AFC Championship Preview: Rising Bengals Challenge Chiefs at Arrowhead
The Cincinnati Bengals find themselves in a tango with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC title. Both teams contain high-octane offenses hoping to bring their squad to the Super Bowl. QB Joe Burrow led the Bengals to an upset of the №1 Seed Tennessee Titans last week, while QB Patrick Mahomes outlasted Josh Allen in an absolute magical shootout against the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round. Both teams are coming into this game with momentum and confidence, but one has to go home. Let’s jump to the analysis.
The Cincinnati Bengals capped off the regular season scorching, averaging 32 points in their past 3 regular season games. They scored 34 in their Week 17 clash with these same Kansas City Chiefs, which was enough to lift them to a victory and clinch the AFC North. Joe Burrow tore apart the Kansas City secondary, exploding for 446 yards and 4 TDs. Rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase accumulated 256 yards and 3 TDs, setting NFL records. Despite the Bengals allowing 31 points to the KC offense, they were still able to pull out the win. Cincinnati’s defense probably won’t be able to stop the insane Chiefs offense, so their own offense will have to keep up in a shootout with Patrick Mahomes. Joe Burrow will definitely have to take advantage of the weak KC passing defense in order to send the Bengals to the Super Bowl. Cincinnati is 5–2 when he throws for at least 300 yards, so basically the team finds victories when he finds air yards. RB Joe Mixon isn’t exactly too hot right now, not having ran for more than 70 yards since Week 12, so don’t expect him to be essentially vital to the Cincinnati game plan to win. If he can somehow explode for 100+ yards however, it would be the icing on the cake, as the Bengals are 3–0 in the 3 games he’s ran for at least 100 yards this season. Burrow will try to establish the connection to Ja’Marr Chase, who’s been having an amazing rookie campaign. He’s eclipsed the 100 yard mark in 3 of his past 4 games, including the field day he had against the Chiefs in Week 17. As long as Joe Burrow can connect with him, and become unstoppable through the air, the Bengals will be headed to LA for the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs
Despite the Chiefs starting the season at the bottom of the AFC West, they’ve rounded backed into form and have shown why they are the dominant force that they are known to be. They’ve scored 42 in back to back games, including a legendary classic against the Bills in the Divisional Round. QB Patrick Mahomes threw 3 TDs and 378 yards, and also led Kansas City in rushing with 69 yards and 1 TD. WR Tyreek Hill went for 150 yards and a TD on 11 grabs in the Divisional Round, but was held to a meager 40 yards in their past matchup with the Bengals. Star TE Travis Kelce was also held to just 25 yards in their Week 17 matchup with the Bengals. This could prove to be very troublesome for Patrick Mahomes if his top two targets are well defended the whole game. The Chiefs own a very bad YPG defense, ranking 27th in overall YPG, 25th passing YPG, and 21st rushing YPG. They own an average -7.3 points contributed by defense per game, so this defense is definitely not a positive force for Kansas City. However, both defense are subpar and allow points like college defenses so they sort of negate each other. The difference will be in the offense, as long as Mahomes can get the ball to his playmakers and get some sort of run game down with either Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Jerick McKinnon, the Chiefs will see themselves back in the Super Bowl.
At the time of publishing, the Kansas City Chiefs are favored by 7-points and the total stands at 54.5. The Bengals will run into defensive issues, but they overall should keep the score low enough for Joe Burrow to work his magic. Ja’Marr Chase will continue to feed on the Chiefs defense as he did in Week 17, and this offense should operate smoothly as a whole. Now, don’t discredit the Chiefs offense, they are well, the Chiefs. They’ve got the 3rd best overall YPG and 4th best overall passing YPG on the season. Expect that to not change, as their offense is too potent for a huge stall out in such a crucial time in the season. The Bengals will keep it close in a shootout, and could totally outright win. Back the Cincinnati spread, as Burrow and Chase should have no problem keeping this game within a TD. For the total, it’s extremely high, but both teams are too hot to take the under. The offenses have clicked on both sides and the last matchup between the two teams ended with a total of 65 points. Both defenses rank in the bottom half of overall YPG, net yards per pass attempt, and the Chiefs allow the 2nd most yards per play (5.9). Back the over.
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