The third-seeded Cincinnati Bengals are scheduled to play the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday in the late afternoon time slot, with the winner being the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl 57 in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb.12.
The line for Sunday’s game has fluctuated considerably over the past several days.
KC opened as a 2.5-point favorite on the odds boards at DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and PointsBet, but the number quickly flipped to Cincinnati by 1 to 1.5 points in large part because of the right high ankle sprain suffered by Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes in Saturday’s 27-20 victory against visiting Jacksonville.
On Thursday, with positive news about Mahomes’ recovery, the Chiefs are again the favorite — this time by 1 point across the board. To the delight of KC fans, Mahomes was a full participant in drills Wednesday and said Thursday, “I feel like I can still do a lot of things.”
Thus, KC head coach Andy Reid was reported as saying he has no concerns about whether his QB will be able to play on Sunday.
With regard to the weather, as of Thursday afternoon, the forecast on NFL Weather calls for a temperature of 22 degrees at the 5:30 local time kickoff with a wind chill of 11 but with a zero percent chance of precipitation. The temp is expected to drop to 18 degrees as the game progresses with a wind chill of 6.
Getting back to business…
NFL Playoff Odds: Bengals vs. Chiefs Point Spread, Total, Moneyline
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NFL · Sun (1/29) @ 6:40pm ET
|CIN Bengals||at||KC Chiefs|
|Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri|
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Where the Bengals and Chiefs Stand Heading Into the AFC Championship
This will be the fourth meeting in the past two seasons between the Bengals (14-4 straight up/13-5 against the spread) and Chiefs (15-3 SU/6-11-1 ATS) with QB Joe Burrow and Cincinnati winning each game as an underdog under fourth-year head coach Zac Taylor.
In Week 13 of this season, the Bengals prevailed 27-24 at home as a 2.5-point dog. In last year’s conference final, Cincinnati rallied from an 18-point deficit to win 27-24 against a Chiefs squad that was a 7-point favorite. And four weeks before that, the Bengals were triumphant at home 34-31 as a 3.5-point underdog.
In the Chiefs’ other games the past two seasons, they are 29-6.
In Burrow’s games versus the Chiefs, he completed 72.2 percent of his throws for an average of 327.3 yards and totaled 12 TDs (one INT). Mahomes was less spectacular in those meetings, with a 67.3 completion percentage, 252.3 yards a game, six TDs, and two interceptions.
Last week in the Divisional Round, Cincinnati walloped the Bills 27-10 in snowy Buffalo as a 6-point dog, doing so while playing without three starters along the offensive line due to injuries suffered in the past month.
It was the Bengals’ third-straight road win in the postseason the past two seasons. Included was last year’s Divisional Round victory at Tennessee against the top-seeded Titans 19-16 as a 3.5-point dog.
In last week’s victory behind a reconstructed offensive line, Cincinnati RB Joe Mixon had his second-most productive game of the year with 105 rushing yards and the squad totaled 30 first downs against a Buffalo defense that ranked sixth in the regular season. And just as important, Burrow was sacked only once on 37 drop-backs.
As for Kansas City, in last week’s closer-than-expected victory over the Jaguars, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce was targeted 17 times and had 14 receptions, tied for most by anyone in the league this year. But in that earlier game versus Cincinnati, he had only four catches.
Then there’s this tidbit: This is the second time in NFL history, dating to 1970, that conference title game combatants will meet a second straight year at the same venue. The other occurred in 2012 when New England played host to Baltimore for the AFC crown. The Ravens, who lost the previous year’s game 23-20, won that second meeting 28-13 as an 8-point underdog en route to winning the league championship. It was the biggest upset in any conference final in the past 20 seasons.
Bengals vs. Chiefs Injuries
QB Patrick Mahomes (ankle) was a full participant at practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Although Cincinnati ORT La’el Collins remains out (IR, knee), there’s hope to get back OLT Jonah Williams (questionable, knee) and ORG Alex Cappa (questionable, ankle) for Sunday. Neither participated in drills on Wednesday or Thursday, but head coach Zac Taylor said they’re both improving.
Bengals vs. Chiefs Analysis & Prediction
It appears Mahomes is almost assured to be in the starting lineup, but what’s uncertain is if he’ll be able to do what he’s done more often than anyone else in the league this season, according to the folks charting advanced stats. And that is to throw from outside the pocket.
Even if he’s more stationary, how much oomph will he get on throws off his tender plant foot? Will he be able to make quick spins to dodge a mean-spirited pass rush led by Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard? There’s only so much help adrenaline can provide.
Then again, maybe Mahomes is indeed a super-quick healer. In the 2019 season opener, he suffered a similar injury to his left ankle. The next week, he threw for four TDs in a 28-10 win at Oakland. But that Raiders pass defense wound up ranked next to last that season. Cincinnati’s current unit is ranked No. 1.
Although little-used veteran backup QB Chad Henne was roundly applauded for leading the Chiefs on a 98-yard TD drive in a brief appearance last week — one of only eight such marches of at least that length in the league this year — that was largely thanks to 57 rushing yards by Isiah Pacheco and a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty. Henne completed five passes for 23 yards on that possession.
Regardless of who’s in there, he’ll be going against a Bengals pass defense that throttled Buffalo last week and caused flustered Bills WR Stefon Diggs to get his pants in a bunch. That was one of three games this season the Bengals held a foe to its lowest point total of the season. Kansas City didn’t have any such game.
As for Burrow, he’ll be facing a Chiefs pass defense that ranks 27th and hasn’t slowed him yet in their previous encounters.
In summary, it’s hard to believe that Mahomes will be his usual self — and that will make it hard for Kansas City to keep up on the scoreboard.
Forecast: Bengals 27, Chiefs 20
Conference Championships: Odds | Betting trends | Best bets
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