After the greatest Divisional Round weekend in NFL history, the AFC Championship Game will try to deliver a proper encore as the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals. These teams just met in Week 17, with the Bengals coming from behind to win 34-31. Of course, this time, the Chiefs will be at home and favored by seven points, with the over/under set at 54.5 points.
The Chiefs are coming off an incredible win in one of the best playoff games in recent memory. Patrick Mahomes and company pulled off a magic act after falling behind with 13 seconds left against the Bills. As a result, the Chiefs have won 11 of their last 12 games and six straight home playoff games.
Of course, the Bengals had a little magic last week, pulling out a 19-16 win over the Titans on the road. It was a milestone win for Cincinnati, so anything more would be icing on the cake. On the other hand, the Bengals have won five of their last six games, including a win over the Chiefs.
Burrow and Hide
Despite the win, the Bengals have a major problem to deal with after Joe Burrow was sacked nine times by the Tennessee defense last week. Granted, when he wasn’t getting sacked, Burrow completed 28 of his 37 passes and threw for 348 yards. But the Bengals need to sort out their issues on the offensive line because they can’t afford to have drives stall and settle for field goals the way they did last week.
On the other side of the ball, the Cincinnati defense has held both playoff opponents under 20 points. In fact, the Bengals have held five of their last six opponents to 21 points or less, with the Chiefs being the only exception. While they didn’t have a ton of success against the Chiefs a few weeks ago, the Bengals are strong in the trenches and have forced five turnovers in two playoff games.
Simply the Greatest
It’s hard to keep coming up with superlatives to describe Mahomes and the Kansas City offense. The Chiefs have scored 42 points in each of their two postseason games, doing so last week against the team that allowed the fewest points in the NFL during the regular season. At the moment, Mahomes looks to be at the top of his game, with key playmakers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce also performing at a high level.
That being said, Kansas City’s defense was absolutely torched last week, albeit against a high-level quarterback. The secondary, in particular, looks problematic after last week’s game, especially if Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t clear concussion protocol. The Kansas City pass rush has also been inconsistent all season and will need to make a difference on Sunday.
The Bengals have had a great season, but they are far too flawed to win at Arrowhead Stadium. Burrow needs to be better protected, and the Cincinnati defense probably can’t slow down Mahomes enough to keep this game within a touchdown. Bet on the Chiefs to win and cover the AFC Championship Game on their way to a third straight Super Bowl appearance.
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