Sunday’s matchup will feature a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game when the Cincinnati Bengals meet the Kansas City Chiefs for a shot at the Super Bowl.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes are no strangers to the spotlight and the stakes. In all but each player’s rookie season they have advanced to the Conference Championship. The difference is this will be Burrow’s second time in the game while it will be Mahomes’ fourth.
Though Mahomes has secured home-field advantage for the Chiefs in each of those four games, Kansas City went 2-2 in those games, with the emergence of Burrow a factor in one of those losses.
The Bengals and Chiefs took it down to the end last year, with Cincinnati finishing victorious after a field goal in overtime secured a 27-24 win to cap off an 18-point comeback.
Now, the Chiefs will be looking for vengeance when the teams meet once again for a chance to go to the big game.
Cincinnati Looks To Continue Dominance
The Chiefs have home-field advantage Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, though that hasn’t seemed to phase the Bengals in the past.
Cincinnati has had the Chiefs’ number since Burrow took over the starting role, with the Bengals going 3-0 in their last three games, including the win at Arrowhead in the Conference Championships.
Although Arrowhead Stadium is one of the loudest in the NFL, that didn’t seem to phase Burrow the only time he played there. He finished 23-for-38 for 250 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Burrow’s 18-point comeback in the second half helped earn Cincinnati the win and has resulted in a few players calling the stadium “Burrowhead” ahead of the upcoming rematch.
Burrow has also been strong in his other two performances at home against Kansas City, averaging 366 yards while passing for six touchdowns and rushing for one more in the regular season.
The Bengals have also done well in keeping Mahomes contained in their last three meetings, as he has averaged 252.3 yards while throwing for six touchdowns and two interceptions, also rushing for a score.
Cincinnati had another strong day last week, holding the Bills to 10 points and 325 yards while putting up 27 and 412, respectively. The Bengals will need more of the same to defeat the Chiefs.
Kansas City’s Offense Carries On
The Chiefs won most of their games in the regular season by offensive dominance, and Saturday’s win over the Jaguars was no different.
Kansas City led the league in the regular season with total offense, passing offense, and scoring offense, averaging 413.6 total yards, 297.8 passing yards, and 29.2 points a game. The Chiefs finished with 27 points and 362 total yards against Jacksonville.
Even though Mahomes was hobbled with an ankle injury for most of the game, he finished 22-of-30 for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Backup Chad Henne subbed in the second quarter, adding a touchdown and 23 yards on 5-of-7 attempts.
Tight end Travis Kelce was big, recording 14 receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns. His 14 catches set the single-game playoff record for tight ends while he now has 14 total touchdowns in the postseason, third behind tight end Rob Gronkowski with 15 and wide receiver Jerry Rice with 22.
Though it sounds like he’s feeling good, Mahomes’ health will be imperative for the Chiefs going forward. The likely MVP winner for this year, Mahomes is leading Kansas City to its fifth straight AFC Championship after leading the league in passing yards this season, throwing 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns in the regular season.
A key component of Mahomes’ play was also missing after his injury, as he was unable to scramble much or make throws outside of the pocket, a category he also led the league in this season.
The Chiefs’ offense has remained strong even with Mahomes not fully healthy and should be able to cause trouble for a visiting Bengals team.
Cincinnati vs. Kansas City Prediction
This will be the fourth meeting between Burrow and Mahomes, and as each previous matchup has provided an exciting game, this one should be no different.
The Bengals had no problem going to Buffalo last week and stopping a potent Bills offense, and they have shown previously they can play at Arrowhead as well.
The Chiefs’ offense is strong, but Mahomes’ injury may force them to the run similar to last week, which Cincinnati has had success slowing down. Kansas City is at home and will be looking to put an end to a three-game series losing streak, but the Bengals should pull off another exciting win.