January 28, 2022

2022 AFC Championship Game Preview: How The Cincinnati Bengals Can Upset The Kansas City Chiefs

We are fresh off the greatest playoff weekend in NFL history. All four of the NFL Divisional Round games were nail-biters. The best stars in the league showed out on the grand stage, and the NFL world loved every second of it.

Bettors also cashed in with the right plays. The AFC Conference Championship features the upstart Cincinnati Bengals and the veteran Kansas City Chiefs. This is a rematch of a Week 17 thriller where the Bengals won 34-31. 

We'll break down this matchup and provide two great picks for you to profit with. This game should be filled with excitement, and that means there are some great bets to be made.

Another Shootout?

While the Bengals won 19-16 against the top-seeded Tennessee Titans last week, the AFC Championship will surely more resemble Kansas City's 42-36 win over the Bills.

It's dangerous to put too much stock into the first game in most instances. But the previous 34-31 shootout featured key ingredients that are a safe bet to be featured again.

The Chiefs surrendered 266 yards and three scores to Ja'Marr Chase in Week 17, and then 201 yards and four scores to Gabriel Davis in the Divisional Round. Their game plan of shutting Stefon Diggs down worked, but the stress of devoting bodies to the former All-Pro caused other communication breakdowns. Cincinnati has even better second and third options than the Bills.

The Bengals may be inclined to repeat their attempt to get Chase isolated on the boundary as much as possible, but the Chiefs could reasonably counter that by bracketing Chase as they did with Buffalo. However, the Chiefs would be better off tempting Chase to win on jump balls again and not give Joe Burrow easy passes from miscommunications.

Burrow, though not as athletic as Josh Allen, is every bit as good as Allen as a passer. He will shred the Chiefs' secondary enough to keep pace with Kansas City's high-powered offense. And we all know how effectively Patrick Mahomes can move the ball.

Both defenses are respectable, but these playoffs have shown the power of creative playmakers. The best-case scenario is either team can string together a turnover or two and convert with points on the subsequent drive. Kansas City has the slight edge with their ability to rush the passer and force interceptions with their secondary.

Patrick Mahomes Is Inevitable

This goes beyond his insane 13-second drive that led to a tying field goal at the end of regulation against Buffalo. With an elite offensive line and resurgent pair of running backs at his disposal, Mahomes has reached his full form. 

Cincinnati has the ability to pull the upset, though, and this large seven-point line is a great opportunity to get value. The Bengals are tough, athletic, and consistently play above their individual talent level. The Chiefs have mostly shed their tendency to play down to foes but it's not a game they can afford multiple self-inflicted turnovers. 

It's possible Trey Hendrickson, Von Bell, Mike Hilton, or Sam Hubbard have a strip-sack or scoop and score, but it's actually necessary for Cincinnati to win outright. Otherwise, this will be a shootout they will lose. Kansas City is playing on another level higher than their previous matchup, and it's worrisome the Bengals failed to notch a sack or turnover in that game. 

How Cincinnati deals with the Chiefs' front four rushers will be most interesting. Chris Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Frank Clark should have a field day against the Bengals' woeful line. That hasn't mattered as much as it usually does thanks to Burrow's resiliency and ability to create big plays.

The talent, coaching experience and playing experience all show the Chiefs as a better bet to win. But it's Cincinnati, with a seven-point line, that has the value. And we'll take the over every time with these two superstar quarterbacks. 

Picks: Bengals +7 (-110) and Over 54.5 (-110) at DraftKings

Photo: Getty Images