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NFL Preview - Kansas City (2-10) at Cleveland (4-8)



By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Prior to last weekend, the most pertinent Kansas City Chiefs story angle for a Week 14 game at Cleveland would have been the returns of quarterback Brady Quinn and running back Peyton Hillis to the city of their longest previous NFL stops.

Needless to say, after last weekend the Chiefs-centric topic matter has changed.

The trip will provide a second in-game outlet for the Kansas City franchise, whose reality was shattered last week when linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, then traveled to the team's facility and killed himself.

The Chiefs played their scheduled home game against Carolina a day later and won, 27-21.

"We have to deal with the events of the last few days, and it's not over, and it may not be over for some of us for most of our lives," coach Romeo Crennel said, "but time heals all wounds, and so we're going to start working on the time thing,"

On the field, Quinn is back in the place many thought he'd be a star.

He was drafted by the Browns and their then-coach, Crennel, with the 22nd pick of the first round in 2007, but was just 3-9 as a starter and compiled a mediocre 66.8 passer rating before heading to Denver for Hillis and a pair of draft picks in 2010.

Quinn languished in two seasons with the Broncos before returning to Crennel in Kansas City and taking over starting duties after several weeks of unsteady play from Matt Cassel and ultimately a concussion that sent him to the sidelines medically.

The former Notre Dame standout completed 19 of 23 attempts against the Panthers, threw his first touchdown passes since 2009 and was lauded for eloquent post-game comments in the wake of the Belcher tragedy.

"I feel like I can do a decent job of adjusting to pretty much anything," he said. "I think anytime you have an opportunity to play more and get more experience, you're going to continue to grow and improve as a player."

Hillis' return to Lake Erie is his first since an uneven run with the Browns.

He rumbled for 1,177 yards, caught 61 balls and scored 13 touchdowns for Cleveland in the first season after his arrival, but slumped to just 587 yards and three scores in 10 games while battling injuries -- and, in the eyes of some, pursuing a lucrative contract -- in 2011.

"He was everything people knew about him -- hard-working, blue-collar, tough, would do anything for anybody on the team," Browns lineman Joe Thomas said. "All he cared about was winning, and then all of a sudden the next year, all he cared about was trying to get his new contract.

"He crippled our offense. To have Peyton going through a contract dispute and basically refusing to play, it was a big distraction. I think it was better for both sides (when he left). At that point, the situation with him here was toxic and he didn't want to be here and players didn't want him here."

The change of scenery hasn't exactly been a boon to Hillis, who's carried just 59 times and scored once while rushing for 193 yards with the Chiefs. He's spent most of his time watching starter Jamaal Charles, who's averaging 4.8 yards per attempt and has 1,055 yards for the season.

The Browns have won two straight and been stingy against the run while doing so. In fact, they've allowed just 65.7 rushing yards per game over their last three games -- comprising an overtime loss at Dallas and victories over Pittsburgh and Oakland.

Cleveland's offense gashed the Raiders for 475 yards last week, including 364 through the air from rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who's connected on 63.9 percent of his passes for 732 yards with four touchdowns and three TDs in the three-game surge.

And the defeat of the Raiders -- Cleveland's first road win of the season -- has taken at least some of the urgency away from questions on whether second- year head coach Pat Shurmur will survive to see a third season.

Cleveland was 4-12 in Shurmur's initial year and has former NFL head coaches at both the offensive (Brad Childress) and defensive (Dick Jauron) coordinator positions. The Browns haven't won more than five games in a season since they were 10-6, under Crennel, in 2007.

"I don't want to talk about my future, OK?" Shurmur said. "I'm trying to get our team ready to play the Chiefs and then after that and so on and so forth. I don't look at it that way. I'm not taking any half-swings here. We'll just play it out and see what happens. I feel good about where we're going, we've just got to keep going."

The all-time series between the teams is even at 10-10-2, though the Chiefs have won three of the last five games, including a 16-14 decision at Cleveland in 2010. Neither Crennel nor Shurmur have ever faced this week's opponent.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

One of the consistent bright lights for the Browns has been rookie running back Trent Richardson, who's gained 827 yards, caught 44 passes and scored eight times while playing through myriad injuries.

His success running the ball early this week could open up play-action options for Weeden and stem the aggressiveness of Kansas City linebackers who like to blitz.

Richardson didn't reach the 20-carry mark in a single game through the season's initial seven weeks, but he's run 24, 25, 28, 29 and 20 times in the last five games and reached 100 yards twice. Additionally, he's caught 20 of his 44 passes in that same five-game stretch.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Browns have played well lately and are at home against a two-win foe, which would be enough most weeks. Add to it that the Chiefs could be in for a reality letdown after last week's emotional upheaval and it'd appear that this one would be Cleveland's to lose. If not, Crennel deserves Coach of the Year votes for his endurance alone.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Browns 21, Chiefs 13

12/06 12:32:33 ET

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