NFL · Sun (1/30) @ 3:02pm ET
|Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri|
The Kansas City Chiefs have been holding steady as a 7-point favorite over the Cincinnati Bengals at most sportsbooks early this week, but BetMGM was dealing K.C. -7.5 as of Wednesday afternoon. Weather should not be an issue during Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.
No. 4 seed Cincinnati Bengals (12-7, 12-7 ATS) at No. 2 seed Kansas City Chiefs (14-5, 10-9 ATS)
Time: Sunday, 3 p.m. EST
PointsBet Line: Chiefs -7 (54.5)
The skinny: The Chiefs will be shooting for their third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl when they play host to the Bengals, who are in their first AFC title game since the 1988 season.
Facts: In late August, the Chiefs were listed as the 9-2 favorite to win the Super Bowl at BetMGM site and they are now at +120. The Bengals, meanwhile, were 150-1 shots this summer, with only Detroit (250-1) and Houston (300-1) having higher numbers. Bandwagon jumpers can still get Cincinnati at 8-1.
This a rematch of a Week 17 battle in Cincinnati when the Bengals overcame a 28-14 deficit to win 34-31 and clinch the AFC North crown. KC’s loss cost it the top seed in the AFC playoff bracket. It was the biggest lead blown by the Chiefs this season.
In that game, Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow had the best outing of his two-season career based on passer rating (148.0), with four TD throws and 446 yards. Also, WR Ja’Marr Chase had 266 receiving yards, easily a league-high this season, and three receiving TDs.
Last Sunday, Kansas City’s 42-36 OT victory over Buffalo, led by QB Patrick Mahomes’ heroics, prevented visiting teams from sweeping the four division-round games for the first time since the leagues merged in 1970.
The Bengals also won in dramatic fashion, scuttling a Titans drive in the closing seconds and winning 19-16 on a last-second FG of 52 yards by rookie Evan McPherson, who’s 8-for-8 this postseason. That’s why he got the game ball.
With both teams’ top RBs, KC’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon, absent from the injury report, there are no excuses there.
Analysis: In that Bengals win against Tennessee, Burrow, the most-sacked QB in the regular season (51), was dropped a career-high nine times, which was three more than in any of his other games this year.
That lack of pass protection is a big hole in the Bengals’ game plan. The line took a major hit Dec. 12 when veteran ORT Riley Reiff was lost for the season with an ankle injury. Counting that game, the unit has yielded 26 sacks the past six weeks. And there’s trouble on the other side of the line, too, with OLT Jonah Williams charged with yielding five QB pressures and two sacks last week. Not to mention the right guard giving up three sacks against the Titans right up the middle.
That famously boisterous Arrowhead crowd should make it near impossible for the Bengals to hear snap counts in key situations. Burrow could be unable to hear play calls from the sideline, which could result in wasted timeouts.
On the other hand, Kansas City has woes, too, especially in the secondary after watching a second enemy receiver clear 200 yards in a matter of weeks. Gabriel Davis put up receiving 201 and four TDs for the Bills. And if cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, the kingpin of the KC secondary, doesn’t clear concussion protocol, Chase and/or fellow WR Tee Higgins could have a big day.
At the end of the day, though, coaching experience should prevail. This will be KC boss Andy Reid’s ninth conference title game and fourth in a row with the Chiefs. He’s assisted by highly regarded DC Steve Spagnuolo, who also has head coaching experience. On the other sideline will be Zac Taylor, who’s in his third year as head man and in his first playoff go-round. Big edge to the Chiefs, thanks to Reid and a home crowd that should be able to rattle the visitors.
Bengals at Chiefs pick
Chiefs 38, Bengals 21
Last week: 1-3 ATS, 1-3 SU
Season total: 129-137-3 (.485) ATS, 164-104-1 (.612) SU