is the Browns rushing attack versus the Chiefs rush defense. Cleveland has two of the most dynamic running backs in the league in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt who have combined 1,908 yards and 18 TDs during the regular season alone and one of the top-rated offensive lines in the NFL this season headlined by Jack Conklin who was their big free-agent pickup.
As for the Chiefs, they rank 20th in rush defense this year allowing over 122.0 rush yards per game on average and as much as Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson have come into their own, the Chiefs still lack athleticism at linebacker outside of Willie Gay who is also hurt right now and the defensive line has their own issues filling gaps.
That being said, the Browns rank 3rd in rushing offenses in the NFL averaging 148.4 rushing yards per game. That screams bad matchup for Kansas City. However, the Browns running game won't matter in the grand scheme of things.
We'll get into some in-depth reasons as to why it doesn't but first let's reflect on last postseason and the concerns around the Chiefs' ability to stop the run. The narrative was that Derrick Henry and the Titans' stout run game was going to get the best of the Chiefs but obviously that didn't happen. They held Derrick Henry to well under 100 yards and looked good doing it. The Chiefs have shown that they're able to rise to the occasion and if the Chiefs can really "flip a switch" like everyone says then the Browns shouldn't cause any trouble.
Adding on to that point, with the way the Chiefs play, if they get off to a fast start and/or just play their game and stick to attacking the weak pass defense of Cleveland then they will force the Browns to play catch-up and somewhat abandon the run. Although, they will still have to watch Hunt and Chubb in the passing game, that's a lot easier than trying to stop them from coming out of the backfield.
Now let's get into why specifically the Browns running game won't mean much on Sunday. When you do some deep diving, you'll find out that most teams that have ran heavily on the Chiefs this year have all lost. There are five teams who have ran the ball for more than 150 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs this year. The teams? Baltimore, Denver twice, Los Angeles, and New England. The Chiefs won all of those games. Look at last year's Super Bowl as well. The San Francisco 49ers ran the ball 21 times for 144 yards and a TD and it still wasn't enough and the Niners only put up 20 points. So, even if the Browns running back tandem combines for 150+ yards and a TD or two, they're still probably going to need more than that. The Browns can't hope and pray that it will be a long grind-it-out run game and they'll have to put up at least 30 if they want to beat Kansas City.
There's more as to why the Chiefs should feel confident going up against the Browns rushing attack, though. Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski has been great for the Browns in his first year as head coach and he'll probably be a leading candidate for Coach of The Year and the Browns offense has looked revitalized with him running the show. Stefanski was with Minnesota last year as their offensive coordinator and if you remember, the Chiefs beat the Vikings while holding star running back Dalvin Cook to just 70 yards. A game they also were without Patrick Mahomes. Just sayin'. Anyways, Spagnuolo and the Chiefs defense were able to slow Stefanski's outside zone run scheme very effectively and Stefanski still uses a lot of it in Cleveland. He'll throw several blockers at you and try to keep everyone on the defense on their toes. The Chiefs were able to stop this rushing attack by sending everyone on defense in pursuit of the ball-carrier and using stronger and more stout defensive lineman like Mike Pennel, Derrick Nnadi, and Chris Jones more often in the game. Chris Jones also played on the edge a lot in that game beacause of his strength and ability to shed blocks to try and cut off the ball-carrier. Hunt and Chubb are a little different from Dalvin Cook but Anthony Hitchens has put together his best year as a Chief and should help in stopping the run this game if anyone is to break through the defensive line.
It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs decide to attack the Browns run game on Sunday but Chiefs fans shouldn't be too worried. The Chiefs aren't the type of team to hold an opponent to 50 yards rushing or something crazy like that especially given the lopsided matchup in that regard, but they don't have to. As mentioned, if the Chiefs can come out firing and force the Browns to rely on Baker Mayfield to make plays, they should have a really good chance to win this game.