The Cincinnati Bengals (12-7) will look to sweep the Kansas City Chiefs (14-5) on Sunday in the team’s first AFC Championship Game since the 1988 season. The Chiefs are the first team to ever host the conference title game in four consecutive seasons, but they must avenge a 34-31 loss to these Bengals in Week 17.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 30, 2022 – 03:00 PM EST at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium
The Chiefs (10-9 ATS) are a 7-point favorite over the Bengals (12-7 ATS) in the NFL odds board at many of BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks. Since 2002, teams favored by at least five points in the Conference Championship Game are 15-2 SU and 11-6 ATS. Can the Bengals follow their first road playoff win in franchise history with a second?
Week 17 Recap: Bengals 34, Chiefs 31
The Chiefs are 11-1 since their 3-4 start, but that one loss was in Cincinnati in Week 17. It was an unusual game for the Chiefs as they led 14-0, 21-7, and 28-14 before losing after a field goal drive by Cincinnati consumed the final six minutes off the clock.
Patrick Mahomes had another great game. It was one of only three games this season where he was not sacked, but the big plays were going to everyone but Travis Kelce (five catches for 25 yards) and Tyreek Hill (six catches for 40 yards). That does not feel like a sustainable offense for the Chiefs when their stars are not shining. The Chiefs went from scoring four straight touchdowns in the first half to two punts and a field goal in the second half. Mahomes’ 4.1 YAC per completion against the Bengals was a season-low game.
The Bengals had more issues with sacks as Joe Burrow took four sacks. He led the NFL with 51 sacks taken this year and had nine more in the playoff win over the Titans on Saturday. But he still threw for 446 yards on the Chiefs thanks to one of the greatest receiving performances in NFL history by rookie Ja’Marr Chase.
Chase caught 11-of-12 targets for 266 yards and three touchdowns, including two huge YAC plays. Chase also drew two flags for defensive pass interference on third downs. He had a 30-yard catch on third-and-27 on the game-winning drive. The YAC Chase had, especially on his long touchdowns, was incredible effort plays on his part. Burrow only picked up a first down on 27.9% of his passes against the Chiefs, his second-worst game in 2021, but his 8.8 YAC per completion was a season high.
The Chiefs should always feel confident about their ability to move the ball with Mahomes at quarterback. But they also have their left tackle Orlando Brown back after he missed the Week 17 game, a game where the Chiefs lost his backup early as well. The Chiefs also got Clyde Edwards-Helaire back in the running back rotation, though Jerick McKinnon has come on in the playoffs as well.
Can the Bengals Keep Up with Kansas City Again?
The Bengals are going to have plenty of confidence after two playoff wins and already beating the Chiefs recently, but this is a different beast right now. Only the 2018 Patriots, thanks to their own overtime coin toss win, have been able to sweep the Mahomes-led Chiefs. We just saw Kansas City turn around a 38-20 loss to the Bills this season with a 42-36 overtime win. The Chiefs dropped 42 points and 552 yards of offense on the No. 1 defense without a turnover and by converting 8-of-13 on third down.
Mahomes has led the Chiefs to 42 points in each playoff game this year and at least 31 points in all but two of his 10 playoff starts. He is going to put up his share of points at home. The Bengals are 1-5 this season when allowing more than 24 points. Mahomes is 43-1 when the Chiefs allow fewer than 27 points.
The Bengals were a mediocre red zone offense this season, ranked 16th in touchdown rate (59.6%). In the playoffs, they really struggled in the red zone against the Raiders’ historically bad red-zone defense. The Bengals were only able to get into the red zone twice in Tennessee, scoring one touchdown and settling for four field goals. No matter how good rookie kicker Evan McPherson is, settling for a bunch of field goals is not the way to keep up with the Chiefs.
Chase’s monster game in Week 17 is going to be the talk of the week, especially after Buffalo’s Gabriel Davis had 200 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday night. The Chiefs lost safety Tyrann Mathieu early in the game to a concussion. He probably will be back for the game Sunday, but that is not a lock at this point. The Chiefs could be in trouble without him, but they are going to have to tighten things up either way so Chase doesn’t repeat his monster game.
The Chiefs know from experience that defenses usually do not get destroyed by a receiver in a playoff rematch. Tyreek Hill had 269 yards and three touchdowns in Tampa Bay last season. Todd Bowles’ defense held him to seven catches for 73 yards and no scores in Super Bowl 55. Of the 19 cases where a wide receiver had 180-plus yards on a defense he would see again in the playoffs, that receiver only averaged 64.1 yards in the playoff game. Only two players broke 100 yards again.
Fortunately, the Bengals have other weapons in Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and tight end C.J. Uzomah, but stopping the YAC plays from Chase is the top priority for the Chiefs this week.
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The Bengals are a nice story, but they won last week after allowing nine sacks and not even scoring 20 points. NFL teams are 2-126-2 all time when doing that. I like the Chiefs to get double-digit leads in this one but not blow it this time at home. Burrow takes too many bad sacks and will not escape them the way Josh Allen did on Sunday. This is Kansas City’s game to lose, and after what happened against Buffalo last week, are you willing to bet against Mahomes? Take the Chiefs for your NFL picks to kick off Championship Sunday.
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