Chiefs vs. Browns: Five Things to Watch

Here are five storylines to follow as the Chiefs face the Browns on Sunday

The Kansas City Chiefs (9-5) face the Cleveland Browns (3-11) on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.

Here are five storylines to follow:

1. The advantage of playing at Arrowhead Stadium with plenty on the line

The Chiefs control their destiny in the AFC playoff picture with two weeks to play and the only way to keep that is with a win over the Browns on Sunday.

Luckily for the Chiefs, after playing 9 of their first 14 games away from Arrowhead Stadium, the final two games of the regular season are back in front of the loudest fans in the NFL.

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"When you're in the hunt in the month of December, what better place could you imagine playing than Arrowhead Stadium?" Chiefs coach Andy Reid said this week. "I mean, think about that. We know our people are going to be out here like crazies, and everybody is home for Christmas and what better place to be than right here.

"We look forward to it. Our players feed off that. You can't help it. I've got headsets on and everything and you still kind of just feel the rumble there.

"It's just a great, great environment for football."

The Chiefs look to pick up their ninth straight win of the season on Sunday, which would tie a franchise record (2003, 2013).

Here are a few other milestones that could be accomplished on Sunday:

  • Jeremy Maclin is just 15 yards receiving shy of 1,000 for the season, which would give him the second 1,000-yard season of his career (2014).
  • Alex Smith is just 109 yards passing away from breaking his career best of 3,313, which was set back in 2013.
  • Cairo Santos needs just one more 50-plus-yard field goal to give him 5 for the season, which would break the current franchise record. Santos is currently tied with Nick Lowery (1980) with 4.
  • Tamba Hali (86) needs just 1 more sack to pass Neil Smith (86.5) for second on the franchise's all-time sacks list.
  • Ron Parker (6) is just 1 sack shy of breaking the franchise's all-time sacks record by a defensive back. Reggie Tongue currently holds the record (6.5).
  • Marcus Peters is just 3 passes defensed away from breaking the franchise record for most in a season, which was set by Brandon Carr back in 2010.

2. Will the Chiefs defense continue to dominate late in games?

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Over the past five games, the Chiefs have outscored their opponents 50-0 in the fourth quarter.

Thanks in large part to the 21 turnovers they've forced, the Chiefs defense has only allowed an average of 12.25 points per game during this eight-game winning streak.

Of the 11 turnovers they've created over the past five games, 8 have come in the second half and have led to 37 points.

The Chiefs are currently tied for the best mark in the NFL with 6 non-offensive touchdowns this season (4 pick-sixes and 2 fumble return touchdowns).

3. What's going to happen with the outside linebacker situation?

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With Justin Houston missing the last three games with a hyperextended knee and the recent news of veteran Tamba Hali breaking his thumb against the Ravens last Sunday, the outside linebacker situation will be one to watch on Sunday.

"I think we just see," Reid said of whether or not Hali would play on Sunday. "It's too new, it's too fresh right now. [Hali] just had the surgery here [on Tuesday]. He's just kind of coming through that part of it. We'll see how it goes.

"Right now, if you asked him, he'd want to be out there playing, but let's just see what happens. Let's just take it day by day."

There isn't a timetable for Houston's return right now, but in his place, second-year linebacker and former first-round pick Dee Ford has amassed 10 tackles and 3 sacks in the last three games, many of which came in his breakout game against the San Diego Chargers two weeks ago at Arrowhead Stadium.

Reid mentioned on Wednesday that Frank Zombo would be the next man up at outside linebacker if Hali isn't able to play.

The official injury designations will be made Friday afternoon and you can find them here at Chiefs.com.


LAST TIME THEY MET

Game highlight photos from the Chiefs 23-17 victory over the Browns to remain undefeated at 8-0


4. Containing the elusive Browns quarterback, Johnny Manziel

One of the things that everyone knows about Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is that he's pretty good at extending the play.

He did it in college and he's showed flashes of the ability to do that for the Browns.

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In the five starts and eight games he's played in this season, Manziel has completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,364 yards with 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

But where he shows the ability that gave him the "Johnny Football" nickname dating back to his time at Texas A&M is when plays start to break down.

"We know he's going to give us some movement," rookie Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters explained. "All we have to do is we have to plaster [our guys] and trust that the front seven is doing their job. We've got some elite guys up front. We know [Johnny Manziel] is going to want to get out of the pocket and try to extend some plays with his legs and he can do it.

"It's all about us just playing disciplined and just staying on top."

Peters ranks second in the NFL with 7 interceptions this season but has been among the most targeted cornerbacks in the NFL this season as well.

When asked if he believes teams will stop attacking him because of the success he's found, Peters made it simple.

"I hope they don't. Keep coming at me. That's the best part about playing this position."

One of the players Peters might find himself lined up against on Sunday is former Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe, who makes his first return to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday after spending the first eight years of his career in Kansas City.

5. Will Spencer Ware return to the backfield on Sunday?

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After logging just 2 special teams snaps last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens because he was working his way back through some sore ribs, the question for Sunday's game will be whether or not running back Spencer Ware is healthy enough to return to the backfield.

He was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

With Ware not logging any carries against the Ravens, the bulk of the load went to Charcandrick West, who finished with 16 carries for 76 yards and a key 38-yard touchdown to put the Chiefs on the board early in the game.

The Browns defense has given up 135 yards per game on the ground this season, which ranks No. 31 in the NFL. 

West and Ware have combined to run the ball 172 times for 802 yards and 9 touchdowns since Jamaal Charles' was lost for the season back in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears.

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