AFC Conference Championship: Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs Best Bets, Picks, and Predictions
Last weekend's divisional-round games were some of the best games of football we’ve seen all season. Every time you thought a team had the upper hand, the opposing team was there waiting to shift the tides back in their favor.
The first AFC game of the weekend saw the Bengals and the Titans duke it out in a nerve-wracking, back and forth game of football that had us all on the edge of our seats. Although they were down by 10 points at one time, the Bengals ultimately grabbed the victory thanks to a game-winning field goal by rookie kicker Evan McPherson.
Then on Sunday night, the Bills and Chiefs blew up arrowhead in one of the best offensive games of all time. There was a combined 28 points scored in the last quarter of the game, with the most important 3 points coming in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Down three with 13 seconds left, Patrick Mahomes was able to drive his team down the field and put Harrison Butker in field goal range. Butker made the kick, forcing the game into overtime. On the first drive of OT the Chiefs scored and secured the win.
While we all sort of expected Kansas City to win, they really had to fight for every inch and grab the win by the horns–nothing was being given for free.
So, this sets up our AFC Championship matchup between the Bengals and the Chiefs. Here, I will break out the game and provide expert analysis and predictions.
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Setting The Scene
Thanks to the Bengals victory on Saturday over the top-seeded Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati will advance to the conference championship game for the third time in franchise history, and the first since the 1988 season. The Bengals have never lost an AFC Championship game, bolstering a 2-0 record coming into this weekend’s action.
Cincinnati last played in the AFC Championship game in 1989, beating the Buffalo Bills to make it to Super Bowl XXIII. The other trip to the AFC title game was 1982, the infamous Freezer Bowl, played at Riverfront Stadium against the then San Diego Chargers. In both previous AFC Championship games, the Bengals advanced to face the 49ers in the Super Bowl– only to lose both times. A Super Bowl XVI and XXIII rematch is still in the cards, with the 49ers also in the NFC Championship game against the Los Angeles Rams. The crazy thing about the title games this year is that they're both rematches of regular-season games, and the teams that won those games are both underdogs. The 49ers and Bengals went a combined 3-0 against the Rams and Chiefs, but neither team is trusted to win this week.
One reason to favor the Bengals in Sunday’s game comes from their extra day of rest. You see, they played their divisional round game on a Saturday, thus granting them an additional days rest coming into the AFC Championship.
While the one-day advantage doesn’t sound like enough, teams that play on Saturday in the divisional round have gone 16-8 in the conference title round over the past 12 years.
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (-7)
When: Sunday, 3 p.m., CBS
The Bengals will definitely be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, trying to make history and remain perfect in AFC Championship games. This Bengals team has played well all season, so it is somewhat surprising to see a 7-point line–especially because the Bengals had already beat the Chiefs in the regular. Although that may have been in Cincinnati, the Bengals proved they could stand shoulder to shoulder with the Chiefs as recently as Week 17.
In their regular-season matchup, Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase had 11 catches for 266 yards and three TDs, with four catches of 30 yards or more. So it’s safe to assume that Burrow is going to continue to look for his college teammate in this Sunday’s game.
This game feels like it has “Blockbuster” written all over it. During the regular season, there were only seven teams in the NFL that conceded more than 248 pass yards per game, and two of those seven teams are playing in this game. This sets up for what should be a very big night for Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes.
Both offenses are expected to go wild on Sunday, but the meat in the macaroni will come down to which defense will play better. The Bengals are better against the run and have a better pass rush, and the Chiefs secondary is dealing with a big injury this week seeing Tyrann Mathieu sidelined with a concussion.
I expect Kansas City to respond though, by dialing up the pressure after watching Burrow get sacked nine times by the Titans in the divisional round. Chris Jones had two of Kansas City’s four sacks in the first meeting, so this defensive unit already knows they can get to the QB.
And last but not least, we must not forget that this is happening in Patrick Mahomes’ backyard. Mahomes is 30-7 in his career at home, and is 7-1 with 23 TDs and one interception in AFC playoff games.
I think the home-field advantage will give them the extra edge to win it.
Prediction: Chiefs 31, Bengals 28.