Another season, another AFC Championship Game appearance for the Kansas City Chiefs. After a thrilling overtime win over the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round, the Chiefs — for the fourth straight year — get to play at home for the chance to make the Super Bowl. But, this time around, their opponent is a new playoff foe: the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals snapped a franchise playoff winless streak of over 30 seasons a few weeks ago and then stunned the Tennessee Titans last week to reach their AFC Championship Game since 1988.
This is a matchup that NFL fans can salivate over, from the swagger of Joe Burrow and the explosiveness of the Bengals’ skill-position weapons to the perfection of Patrick Mahomes and the incredible execution of the Chiefs’ offense. Both defenses are pretty good too. This should be another great game in a postseason filled with them.
Bengals Have To Pressure Mahomes
It’s never an easy task to try and stop Mahomes and the well-oiled machine that is the Chiefs’ offense especially when it’s operating at full strength. Cincinnati’s defense played well against both the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans, particularly in terms of forcing turnovers (five combined in those games), but Kansas City is a different animal.
The key for Cincinnati is to do what the Bills couldn’t: Pressure Mahomes enough to not allow his receivers to have the time to get open. The Bengals do have a solid pass rush but they only sacked Ryan Tannehill once on Saturday which definitely won’t cut it for a game against the Chiefs.
If Mahomes has time to let Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and even Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle find the gaps in Cincinnati’s bottom-third pass defense, then it’s going to be a long day for Zac Taylor’s team.
Chiefs Don’t Need To Change Anything Offensively
The only offensive “issue” Kansas City had in Sunday’s classic was that the Chiefs probably were scoring too quickly, especially down the stretch. Still, that’s a good problem to have and it only underscores just how good the Chiefs are. There is no deficit too big for Mahomes to come back from in any game but particularly so in the playoffs.
They’ve done a good job mixing in the running game with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon too, which has given the Chiefs another dimension on offense. Throwing screen passes to guys out of the backfield also helps to combat an active pash rush and Kansas City will likely do that to blunt the Bengals’ strong front seven.
Bengals vs. Chiefs Head-To-Head
The Bengals beat the Chiefs 34-31 back in Week 17 as Joe Burrow went off, throwing for 446 yards and four touchdowns. Cincinnati came back from a 28-14 first-half deficit to stun Kansas City for the Chiefs’ only loss since Week 7.
Cincinnati has done well against Kansas City in recent years as the Bengals have won four of the last five meetings between these teams. As a result, the Bengals lead the overall historical head-to-head record 16-14.
Bengals vs. Chiefs Game Information
- Date/Time: Sunday, January 30, 3 p.m. ET
- Location: Arrowhead Stadium
- Television: CBS
- Bengals vs. Chiefs Live Stream: NFL Game Pass
Bengals vs. Chiefs Betting Lines
The Chiefs opened as 7½-point favorites on the BetUS sportsbook but the line was quickly bet down to seven points, where it stayed for most of the week. But, there was late movement on Thursday that pushed the line back up to 7½ points. It’s a big spread for a conference championship game, yet there was a lot of talk about Chiefs-Bills being a de facto AFC Championship Game in the Divisional Round so it makes sense.
That’s not completely fair to the Bengals but it’s reasonable with how good Buffalo and Kansas City are and how evenly matched that shootout was. Cincinnati is a big moneyline underdog, though, so there is a lot of value there if you think Burrow can lead the Bengals to a legendary upset.
The point total over/under is high but has stabilized in the past couple of days. While the Chiefs have been an over machine lately, the under has hit in the Bengals’ last three games and was 11-8 in Cincinnati’s games this season.
Bengals vs. Chiefs Prediction
If you’re betting online, take the Chiefs and the points even with the spread back up over a touchdown. The Bills had the No. 1 scoring and yardage defense in the NFL this season and still managed to give up 42 points to the Chiefs (and lost by six even with a close-to-perfect performance by Josh Allen).
It would take a miracle, some turnover luck, and a whole lot of other things going Cincinnati’s way for the Bengals to keep this one a one-score game. Of course, that extra half-point makes a big difference but it isn’t enough to justify betting against Mahomes at home in the playoffs especially at even-money value.
As for the total, consider the under. Yes, the Chiefs are an offensive juggernaut but they also had a top-10 scoring defense and held the Bills to 21 points until the tail end of the fourth quarter. It’s a really high over/under that might hinge more on how many points the Bengals are able to score than on how many points the Bengals give up.
Pick: Chiefs -7½ (Ev)
Bills vs Chiefs Edge
Bills vs Chiefs Results
Bills vs Chiefs Game Injuries
Bills vs Chiefs Game Scorebox
Pick: Under 54½ Points (-110)