Some might want to forget the long-term history between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs because this Sunday’s AFC championship game will mark the fourth meeting between the two in four seasons. And we all have heard over and over (and over) that Joe Burrow is 3-0 in the previous matchups. But this series dates back to the two seasons the Bengals were in the American Football League before the merger in 1970.
Interestingly, while they have met three times in less than 13 months, they have only faced off 32 times total over a 54-year history of the Cincinnati franchise. Even stranger is the fact that this will be just the second time they ever met in the playoffs.
Well, let’s dive in a little deeper and see what we can find that will help us pick the right side in the AFC championship game, including – but not limited to – trends, series history, officiating crew, their road to this point and their offensive and defensive rankings.
NOTE: All lines and totals are provided by FanDuel Sportsbook. Lines are as of late Friday, Jan. 27.
(3) CINCINNATI (14-4, W10, 13-5 ATS) at (1) KANSAS CITY (15-3, W2, 6-12 ATS), Sunday at 6:30 p.m. CBS
GAME LINE: Bengals +1.5 (-105) or Chiefs -1.5 (-115). MONEY LINES: Bengals (+102), Chiefs (-120). TOTAL: 48.
Bengals road to the championship: Defeated No. 6 Baltimore (at home), 24-17, on Jan. 15 in the wild-card round; defeated No. 2 Buffalo (on the road), 27-10, on Jan. 22.
Chiefs road to the championship: Bye in wild-card round; defeated No. 4 Jacksonville (at home), 27-20, on Jan. 21.
Cincinnati rankings: 8th in total yards gained (5th passing, 29th rushing); 16th in total yards allowed (23rd passing, 7th rushing).
Kansas City rankings: 1st in total yards gained (1st passing, 20th rushing); 11th in total yards allowed (18th passing, 8th rushing).
Previous meeting this season: Bengals won, 27-24, in Cincinnati in Week 13 on Dec. 4.
Weather forecast at game time: Partly cloudy and very cold with a game-time temperature expected between 15 and 17 and getting colder throughout the night. Almost no chance of precipitation and winds around 10 mph.
Ron Torbert, who is in his 13th overall season as an NFL official, is the head referee and is in his ninth season in such a capacity. This is his 11th overall postseason assignment, according to Football Zebras, including his role as head referee in last year’s Super Bowl (LVI) played between the Bengals and Los Angeles Rams.
BENGALS (7-3 straight up and 8-2 ATS on the road)
- This will be the 26th postseason game for the Bengals in their history, but the seventh in two seasons. In fact, five of the team’s 10 playoff victories have come since Jan. 15, 2022. They are 3-0 all-time in the AFC championship game, but they’re 0-3 in Super Bowl appearances, losing to the Rams last season and in 1981 and 1988 to the San Francisco 49ers.
- The Bengals finished the regular season on an eight-game win streak, which is tied for the longest in team history. They opened 2015 with eight straight victories and had a similar streak during the 1971 season. Counting the postseason, this is the first time they have won 10 in a row.
- This is the fourth road game for the Bengals since the start of December, and they now will play a second consecutive game away from home for the fifth time this season. In the previous second legs of a road swing, they are 4-0, winning three of the four by exactly four points (at New Orleans, at Tennessee and at New England).
- In just his third NFL season, Joe Burrow has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 25 consecutive games (including the playoffs), which is tied for the 21st such longest streak in league history.
- Although he has found receivers in the end zone, his yardage numbers in many games this season are quite pedestrian. He has thrown for more than 275 yards in seven of 18 games and hasn’t come all that close the past three weeks. Other than a 375-yard effort at New England in Week 16, he hasn’t had another game with more than last week’s 242 since Dec. 4.
- Cincinnati has not allowed more than 24 points in a game since a 37-30 victory at Pittsburgh on Nov. 20.
CHIEFS (8-1 straight up and 2-7 ATS at home)
- This will be the 40th postseason game for the Chiefs in their history and the 18th since Andy Reid took over as head coach before the 2013 season. Kansas City is 10-7 under Reid in the playoffs and 18-21 overall. They are 4-3 in AFC championship games and are in this round for the fifth consecutive season. They are three games short of the league record of eight straight by the New England Patriots (2011 to 2018) but have more in a row than any NFC team in NFL history.
