The Bengalis and the chiefs have become familiar enemies.
When the teams meet in Kansas City on Sunday to determine the AFC champion, it will be their fourth meeting in 393 days and a rematch of last year’s conference title game.
The top seed no. 1 Chiefs (15-3) lost all three of their games, including a 27-24 loss in Cincinnati on Dec. 4. That was the same score for the Bengals’ overtime win in Kansas City in this game last season.
The Bengals (14-4) are riding a 10-game hitting streak after knocking out the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round.
Both teams are here for their quarterbacks.
Sure, they have a lot of talented players on both sides of the ball. But these are two passing-happy teams that rely on their QBs to carry the offensive load with their arms.
All-pro Patrick Mahomes led the NFL with 5,250 passing yards and 41 TDs, helping the Chiefs reach the AFC Championship game for the fifth consecutive season.
Joe Burrow threw for 4,475 yards and 35 TDs and led the Bengals to a 5-1 playoff record his last two seasons.
The Chiefs are looking for their third Super Bowl trip in four seasons and fifth overall.
The Bengals are aiming for their fourth Super Bowl appearance.
WHEN BENGALIS HAVE THE BALL:
It’s the “Cool” Joe show. With Burrow in the lead, the Bengals had the fifth-ranked passing attack in the league. Burrow has two talented wide receivers in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Chase had 87 catches for 1,046 yards and nine touchdowns. Higgins had 74 for 1.029 and seven scores. Tyler Boyd (58-762-5) and tight end Hayden Hurst (52-414-2) are also integral parts of the passing attack. So are running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, who combined for 98 receptions for 728 yards and six touchdowns.
The Bengals had the fourth fewest rushing yards in the NFL, but Mixon and Perine can do their damage. Perine rushed for 106 yards against the Chiefs last month. Mixon ran for 105 in last week’s win over Buffalo.
Cincinnati’s depleted offensive line has a tough job trying to stop All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones and put an end to Frank Clark. Jones had 15 1/2 of Kansas City’s 55 sacks. Clark had six and added another in a win against the Jaguars last week.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is aggressive and not afraid to blitz to bring in more pressure. Rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson, who had a pick against Jacksonville, Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie have a tough challenge against Cincy wideouts.
Linebackers Nick Bolton, Willie Gay and safety Justin Reid are always around the ball.
The Chiefs had 11th ranked defense, eighth against runs, and 18th against passes.
WHEN THE LEADERS HAVE THE BALL:
A high ankle sprain may slow Mahomes down, but the superstar has proven himself superhuman on the football field. Whether it’s off-balance shooting, no-look or sidearm passing or using his legs to escape the pocket, Mahomes is the king of improvisation. He lost to All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill in an offseason trade, but didn’t miss a beat. All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce had 110 catches in the regular season and 14 more against the Jaguars. He’s Mahomes’ go-to guy whenever he needs a first down or a big play.
JuJu Smith-Schuster stepped into the #1 wide receiver roster. 1 and caught 78 balls for 933 yards. Marquez Valdes-Scantling had 42 for 687. Running back Jerick McKinnon had 56 catches.
Rookie seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco led the Chiefs with 830 yards and had 95 against Jacksonville. Kansas City was 20th in rushing, averaging 115.9 yards per game.
Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo came up with an excellent game plan to shut down Josh Allen and the Bills in the divisional round. He only blitzed seven times, but he used it creatively and disguised it to confuse Allen.
The Bengals only had 30 sacks, 14 ½ of which came from Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. Linebackers Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt and safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates are the top tacklers in Cincinnati.
Cornerbacks Mike Hilton, Eli Apple and Cam Taylor-Britt should expect plenty of action with Mahomes making his way.
No one can stop Kelce but the Bangladeshis have to find a way to limit its production.
Bengali footballer Evan McPherson was a playoff rookie last season. He has dropped four extra points this season, including two in the last four games. He has made 16 of his last 17 field goals. McPherson has a strong leg. He has 14-for-16 shooting from 50+ yards in his career, including all five as of 2022.
Cincinnati is the bottom third in punting but has improved since Drue Chrisman replaced Kevin Huber. Chrisman dropped three of his five playoff punts inside the 20.
The Bengals’ returning teams are at the center of the pack.
Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker struggled with injuries and had his least accurate season, converting just 75 percent of his field goals. But he made both tries from 50 yards last week.
Punter Tommy Townsend had an All-Pro season with a net of 45.6 yards.
The returning Chiefs teams were both in the top seven.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid is a future Hall of Famer. He is tied with Tom Landry for second place with 20 career playoff wins. Only Bill Belichick (31) has more. This is Reid’s 10th conference championship game, five with the Eagles and five with the Chiefs. He is 3-6 years old.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor is one of the brightest young minds in the league. Only 39 years old, Taylor rebounded to win six games combined in his first two seasons to lead the Bengals to consecutive AFC championship games.
It’s time for revenge for Mahomes and the Chiefs, who measure success only by winning the Super Bowl. They have home field advantage at rowdy Arrowhead Stadium.
The Bengals felt disrespected because the league sold 50,000 tickets to a potential Bills-Chiefs game at a neutral site this week that isn’t happening. They will play that card for as long as they play this season.