Cincinnati Bengals @ Kansas City Chiefs predictions: KC too strong for up-and-coming Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals are enjoying a fairy tale season and are just one game away from making their first Super Bowl in 33 years - but they have to overcome the Kansas City Chiefs first.

The Chiefs are the first team to host a Conference Championship game four years in a row, and are back fighting for a third straight title after winning a contender for the best play-off game ever seen last week.

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes has all the throws and two of the best weapons in the NFL - Bengals QB Joe Burrow could just be the coolest customer in the league and has his own track team of speedy receivers including the most productive rookie WR in history.

So will the Bengals end a 33-year wait or the Chiefs make it three in a row? Let's find out...

When: Saturday, Jan 30, 20:00 GMT

Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

How to watch: Sky Sports

The Chiefs: AFC big dogs building a dynasty

Patrick Mahomes

The NFL is a league geared up for parity. The salary caps means everyone has to balance the books and in the NFL Draft the worst teams get to pick the best players.

And it largely works, we'll have a new Super Bowl winner for the 17th straight year this season and in the last 12 years 24 of the 32 teams have played in a Conference Championship game.

You do get teams though who can sustain brilliance, and under head coach Andy Reid and QB Patrick Mahomes the Kansas City Chiefs are in their record fourth straight home AFC title game looking to make a third straight Super Bowl.

Only three other teams have made three Super Bowls on the run so we're approaching dynasty territory, they're certainly the team to beat in the AFC and worryingly for the rest they seem to have found a way to peak at the right time.

A dodgy 3-4 start came with a truly awful defensive effort and worst run of Mahomes' career for turnovers, but the 9-1 finish to the season saw a huge improvement in both (only losing to the Bengals) and in the play-offs they've risen again.

The somehow saved the game against the Bills with just 13 seconds on the clock - the air of invincibility around this team is growing.

The Bengals: Joe Cool's team can swing for the fences

The Bengals look like they're playing with house money having made it to this stage probably a year or two ahead of schedule, and as yet the enormity of being so close to the Super Bowl hasn't hit them.

They've still got the style, the swagger, and the big-hitters to bust open huge play at any moment - as the Chiefs themselves found out when Joe Burrow torched them for 446 yards and four passing TDs in their win just a few weeks ago.

If Josh Allen could do it last week, Joe Burrow can certainly do it this week, with Ja'Marr Chase enjoying a record season for a rookie and Tee Higgins also a big threat along with running back Joe Mixon, they have attacking talent to rival even KC's.

And yet...they've scored just three offensive TDs in the play-offs so far as they've edged past the Raiders and Titans with rookie kicker Evan McPherson kicking eight field goals. Field goals will just not cut it here.

Their other big flaw in their game is the offensive line that let Burrow get sacked nine times against the Titans and the most times in the regular season out of any QB in the league. If they can keep Burrow upright he can keep them in touch.

Bengals @ Chiefs: Key stats

  • The Chiefs can make a third straight Super Bowl with a win - only the Bills (four, 1990-93), Dolphins (three, 1971-73) and Patriots (three, 2016-18) have appeared in at least three consecutive Super Bowls.
  • Kansas City is the first team in NFL history to host a Championship Game in four straight seasons, and the seventh to play in the game in four consecutive years.
  • Chiefs coach Andy Reid is the only man to guide two teams to four straight Championship Games - Philadelphia (2001-04) and Kansas City (2018-21).
  • Five teams had two 1,000-yard receivers this season, with two of them here in Ja'Marr Chase (1,455) and Tee Higgins (1,091) and the Chiefs' Tyreek Hill (1,239) and Travis Kelce (1,125).
  • In NFL history, only Jerry Rice (151 postseason receptions), Julian Edelman (118) and Rob Gronkowski (98) have more career postseason catches than Kelce (96).
  • Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, became the first quarterback to win two play-off games in his second season since Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title in 2013.
  • Rookie Bengals kicker Evan McPherson tied the single-game NFL post season record last week with two field goals of at least 50 yards.

Bengals @ Chiefs: Key match-ups

Both secondaries will have their work cut out trying to slow down the respective passing attacks, although the Bengals haven't really shone yet in the play-offs and they'll have to go some to keep up with the Chiefs in a straight-up shoot out.

Then there's protecting Burrow, who can't afford to spend his time on his backside when he needs to be lobbing touchdowns to keep pace with Mahomes. The Chiefs aren't quite the Titans in terms of a pass rush but they've got enough heavy artillery there to cause problems.

But it's stopping Mahomes that's the biggest factor at play here. He's 7-1 at Arrowhead in the play-offs with 23 TDs and just one interception and the only two times he's lost in the post season has been against Tom Brady.

And importantly it's his running ability that Cincy needs to pay attention to, as he really takes that up a notch in the play-offs. He leads the entire league with 7.8 yard per carry this season and in his 10 play-off games he's scored five rushing TDs.

Only two players have more play-off rushing TDs than Mahomes since he got the starting job in KC in 2018. His arm is incredible but his legs are just as effective when it comes to the play-offs.

Planet Sport Verdict

Chase had 266 yards and three TDs against the Chiefs last time, you bet they'll have a plan for him this time so others may have to step up. Whether they can, whether they can keep up with the Chiefs and whether they can keep Joe Burrow upright are all big questions.

The Chiefs' big worry is if they struggle with any hangover from last week's epic, but they've been here before, they're here every year! And they'll just be too strong this time for this up-and-coming Bengals side - who we'll no doubt see more of in the next few years.

Prediction: Bengals 24-34 Chiefs

Latest news