By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs have rarely met.
Just 26 times in fact.
They’ve never met in the playoffs, despite their long and storied histories.
They’re certainly familiar with each other, as they get set to face off in an AFC divisional-round showdown at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
Browns’ coach Kevin Stefanski was once a summer intern for Chiefs counterpart Andy Reid.
The Browns' Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) were Big XII Conference rivals.
Mayfield’s Sooners got the better of Mahomes’ Red Raiders twice - 63-27 in 2015 and then in an epic 66-59 shootout in 2016.
Mahomes won the first NFL battle between the two in 2018 - a 37-21 triumph for the Chiefs in Cleveland.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” Mahomes said of Mayfield. “Since I was a senior in high school. To be able to play on this stage is going to be special. He got the better of me in college, so I’ll try my best to win in the NFL.”
Another commonality is John Dorsey, who’s had his thumbprint on both rosters after stints as general manager for both teams.
Dorsey joined Reid in overhauling a Chiefs franchise in 2013 that was 2-14 the season prior. It was also Dorsey who, after being let go by the Chiefs, helped turn around a Browns organization that was 0-16 in 2017.
There’s also Kareem Hunt, who spent two seasons in Kansas City, including a Pro Bowl year in 2017, and got signed by Cleveland after being released by Kansas City in 2018, following the release of a video showing Hunt’s involvement in kicking a woman in a hotel in February of that same year.
It was a rocky ending, but Reid holds no grudges.
“We love Kareem,” Reid said. “He’s a heck of a kid. I’m so happy for him that he’s doing well. Really, when all is said and done, that’s the most important thing.”
What’s the key difference between the two teams? The upstart Browns are aiming for back-to-back playoff wins for the first time since 1950, after winning their first playoff game in 26 years last Sunday. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are aiming for back-to-back Super Bowl triumphs.
“They’re a heck of a football team,” Reid said of his next opponent. “You get to this time of the year, and you’re playing against the best. We’ve had a chance to look at them on tape, and respect the heck out of them and the job that they’ve done.”
The Chiefs (14-2) have been idle for two weeks after locking up the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and earning a first-round bye. The week of rest has helped, but Kansas City may still be down a few key playmakers.
Receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) and linebacker Willie Gay (ankle) have been ruled out, while running back Clyde-Edwards-Helaire (ankle) is questionable.
One key player who’s feeling well is receiver Tyreek Hill. After battling a hamstring injury in the latter half of the season, Hill says he feels “great and excited,” but he knows the Browns are not a team to take lightly.
“Very good and very young team,” Hill said. “Offense is tremendous, defense is good. We cannot take this opponent lightly. We have to play this game just like any other. Come out, play hard and just be the Chiefs.”
One player with mixed emotions heading into Sunday is tight end Travis Kelce. The Cleveland native has certainly been hearing a lot from friends and family back home these last few days.
“I absolutely love Cleveland,” the record-setting tight end remarked. “I understand we are each other’s enemies right now. I have a lot of friends and family back in Cleveland telling me I’m the enemy. It’s going to be fun going up against the Browns. It’s going to be an exciting game.”
Sunday’s showdown with the Browns kicks off Sunday at 2:05 central. It’ll be carried on KFEQ (680 AM, 95.3 FM) and Q Country 92.7 FM in St. Joseph.
The winner earns a spot in the AFC Championship game on January 24.
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.