Four notable factors weighing on Sunday's Kansas City at Cleveland game.
- They live in a different world now
Baker Mayfield vs. Patrick Mahomes unfolded not quite on an even playing field in 2016, but close enough.
Mayfield's program, Oklahoma, is a regular in the top of the national polls. Mahomes' team, Texas Tech, has wound up in the top 25 about half the time across the last three decades.
Their 2016 duel was a home game for Mahomes, and it wasn't as if he would have been shocking the world had he beaten Mayfield's Sooners, rather than losing a 66-59 circus.
The rematch is a home game for Mayfield. In this case, that doesn't level the playing field, much.
The Chiefs were 53-27 across the five seasons before Mahomes took over as No. 1 quarterback this year. The Browns were in a 4-49 slump prior to spending a No. 1 pick on Mayfield.
Mahomes has become the toast of the NFL, viewed as a brighter long-term prospect than Mayfield, playing Sunday in what equates to, in college terms, Alabama vs. Indiana.
Mayfield's response to being a heavy underdog against Mahomes on Sunday: "Bring it on."
- No place like home? Well, Dorothy ...
FirstEnergy Stadium went unplugged for three years, with the record in home games regressing from 2-6 in 2015 to 1-7 in 2016 to 0-8 in 2017.
Across the first three home games this year (Steelers, Jets, Ravens), the Browns were 2-0-1. A subsequent 38-14 stinker against the Chargers reopened the Factory of Sadness and began to close the book on Hue Jackson.
Still, beating the Chiefs would raise the 2018 home record to 3-1-1, restoring some faith among the paying customers. The Chiefs are heavy favorites, but they have not been an overwhelming road team under Andy Reid.
Across the previous four years, the Chiefs were 24-8 at Arrowhead Stadium and 18-16 everywhere else. In this year's two most recent road games, they trailed 23-14 at Denver midway through the fourth quarter and lost at New England.
- The Dear John letters
The Chiefs are where they are largely because of player roundups engineered by John Dorsey, who from assorted draft positions brought in Mahomes, wideout Tyreek Hill, running back Kareem Hunt and tight end Travis Kelce.
Key Chiefs acquired during each of Dorsey's five years of picking the players are behind their 7-1 record. Good luck getting a straight answer as to why Dorsey was fired in June of 2017.
After just one player-acquisition cycle as GM of the Browns, the roster isn't in great position to help Dorsey pull a Tim Misney and make the Chiefs pay.
If the Browns are to have a chance, Dorsey acquisitions Mayfield, Denzel Ward, Damarious Randall, Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry will need help from some of Dorsey's less obvious newbies (notably, the offensive tackles).
- The elephant on the sidelines
All other factors are wrapped into the the kickoff of the Gregg Williams era, or cameo such as it may become. Can the interim head coach bark the Browns out of the psychological abyss that reached a freefall as the Pittsburgh game drifted away?
The Chiefs' Reid, 60, is 190-121 as an NFL head coach, including 6-0 against Cleveland. Williams, also 60, is in his first game as a head coach since piloting Buffalo to a 17-31 mark from 2001-03.
Reid's Philadelphia Eagles beat Williams' Bills 23-13 in their only meeting as head coaches, in 2003. Reid never stopped being a head coach. How strange it must be for Williams to be back in the saddle after 15 years.
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