NFL Playoffs: AFC Conference Championship

By Steve Tsilimos | Posted 2 years ago

Last weekend provided four phenomenal football games and an abundance of last-second heartbreak. It was the best two days of football that I can recall in my lifetime. If you watched the action, then you are fully aware that the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs is going to be nearly impossible to top. But don’t hold your breath, because this Sunday may do just that. 

The Bengals started the action off on Saturday afternoon with a low-scoring affair that they won 19-16 on a last-second field goal over the top-seeded Titans. That game was exciting, but they just kept getting better from there and they all followed suit – ending in walk-off fashion. It was the first time in playoff history that every game of the weekend came down to the final play.

By the time Sunday night rolled around, the Bills and Chiefs had three fantastic games to live up to. The best new rivalry in the AFC did not disappoint and provided a back-and-forth contest that will go down as one of the best games… ever. To put it into perspective; after the two-minute warning, there were 31 combined points, 296 yards of total offense, and five plays of 25 or more yards, which resulted in three lead changes. 

The stage is set for the four teams remaining in the playoffs to battle on Sunday, January 30, for the chance to go to Super Bowl LVI. For the first time since 2009, the NFL’s Conference Championships will not feature either Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. Another fun fact about the conference finals is that they are both late-season rematches that the underdog won.

No. 4 Bengals (12-7) at No. 2 Chiefs (14-5) – Sunday, 3p.m. ET, CBS

Line: Chiefs -7

The Kansas City Chiefs will play host to a record-setting fourth straight AFC Conference Championship Game. The Chiefs have appeared in more conference title games the past four years than they made the previous 51 years. 

The Cincinnati Bengals shocked most people by just making the playoffs this season and now are heading to their third conference title game in franchise history. Cincinnati has won their last two conference finals appearance, but those wins took place way back in the 1980s. Before this postseason started, the Bengals had gone 31 years without winning a playoff game and they had never won a road playoff game – they ended both those streaks.

Three reasons why the Bengals can beat the Chiefs

  1. The Bengals already beat the Chiefs earlier this month and now have history on their side. There have been 11 instances since 2014 that the conference finals were a rematch from the regular season and the team that won the previous game is 9-2. On Jan. 2 the Bengals defeated the Chiefs 34-31 on a last-second field goal to clinch their first AFC North title in six years. For the Chiefs, the loss snapped an eight-game winning streak and was costly because they fell to the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Ja’Marr Chase’s record-setting 266 receiving yards were more than Mahomes had passing yards (259). The Bengals rallied from three 14-point deficits behind Joe Burrow’s 466 passing yards and four TDs. 

  1. The Bengals have one of the most well-rounded offensive attacks. Second-year-QB Joe Burrow and rookie-WR Ja’Marr Chase have put the Bengals’ passing attack in the national spotlight, but don’t forget about RB Joe Mixon. During the regular season, Mixon ranked third in the NFL with a career-high 1,205 rushing yards and fourth with a career-high 13 rushing TDs. The Bengals have won so many close games this year because they can air it out and score in a hurry, or keep the ball on the ground and control the clock. This is a key reason why they have made it this far and have a real shot at knocking off the Chiefs.

  1. The Bengals have a better defense than the Chiefs and will win the turnover battle. In a game that features two of the league’s best offenses, usually (don’t show Bills’ fans this) the team with the better defense prevails. The Bengals’ defense, who is led by DE Trey Hendrickson and LB Logan Wilson, is making big plays when they need them. Cincinnati has only given up 35 points in their first two playoff games combined. The Chiefs just gave up 36 points to the Bills.

Since Week 13 the Bengals have only given away one interception or fumble. The first offensive turnover in 10 weeks happened when the Titans picked off a pass that deflected off the hands of Cincinnati’s intended receiver. The Bengals are plus-six in turnover margin over their last six games and they have a great chance to advance if they can add to that number.

Why the Bengals will win the Super Bowl

They are playing fantastic all-around team football and are out to prove people wrong. Joe Burrow is a winner and is a great leader which is what puts this team over the top.

Three reasons the Chiefs will beat the Bengals

  1. Patrick Mahomes is Superman in the playoffs – especially at home. Mahomes has a passer rating of 107.2 with 3,106 yards, 25 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 10 games in the playoffs in his career. Mahomes is 7-1 at Arrowhead in the playoffs. His one loss came at the hands of a Brady and the Patriots in an OT thriller in 2018 – that was Mahomes’ first year as a starting QB. Mahomes proved, once again, that the Chiefs are never out of a game by leading an unbelievable game-tying drive with only 13-seconds left on the clock against the Bills. 

  1. Chris Jones and the Chiefs’ front-seven dominate the Bengals’ offensive line. In Week 17, when the Chiefs lost in Cincinnati, KC sacked Burrow four times. Last week the Titans got to Burrow a total of nine times. Before the playoffs started the Bengals were considered to have the weakest offensive line out of all the teams entering the tournament – they haven’t proven anyone wrong. Constant pressure on their young QB would make things difficult for Cincy to move the ball and could create opportunities for turnovers. 

  1. Experience pays off this late in the season. Coach Andy Reid has 19 postseason victories, which is tied with Hall of Fame coach Don Shula for third-most. Reid and the Chiefs’ core players are used to playing in Arrowhead late in January, which is invaluable. Dynasties happen because teams build off of their experiences and become even tougher to beat as the years go on. 

Kansas City knows what it takes to win against the best teams in the playoffs and it will make fewer mistakes than its’ opponent come Sunday. Having a consistent team has also allowed Reid to install countless wrinkles and trick plays which makes his offense nearly impossible to predict, or stop.

Why the Chiefs will win the Super Bowl

KC has the most dynamic game-changer in the NFL in Tyreek Hill, the most dynamic QB, and the best/most experienced coach left in the playoffs. The Chiefs are the NFL’s next great dynasty and they will have people questioning if Tom Brady and the Patriots were the greatest ever. 

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