Bengals vs Chiefs NFL Preview & Free Pick [January 29th 2023]

Cincinnati (14-4) at Kansas City (15-3)
When: Sunday, January 29th 2023
Where: Arrowhead Stadium,
Kansas City, MO
Time: 6:30 ET | TV: CBS
Opening Odds: Kansas City -2/50.5

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For the second year in a row, the AFC Championship comes down to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The rivalry between these teams is blossoming, with this Sunday’s contest being the fourth meeting in just over a calendar year. The Bengals wrapped up the AFC North late last season with a come-from-behind 34-31 victory.

A few weeks later, the teams squared-off in the AFC Championship game and Cincinnati once again came back to win. Down 21-3 and approaching halftime, Joe Burrow and the Bengals clawed their way back for a thrilling 27-24 overtime win to reach the Super Bowl. Fast-forward to this season and the Bengals once again came back from a 24-17 deficit to walk away with a 27-24 win back in December.

That win made Burrow the only quarterback in the NFL to have three consecutive victories over Patrick Mahomes. Cincinnati hasn’t lost a game since an ugly loss to the Cleveland Browns on Halloween night. They ride a 10-game winning streak and a ton of confidence into this year’s AFC title game. The Chiefs are currently 1.5-point favorites as of Saturday night in an every fluctuating line.

The back-and-forth line movement comes because Mahomes is dealing with a sprain of his upper right ankle that forced him out of last week’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He returned to the game with limited mobility, completing 22-of-30 passes for a season-low 195 yards with two touchdowns. Mahomes was a full practice participant Thursday and said he’s ready to go.

The Bengals put on an impressive showing, beating the Bills on the road 27-10 to return to the AFC Championship game. Burrow has not been intercepted in his past three playoff games and in three starts against the Chiefs, he has has nine TDs (one rushing), one interception and a combined passer rating of 121.0. The winner will take on either the Philadelphia Eagles or San Francisco 49ers.

Cincinnati came to play right away last week in Buffalo and the game was never in doubt. Burrow connected with Ja’Marr Chase and Hayden Hurst on two first-quarter touchdowns that dented the Buffalo defense. The Bengals recorded 30 first downs, led the time-of-possession battle 33:53 to 26:06, and outrushed the Bills 172 to 63. Burrow passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions on 23-of-36 completions against the Bills. In the regular season win over the Chiefs, Burrow went 25-of-31 for two touchdowns and 286 passing yards. The Bengals did not even have Joe Mixon at the time due to injury, but Samaje Perine stepped up and rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries.

Even with three starters on the offensive line out with injuries at Buffalo last week, Burrow was rarely pressured. Jonah Williams (knee) and right guard Alex Cappa (ankle) both missed practice Wednesday and Thursday and could be out again. Right tackle La’el Collins (knee) is done for the season. Tight end Hayden Hurst (calf) was added to Cincinnati’s injury report Thursday.

The ankle injury Mahomes suffered in the first quarter of last week’s contest could have spelled doom, but the Chiefs have plenty of big-game experience. Chad Henne filled in admirably for a couple of drives until Mahomes was checked back in. The Chiefs have plenty of weapons to help Mahomes out. Rookie running back Isaiah Pacheco rushed 12 times for 95 yards against the Jaguars and recorded 66 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in the regular-season meeting with Cincinnati.

Mahomes is 9-3 in the postseason and has 32 touchdowns (28 TD passes, four rushing) and three interceptions in 10 career home playoff starts. The Chiefs’ defense hasn’t exactly been great this season, but it’s allowed just a total of 33 points in the last two games. The Under is 6-1 in Kansas City’s last seven home games.

I understand why Kansas City is favored at home in this one, but Cincinnati is the better team. Last week’s win at Buffalo was as impressive as it gets and Burrow’s confidence is growing. The Bengals are not afraid of this atmosphere and will return to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row.

Championship Round Staff Selections

Pick: Bengals +1.5