What a weekend of Divisional Games NFL fans had the pleasure of enjoying. Every game going down to the very last play. How often can you say that about a weekend of sporting action? Here’s hoping the Championship Games live up to a similar very high standard.
After such a riveting weekend of action, we did have to say goodbye to a number of Quarterbacks that I would happily watch every week. Josh Allen, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers have all had exceptional seasons and, despite the quality of players in the Championship Games, I can’t help but feel like we are missing out. Anyway, enough of the sentimental nostalgia it’s time for football, it’s time for the AFC Championship Game.
Cincinnati Bengals At Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs are one week removed from defeating a young Quarterback who has come to take the NFL by storm. Their reward is another Quarterback who is ready to take the NFL by storm. Joe Burrow from the Cincinnati Bengals has put together a remarkable comeback year as he has laid waste to the AFC North and now has his sights set on his first AFC Championship.
Mahomes is used to this limelight. His fourth straight home AFC Championship Game shouldn’t be making him too nervy but the fact that he lost to Burrow in Week 17 might make him slightly on edge. In Week 17 the Bengals offense, despite that offensive line (offensive by name and by nature), managed to keep up with the high-powered Kansas offense and put their kicker in a position to win the game. Their kicker put it straight through the uprights as the team that finished last in the AFC North a year earlier defeated the reigning AFC Champions.
Mahomes embraced Burrow after the game and stated:
“See you in the playoffs”
Since then Mahomes has dispatched the old man of the AFC Ben Roethlisberger in the Wild Card Round and Josh Allen in the Divisional Round to set up the rematch and keep his promise to Burrow.
In the last week, Mahomes has earned himself the nickname “The Grim Reaper” after comments made by Andy Reid in the postgame press conference. Mahomes is never out of games, as seen in the Divisional round when he was left with 13 seconds, and manages to steal the souls from opposing players, fans, and coaches. Joe Burrows soul is on notice and The Grim Reaper is ready for another victim.
In his previous three AFC Championship Games Mahomes has a record of 2-1. Throwing for 914 yards, 9 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He has also added 69 rushing yards. Needless to say, the man thrives in the big time (last year’s Super Bowl aside). Since his time in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes and success have gone hand in hand and it almost feels inevitable that he is destined for a third Super Bowl in four years. I can however think of an organization that might have something to say about that.
Do The Bengals Have A Chance?
What is the best conquer for fear? Being young and not knowing what’s meant to happen. You would not be criticized in the slightest for thinking that the Kansas City Chiefs are supposed to be in the Super Bowl, as I said it has a feeling of inevitability about it. The Bengals however could be the team to destroy that feeling.
Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have almost singlehandedly put this Bengals offense into the Championship Game. Just like when Mahomes and Tyreek Hill take the field, Burrow and Chase have that same feeling that a touchdown is about to happen. Chase has the same deep threat that Hill has and is also willing to work over the middle just like Hill. Both teams are frightfully strong on offense except for one key area.
After Kansas City got blown away by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in last year’s Super Bowl they took major steps to solve their biggest problem. The Offensive Line. Andy Reid watched the Super Bowl and thought we have just paid that man half a billion dollars and he is getting hit more times than a pinata, that can’t happen again. So, as soon as the offseason began he brought in a whole new offensive line and gave his precious Quarterback the one thing all Quarterbacks need. Protection.
Joe Burrow on the other hand must be close to that stage of the pinata where it is lying on the ground and stuff is spilling out. In the Divisional game, he was sacked nine times, NINE!. This guy is just back from a serious knee injury, he is the future of Cincinnati, and they let him get hit nine times. What is happening Bengals? Most worryingly is that this was after a season where he was sacked a league-high 51 times.
The Titans managed to generate relentless pressure despite only rushing four the majority of the time. In fact, seven of the nine sacks came when the Titans only rushed four. Just so we are clear that is four people rushing against five offensive linemen. I’m not a head coach but I know that is bad math and not an ideal situation for any Quarterback, especially one with a knee injury.
Not only do the Chiefs have an incredible offense, but they also have a defense loaded with stars and players who can get to the Quarterback. Chris Jones, Frank Clark, and Melvin Ingram are very good at creating pressure and getting to the QB. Three names that will be all over Burrow come game time. Beyond the defensive line, they have Nick Bolton who has been a tackling machine, and a secondary player in Tyrann Mathieu who occasionally likes a wander into the backfield. If the Bengals want to make it to their first Super Bowl since 1988 then they need to find a way to improve that line drastically without compromising on the run game.
Patrick Mahomes has been given the nickname of “The Grim Reaper” and for the Cincinnati Bengals death is coming. Well, maybe not death but an exit from the playoffs. Mahomes is playing at too high a level, they have the experience of the big-time games, and Burrow’s offensive line can’t do anything to keep him standing. Kansas City is going to LA and they are getting there in a comfortable fashion.
Cincinnati Bengals 24 – 35 Kansas City Chiefs
Main Image Credit
Thanks for reading my article on the career of Ben Roethlisberger. For more great NFL content, follow me on Twitter @Steelers_Mark and also follow @OTH_Football. Go check out the amazing work that our guys are doing on the Overtime Heroics Podcast.