- In 24 seasons as a head coach, including 14 with Philadelphia, Reid is coaching his 37th playoff game on Sunday with a record of 20-16. Not counting the postseason, he is fifth on the all-time wins list and needs three more next season to tie Tom Landry in fourth place. (He still has quite a way to go to catch No. 1 Don Shula, No. 2 George Halas and No. 3 Bill Belichick.)
- Kansas City won 14 games in the regular season for only the second time in franchise history – but the second time in three years. They finished with double-digit victories for the eighth straight season after never previously having more than four in a row.
- The Chiefs haven’t lost at home since Oct. 16 against the Buffalo Bills, and are 25-6 at Arrowhead, including the postseason, since the start of the 2020 campaign.
- Patrick Mahomes has had a career season – even for him. He set a personal best in completion percentage (.671) and passing yards (5,250), becoming the third player in NFL history (Drew Brees and Tom Brady) with multiple 5,000-yard seasons. He also set the NFL all-time mark for most offensive yards (passing and rushing) with 5,608, topping Brees’ 5,562 in 2011. Counting this postseason, he needs 189 total yards to eclipse the 6,000-yard mark for 2022-23.
BENGALS vs. CHIEFS SERIES
All-time: The Bengals lead the overall series, 18-14, with the only game in the playoffs coming last season in the AFC championship. The first game between the two teams came on Oct. 13, 1968, and the Chiefs won, 13-3 when they were in the AFL.
All-time in Cincinnati: Bengals lead, 10-5.
All-time in Kansas City: Chiefs lead, 9-8.
- The last two times they have played – this regular season and in last year’s playoffs – the Bengals have won by a score of 27-24, the same exact result as a regular-season game played between them on Nov. 21, 1976.
- It is well known Cincinnati has won the past three games in a row in the series, but they also have won seven of the past eight, with Kansas City’s lone victory coming Oct. 21, 2018, by a score of 45-10. The Chiefs have not won consecutive games in the series since winning three in a row from 1983 to 1986.
First off, I don’t think I have ever seen a line move up and down in a few days more than this one. It opened at Kansas City -3 in some places, came down to 2.5 in about 3 minutes and by the time I woke up Monday morning, it was 1.5.
By Tuesday afternoon, Cincinnati was favored, and it rose as high as -2.5 before quickly coming back down.
The fallback to pick ’em tells me a whole lot more than the early shift to the Bengals. It tells me Patrick Mahomes’ injury isn’t as bad as what our eyes witnessed last Sunday.
All that being said, trends seem to still favor Cincinnati. Joe Burrow is now 3-0 against them, including last year’s AFC championship game, and he is coming off one of his most dominating performances in his short NFL career – smoking the Bills last week in the snow of Orchard Park.
So why do I like Kansas City? It’s simple. For the past two seasons, the Bengals were the underdog in all those games against the Chiefs and Bills. They were SUPPOSED to lose. Now, just about every Mabel, Joe and Beau think it’s going to be the other way around.
Mahomes has been told all week – and you know he’s watching and listening – why he CAN’T win. “Even if he plays, he won’t be able to move.” “That Cincinnati defense shut down Josh Allen and the potent Bills offense.” “The defending AFC champs have this team’s number.”
You can bet against a Mahomes with an attitude if you like, but I will not.
Steve Spagnuolo, with all his flaws as a defensive coordinator, knows how to blitz. He thrives on it. And that Bengals’ half-baked offensive line, which wasn’t a factor last week against an overrated Buffalo defense, will most certainly come into play here.
Burrow’s quick throws will become forced throws. Joe Mixon and Semaje Perine have been effective, but they’re going to have to be way more than that Sunday, and I don’t think they have it in them.
Meanwhile, rookie running Isiah Pacheco has become a real weapon for the Chiefs, and he will be much more competent than anything the Bills threw at the Bengals last week.
I said before the season I thought Kansas City and San Francisco were going to the Super Bowl, and there is nothing that has convinced me to change my mind now.
SCORE PREDICTION: Chiefs (Pick) 24, Bengals 18. (Under 48)