It has been coined “The Arrowhead Invitational.” The AFC Championship Game will be in Kansas City for the fourth straight season. The Chiefs will play host to the Cincinnati Bengals. This is a rematch of the Week 17 matchup between these two teams. That time things did not go in Kansas City’s favor. This time it is in Arrowhead, and the Chiefs will be looking to get their revenge. To do so, these four positional battles will need to favor the Chiefs.
Bengals’ Receivers Vs Chiefs’ Secondary
The Chiefs need to start with the secondary that allowed Bengals’ receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, to record 266 yards and three touchdowns. Chavarious Ward, up until this point, had been playing like a pro bowl cornerback. In week 17, Chase brought him down a couple of notches. Ward gave up 106 yards on six completions and allowed a passer rating of 143.7. He also gave up one of Chase’s touchdowns. He wasn’t the only guilty one in the secondary, however. Tyrann Mathieu gave up two touchdowns and a perfect quarterback rating.
In fact, no one on the Chiefs’ defense that was targeted gave up less than a 60% completion rating. Joe Burrow had a day against Steve Spagnulo’s squad, and it wasn’t just a one-time fluke. Last week, Josh Allen threw for four touchdowns against this same defense. Analysts will point out that Mathieu was out for most of last week’s game, but he was there in week 17. He wasn’t good either. Spags will have to design some better looks when it comes to coverage, especially against Chase.
Who has the edge? Bengals’ receivers.
Chiefs’ Defensive Line Vs. Bengals’ Offensive Line
This will be one of the more critical matchups in this game. In the Week 17 matchup, the Chiefs defense pressured Joe Burrow 12 times, resulting in four sacks. The Bengals are coming off of a Divisional round game where they gave up nine sacks to the Titans. Their offensive line is trash. However, the Chiefs blitzed 22 times from guys other than their front four.
While the blitz is something that Spags doesn’t shy away from, it does make the secondary vulnerable. That vulnerability was on display in week 17 against Ja’Marr Chase. The Chiefs will have to get Joe Burrow more with their front four to keep more guys in coverage. They showed a good job of this against the Bills, except that Josh Allen was able to get away. Burrow shouldn’t have that kind of success.
Who has the edge? Chiefs’ defensive line.
Patrick Mahomes Vs. Joe Burrow
These two won’t face off physically on the field, but it is the matchup that everyone will be tuning in to see. The NFL media is exceptionally high on Joe Burrow in this game because they will always be in the business of “what’s next.” However, they are not giving Mahomes enough credit for what he has done in the last two playoff games. He has completed 76% of his passes and thrown for eight touchdowns. He has rushed for another touchdown and has a quarterback rating of over 130. Over the last two weeks, Burrow’s numbers have been far worse against worse defenses.
Sure, Burrow looked good in Week 17, but it will be a tough ask for him to do it twice, especially at Arrowhead. The only time Mahomes has lost to an opponent twice, a season was against Tom Brady in 2018. Brady is the only quarterback to ever beat Mahomes in the postseason.
Who has the edge? Mahomes.
The Kansas City Chiefs Vs. Themselves
This battle usually determines a win or loss for the Chiefs, and Week 17 was no different. The Chiefs were penalized ten times for 83 yards. They had two penalties at the end of the game on back-to-back 4th and one conversion by the Bengals. The Chiefs had stopped Cincinnati on both attempts. This would have given Mahomes the ball with a little under a minute to score the game-winner. We’ve seen him do it with less.
Penalties weren’t the only way Kansas City shot themselves in the foot. On that very same drive at the end of the game, the Chiefs’ defense gave up a 30-yard pass on third and 27 to keep the drive alive. With 3:26 left in the game, the Bengals would’ve punted, and, again, Mahomes would’ve had a shot to win the game. These things cannot happen on Sunday if the Chiefs want to get back to the Superbowl. So far in the playoffs, they haven’t.
Who has the edge? Chiefs.
Which position group battles are going to be key for the Chiefs in order to make it to their third straight Super Bowl? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion.
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