Game two on Championship Sunday is no slouch as we get two offensive juggernauts and two of the best quarterbacks in the game. If you’re old enough to remember Brady versus Manning, this is that rivalry renewed for this era of football. Let’s dive into the full game preview, best bets, and AFC Championship Game Odds.
Cincinnati Bengals (+105) at Kansas City Chiefs (-125) – Sunday, 6:30 PM EST
Who Dey! After a strong win in Buffalo last week, the Cincinnati Bengals are headed to Kansas City for a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. Last week, Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills’ defense. That win preserved his unbeaten record in outdoor games below 40 degrees in his career. However, that record is only important now that the weather in Kansas City looks to be similar for this matchup. This will be the fourth time Burrow will face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Additionally, he comes into the game 3-0 against them.
In this matchup, one of the biggest question marks for the game is the injury to Mahomes, which he suffered last week. Since Mahomes can run and create plays out of the pocket, defenses this season have found that blitzing against Kansas City doesn’t work. That was true of Cincinnati as well, who only blitzed 20% of the time in their regular season win over the Chiefs. On top of that, they only brought the house less than 10% of the time in last season’s AFC Championship. This week, that may be a different story due to Mahomes nursing an ankle injury. The Bengals will benefit from forcing Mahomes to move until he proves that he is still effective in the state he’s in. The Kansas City offensive line is credited with allowing the third fewest sacks this season but also faced a small portion of the rush compared to any other team.
On the offensive side of the ball, Cincinnati has averaged over 26 points per game this season. That stat is including 27 in Buffalo last week, and 27 against the Chiefs in the regular season. They have not scored under 20 points since Halloween night, which is also the last game the Bengals lost this season.
Burrow has continued to prove he is an effective leader of the offense, throwing for 35 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions (4 of those in Week 1). Additionally, he has three touchdowns with no turnovers in two playoff games. His favorite target continues to be wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who has 14 catches for 145 yards and two scores this postseason. The passing game was able to score twice and accumulate 286 yards in the last game against Kansas City. However, the Chiefs’ passing defense ranked higher than the run defense this season so it will also be up to running back Joe Mixon to keep the chains moving. Mixon missed this season’s matchup against the Chiefs but had 88 yards in last season’s AFC Championship win.
Cincinnati Bengals Notable Injuries: OG Alex Cappa (O), OT Jonah Williams (O)
For the fifth season in a row, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City will host the AFC Championship. The Chiefs finished the season as the top seed in the AFC, earning the sole bye. They then went on to take down Jacksonville and earn their fifth consecutive conference championship appearance.
In the divisional round, the Chiefs did have a hard-fought battle against the Jaguars’ defense, which gave them fits early in the game. Additionally, quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain and was forced to sit out a drive. To pile on, tight end Travis Kelce went on the injury report midweek with a sore back. Despite missing some time, Mahomes still finished with just under 200 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
The Kansas City weapons, especially Kelce and running back Isiah Pacheco, helped pick up the offense without their MVP-level quarterback on the field. Unfortunately, an inured Kelce muddies the waters and makes the matchup more difficult. Especially if he is not able to contribute as he did last week with 14 catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Either way he will go up against a Bengals defense that was top three against tight ends this season.
On defense, the Chiefs need to show up against the pass with momentum from last week’s performance. Against the Trevor Lawrence led offense, Kansas City only allowed one touchdown and just over 200 yards through the air. Additionally, they capped the win off with a beautiful interception from rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson. This week, they face a more dynamic passing offense that includes two receivers who had over 1,000 receiving yards this season in Chase and Higgins.
Kansas City’s pass rush has been a critical key to stopping drives, finishing the season with the second most sacks in the league. This came after only blitzing a quarter of the time thanks to guys like Chris Jones, who had 15.5 sacks himself. They will face an offensive line that is banged-up and need to take advantage of this if they want to get the ball back in the hands of the offense.
Kansas City Chiefs Notable Injuries: TE Travis Kelce (Q), WR Mecole Hardman (Q), RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (IR)
Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs AFC Championship Game Odds and Picks
Aside from the Mahomes injury watch all week, the next biggest story line has been the constantly changing odds. The line opened with the Chiefs as favorites and has moved all the way to Bengals -1, and most recently landed at +1.5.
A conference championship game that evenly matched is what football fans want and this will be an exciting one. The Bengals come into this game having not lost since October, and the Chiefs only have one loss (against Cincinnati) over that same period.
The quarterback matchup will be the most crucial to watch as they try to out dual each other to reach the Super Bowl. For total offensive attack, the lean here must go to Kansas City after the game Pacheco had last week. On the defensive side, Cincinnati has held the Chiefs to 24 points in each of the last two matchups. Additionally, the Bengals defense has allowed no more than 20 points in their last four games. Watch for this heavy-weight matchup to go the distance and be decided in overtime on a Burrow-led touchdown drive.
Final Score: Cincinnati 33 – Kansas City 27
Wicked Wager – Cincinnati ML (+105)
Wicked Player Prop – Ja’Marr Chase Anytime Touchdown Scorer (-105)