The winner of the AFC comes all the way down to only one sport as Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs will play host to final yr’s AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. We break down the sport and provides our prediction.
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Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) @ Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)
- Location: GEHA Subject at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO
- Time: Sunday, January twenty ninth at 6:30 p.m. ET
- Channel: CBS
- Unfold: KC -1.5
- Moneyline: KC (-120), CIN (+100)
- Over/Below: 48
Regardless of nearly all the pre-game dialog being about Joe Burrow and the Bengals, the Chiefs will likely be enjoying of their fifth straight house AFC Championship Sport, which is fairly rattling spectacular. But, these two groups arrived at this level in drastically totally different manners.
Kansas City labored previous Jacksonville, escaping with a seven-point win regardless of their star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, struggling a excessive ankle sprain. In the meantime, Cincinnati rode their “nobody believes in us” power to a 27-10 demolition of the Payments on the highway. All of that has the momentum and public consensus clearly in Cincinnati’s favor, however is that misguided?
We all know this sport goes to return all the way down to a battle of elite offenses. Since Week 9, Kansas City is first within the NFL in Anticipated Factors Added (EPA) per play whereas Cincinnati ranks fourth. These are additionally the quantity two and three ranked groups, respectively, in Offensive DVOA at Football Outsiders in that very same span.
Can both protection step up and get sufficient stops to win this sport?
For Kansas City, it’ll imply placing stress on Joe Burrow. In his first 5 playoff video games, Burrow has been sacked 23 occasions and now this Bengals offensive line will likely be down three starters. That may very well be a serious situation in opposition to a Kansas City staff that was 4th within the NFL in stress fee and 2nd within the NFL in sacks.
Chris Jones is their stud, main the Chiefs with 15.5 sacks this season, however they’ve a deep rotation of pass-rushers, together with George Karlaftis, Khalen Saunders, and Frank Clark. Whereas Buffalo was unable to get a lot stress on Burrow as a result of Cincinnati utilizing a quick-hitting passing assault, the Ravens sacked him 4 occasions within the Wild Card spherical, which the Bengals barely escaped.
One other method for Cincinnati to maintain stress off of Burrow is by using the run sport. The Bengals ran for five.1 yards per carry in opposition to a Buffalo protection that ranks No. 3 in Run Protection DVOA and can now face a Chiefs protection that was useless final in ESPN‘s run-stop win fee.
Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine mixed for 27 carries and 138 yards in opposition to the Payments, and Mixon appeared good, gaining 105 yards on 20 carries. Of their first assembly this yr, Cincinnati exploited the Chiefs with the run, even with Mixon sidelined with a concussion, as Perine carried the ball 21 occasions for 106 yards. Given the truth that Perine is a greater move blocker and the Bengals are down linemen, I count on to see an honest quantity of Perine this sport.
The Chiefs may even have their fingers full with the Bengals receiving trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd; though, I feel it is perhaps Boyd who can come up largest on this sport. The Chiefs enable the second-most touchdowns to fit in NFL, and Boyd strains up completely within the slot.
Kansas City’s points over the center of the sector may additionally imply an enormous sport for Cincinnati tight finish Hayden Hurst, who may very well be a bit hampered by a calf damage. Nevertheless, he had 5 catches for 59 yards and a landing final week in opposition to the Payments and may very well be in for a stable displaying on this possible high-scoring affair.
When Kansas City has the ball, the largest query mark will likely be Mahomes’ mobility. There’s a cheap expectation that he could not scramble and improvise a lot this week, however that’s additionally depending on the Bengals getting stress on him. The Bengals had the 4th-fewest sacks within the NFL this yr, and Kansas City provides up the Third-fewest sacks, so it is a matchup of energy versus weak point. If Cincinnati can’t stress Mahomes, will the ankle damage matter that a lot?
We can also’t neglect that Mahomes nonetheless ranks first within the NFL in QBR on passes thrown whereas within the pocket and in 20-plus yard throws. It is a Chiefs passing offense that led the NFL in yards and passing touchdowns, so despite the fact that folks assume it’s simply Travis Kelce, Andy Reid and Mahomes at all times discover a approach to transfer the ball.
Kelce will likely be a serious a part of the passing sport, however JuJu Smith-Schuster additionally had 933 yards on 78 catches this yr and Jerick McKinnon is usually a actual risk as a receiver if Mahomes turns to more dump-offs and brief passes.
If Kansas City desires to interrupt its shedding streak in opposition to Cincinnati, they’re possible going to should step up proper from the beginning. Cincinnati has dominated opponents within the first quarter, outscoring them 46-0 over the past 5 video games. The Cincinnati protection has additionally not allowed a single landing within the first quarter of their final 12 video games, so Mahomes might want to get some magic going early.
For all the discuss Cincinnati proudly owning this rivalry, it must be identified that Joe Burrow is simply 1-0 at Arrowhead Stadium, so it’s not a large monitor document of success. The Chiefs additionally had the Bengals on the ropes in final yr’s AFC Championship sport, main 21-10 with the ball on the Cincinnati 1-yard line earlier than a poor Mahomes move to Tyreek Hill triggered him to be tackled in need of the top zone and the clock ran out.
Kansas City will likely be out to show a degree, and I nonetheless imagine Andy Reid and firm are the category of the AFC.
Prediction and Betting Choose:
I feel the dismissal of the Chiefs has gone a bit too far, and I additionally just like the OVER right here.