When the K.C. Chiefs host the Cleveland Browns to open the 2021 season for both teams, it’s going to be a pivotal matchup of young AFC contenders hoping to get a leg up on the competition.
When it comes to the matchup itself, it’s an exciting one for even a casual NFL fan given the parties involved. It’s Patrick Mahomes against Baker Mayfield. It’s two high-powered offenses competing against each other, with the vaunted running attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt against the pass-happy Chiefs with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill as primary targets.
But the Browns have some exciting targets of their own and it begins at the top of the depth chart with Odell Beckham, Jr., a player who is hoping to bounce back with a stellar effort against the Chiefs after losing a year to injury. After tearing this ACL at midseason in 2020, Beckham is back in practice for the Browns and looks ready. As beat writer Mary Kay Cabot says, it’s “all systems go” at this point for Beckham.
OBJ is “all systems go” for the Browns vs. Chiefs.
When the Cleveland Browns traded for Beckham before the 2019 season, it was supposed to be the impact acquisition to put the team’s offense over the top. The blockbuster trade brought the New York Giants star into the fold of an exciting young offense with a former first overall pick in Baker Mayfield at the helm. Suddenly he had a household name for a primary target, which meant the AFC North was given notice that the Browns were serious about winning.
While the Browns stock has definitely improved since trading for Beckham, the reality is that the receiver himself hasn’t had nearly as much to do with the team’s progress as hoped. He passed the 1,000 yard mark in his first season with the team, but he wasn’t the consistently dominant force envisioned.
Things only got worse in 2020 for Beckham and the Browns when he tore his ACL. After seven games, Beckham was lost for the season and an entire offseason plan was shelved for the sake of recovery and rehabilitation.
What does this mean for the 2021 season? All eyes are on OBJ at this point to not only see if he’s healthy but just how much he adds to the offense post-injury. The Browns have needed a downfield threat to put themselves over the top against better teams—e.g. the Chiefs—and the loss of OBJ hurt their cause last postseason. Now the Chiefs stand as Beckham’s first test back in the lineup.
The Chiefs host the Browns on Sunday, September 12 at 3:25 p.m. Arrowhead Time.