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Bengals vs. Chiefs: AFC championship game preview

After the most thrilling divisional week of the playoffs, we are heading for the championship week, and this is also expected to be a great week of football. The Kansas City Chiefs will be hosting the Cincinnati Bengals on January 30th. Sunday will be the fourth consecutive AFC championship game that the Chiefs are hosting, and they have won two of the three games they have previously played. On the other hand, the Bengals were no way near playoffs last year. This is the first time since 1988 that the Bengals have reached the playoffs. However, in the regular-season game between Bengals vs. Chiefs, the Bengals won their game when Joe Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns, so expectations from this game are high; it is expected to be a high scoring game.

What Is At Stake?

Reaching the Super Bowl is on the line here. Whoever wins the game will become the AFC Champion. Both quarterbacks will also be looking to outperform the other to reach and perhaps win the Super Bowl. For Patrick Mahomes, who already has established himself as the elite quarterback, winning a Super Bowl will have great importance because he would win his second title in his career in just four regular seasons that he has played.

He will be chasing the record of Tom Brady. For Joe Burrow, it would be essential to winning the AFC championship game and perhaps Super Bowl because it will establish Burrow into an elite quarterback who can win big games. Then the head coaches of both teams will also be looking to get this win.

Andy Reid, the head coach of the Chiefs, has already won a Super Bowl two seasons ago. Reid’s postseason record is 19 wins against 15 losses, so he obviously will be looking to improve this record. On the other side is Zac Taylor, who is only in his third season as head coach. Both of his previous two seasons resulted in losing records. Taylor was the quarterback’s coach under Sean McVay with the LA Rams, so he can be quite bold in making decisions comparable to Andy Reid.

Teams Stats: Offense and Defense

Both teams performed great and won their close contest games. Bengals win being considered an upset. Bear in mind that Derrick Henry returned to the Titans backfield, and the Bengals’ defense managed to contain him. The Chiefs, of course, won their divisional playoff game against Buffalo Bills in overtime with a score of 42 to 36. The Chiefs and the Bengals have an average defense but a terrific offense in the regular season. Kansas City was ranked fourth in passing offense while the Bengals were ranked seventh.

Chiefs’ points per game of 27.9 were also slightly better than the Bengals’ 27.1 points per game. The Chiefs’ rushing offense was marginally better than the Bengals’. Both teams have almost identical passing defenses on the defensive side, which isn’t good. The Bengals are ranked at 25th in passing offense and Chiefs at 26th. On the rushing defense, the Bengals have one of the best defenses, and they were ranked fifth overall while the Chiefs ranked 21st in the regular season.

So, we can see Mahomes throw a lot, and Kelce and Hill are also expected to play significant roles in the upcoming game. In week 17 of the regular season, the Chiefs scored 31 points against the Bengals, so Mahomes and Chiefs can score points against the Bengals. However, the Bengals also succeeded in week 17 against the Chiefs scoring 34 points. So, in the end, it will be upon both teams’ defenses to contain opposing offensive weapons.

Bengals Game Plan

A couple of things happened in the Week 17 win for the Bengals to secure their victory over the Chiefs. Firstly, the Bengals were the underdogs, and the Chiefs were already in the playoffs, so it gave the Bengals a slight edge. Secondly, the Chiefs offense never got the ball back after the Bengals kicked the final field goal. When the Bengals got the ball, there were 6:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Bengals ended up taking all this time without giving the Chiefs any chance for a comeback.

So, it goes back to containing Mahomes and Chiefs’ offense, and of course, it is not an easy job to stop Mahomes, Kelce, and Tyreek Hill, especially when your passing defense is ranked at 25th. However, if the Bengals want to become the AFC champions, they must stop the Chiefs passing offense or slow it down so Burrow and the Bengals offense can get some points on the board.

On the offensive side, Burrow is playing amazingly well. Burrow has thrown just one interception in his last six games against 14 touchdown passes. Burrow’s connection with all his offensive weapons is going great. Ja’Marr Chase is not only a great and attractive target in the crowd, but he can also run after the catch and can create separation. He was up against Tyrann Mathieu in week 17, and in the big plays, Mathieu failed to contain Chase. Tee Higgins can also run very fast after catching the ball. Tyler Boyd is in the slot, and C.J. Uzomah, at the tight end position, is also very comfortable keeping the plays going.

Finally, Joe Mixon is a great rusher and can be a dual-threat. So, the Bengals don’t need to improve or fix anything offensively speaking. They need to keep doing what they have done in the past 5 or 6 games. Perhaps the only thing that the Bengals need to focus on would be to keep Burrow safe, Burrow has been sacked 51 times in the regular season, and the Titans ended up sacking him nine times in their divisional matchup.

Chiefs Game Plan

The Chiefs’ offense has been playing at the highest caliber lately. In their last seven games, they are 6-1 and averaging 37.3 points per game. Mahomes has remained very active, and he managed to make plays even in the most challenging situations. Offensively, the Chiefs would plan to make the plays as much as possible.

The Bengals have a good pass rush, but Mahomes can scramble fast, and that will play into Chiefs’ benefit because, in the divisional game against the Buffalo Bills, Mahomes was the leading rusher of his side with 69 yards on seven carries. Of course, other top offensive weapons are Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, with running support from Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

So, if Mahomes can control the ball -as he has been doing lately- and can connect with any of his offensive weapons, then the Chiefs will score lots of points once again. Of course, the Chiefs’ defense is a whole different story, and Andy Reid will be thinking about how to rush Joe Burrow effectively without him having enough room to make significant and profound plays. Burrow, of course, has been great when rushed or pressured.

His rating of 91.1 is the best among all NFL quarterbacks in the 2021 season when under pressure. One of the most significant advantages the Chiefs’ defense will have is that they will be playing at Arrowhead Stadium, and that stadium can get loud. But of course, everyone from the Chiefs defense has to perform well to get support from their home crowd.

The safeties Juan Thornhill and Tyrann Mathieu, along with cornerbacks Charvarius Ward, L’Jarius Sneed, and Mike Hughes, need to contain the receiving core of the Bengals and must not give any big plays. Along with passing defense, the Chiefs would have to strengthen their rush defense to prevent long drives by the Bengals. If their defense can hold off Burrow and the company, they can rest assured that Mahomes will carry them to the AFC championship victory.

Verdict: Who Is Going To Win?

This is going to be a high-scoring game, and it is expected that both quarterbacks will throw for lots of yards, and collectively receivers from both sides will have a huge day. However, the Chiefs have been playing at another level, and they are expected to beat the Bengals and reach their third straight Super Bowl.

Bengals 34

Chiefs    49

Photo by David Dermer/AP.

Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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