After 20 weeks of NFL Football, the AFC Championship game is set. Hopefully, for the sake of NFL fans everywhere, that game will be a good one. Hopefully, we can get a game as good as the Divisional game we saw Sunday Night between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs.
That game was an instant classic involving two of the best young quarterbacks in the game today in Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Now, with Mahomes and the Chiefs out dueling Allen and the Bills 42-36 in overtime, they will turn their attention to Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals.
This game, much like a few others in these playoffs, is a rematch. In Week 17, the Bengals defeated the Chiefs 34-31 in Cincinnati. In that game, Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns. Three went to Ja’Marr Chase, the likely NFL Rookie of the Year, who also had 11 receptions for 266 yards to go along with his three scores.
Mahomes threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. This first game between these two was a good one. Hopefully, this one will be as well. It may not be great like the Bills vs. Chiefs, but good nonetheless.
Chiefs Offense vs. Bengals Defense
Mahomes passed for 4839 yards and 37 touchdowns, while Hill led their receiving unit with 111 receptions for 1239 yards and nine touchdowns. Kelce pitched in with 92 receptions and 1125 yards, with nine touchdowns, which tied Hill for the team lead. Darrel Williams led them in rushing with 558 yards and six touchdowns.
The Bengal’s defense is not statistically significant as they finished 18th in total defense, allowing 350.8 yards per game. But they have forced five turnovers in their two playoff games. Trey Hendrickson led this defense with 14 sacks, while linebacker Logan Wilson led them with 100 tackles and four interceptions.
Bengals Offense vs. Chiefs Defense
Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow leads this Bengals offense, with Ja Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, and Tee Higgins joining him. This unit finished 13th in total offense and averaged 361.5 yards per game, with Burrow throwing for 4611 yards and 34 touchdowns.
It is no secret that his favorite target is his former LSU teammate Chase. He was targeted 128 times and had 81 receptions for 1455 yards and 13 touchdowns. Higgins caught 74 passes for 1091 yards and six touchdowns. Mixon rushed for 1205 yards and 13 touchdowns while catching 42 passes out of the backfield for 314 yards and adding three more touchdowns.
It is no secret that the Kansas City defense started the season slowly. They were 3-4 at one time and gave up 30 points or more in the four straight games. They finished 27th in total defense, allowing 368.9 yards per game. Yet, after that slow start, they have played much better.
Jones led them with nine sacks, while Bolton led them in tackles with 112. Mathieu, their defensive leader, led them with three interceptions and one pick-six.
Of course, this game could turn into a shootout, but if this happens to come down to special teams and a field goal that has the edge? On the season, Harrison Butker was 25 of 28 on field-goal attempts with a long of 56 and was 47 or 49 on extra points. He did miss a field goal and an extra point against the Bills.
Evan McPherson, a rookie from Florida, connected on 28 of 33 attempts with a long of 58 yards and was 46 of 48 on extra points. So far in these playoffs, he is a perfect eight for eight on-field goal attempts. He made four of those against the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans in each game.
This game probably won’t come down to a field goal attempt, but if it does, I give the edge slightly to Butker despite McPherson being perfect in the playoffs.
Keys To Game
This game will come down to whether or not the Bengals can keep up with the Chiefs. They are one of many teams that can get into and win a shootout with the Chiefs.
They beat them in Week 17, but that was in Cincinnati. Burrow and Chase went off in that game. The defense held Hill and Kelce in check for the most part. Hill had six receptions for 40 yards, while Kelce had five catches for 25 yards and a touchdown.
The good thing for them is that they know they can beat the Chiefs. However, winning at Arrowhead, especially in the playoffs, will be tough.
The Bills were the top-ranked defense in the NFL, and they could not stop the Chiefs. The Bengal’s defense is nowhere near that caliber, but they have played well in the postseason.
They did not force a turnover or have a sack in their Week 17 matchup, yet they still won. If they can force a couple of turnovers and limit the damage that Kelce and Hill can do like they did in Week 17, they could pull off the upset.
I think this game will be close for a while, but ultimately the Chiefs will pull away and head to their third straight Super Bowl. However, I am pulling for a Bengals upset.
Chiefs 35 Bengals 27
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