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For the second consecutive year, the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC Championship game and the chance to head to the Super Bowl. The Bengals started their season with a pretty intense Super Bowl loss hangover, but they turned it around BIG TIME in the second half of the season and are now one of the hottest teams in the NFL. After being underdogs against Buffalo, they erased any question of whether or not they were truly legit within about ten minutes of the game beginning. Crappy weather didn’t stop Joe Burrow from connecting with Jamarr Chase and Hayden Hurst for two passing touchdowns in the first quarter, and then the Bengals ran the ball with major success throughout the rest of the game to beat the Bills 27-10. On the other side of things, is it really a surprise that the Chiefs are here? What will Patrick Mahomes be without Tyreek Hill… the answer? Still really. freaking. good. The Chiefs finished the regular season 14-3 and the top seed in the AFC. In their playoff game after the bye, they beat a gritty Jacksonville Jaguars team, despite Mahomes suffering an injury to his ankle during the middle of the game. Their defense is good. Their offense is good. Patrick Mahomes is good. Travis Kelce is good. The Chiefs are just plain good. But they were just as well last year, and the Bengals showed up to Kansas City and stole a trip to the Super Bowl right out from under them. Can Cincinnati do it again?
The realistic answer is no, probably not. Beating the Chiefs at home for the AFC Championship is a wildly difficult task to pull off – let alone do it two years in a row. The biggest difficulty for the Bengals in this matchup is the missing pieces on their offensive line. They’ve got three injuries to starters, and against the Chiefs defense, protecting Burrow is going to be key. He’s been under a lot of pressure all season, and when that happens, he tends to throw a few interceptions. Along with that, the Bengals secondary is far from great, and with Travis Kelce able to get open at will, that’s going to be a huge issue. There’s no doubt that the loss last year is oh-so-present in the brains of Kansas City, and they have ZERO desire to let it happen again. BUT (yes, there is a but), in the past twenty-four hours, the Bengals have shifted from 1.5 point underdogs to 1.5 point favorites. Does that tell us that the Chiefs have fallen apart at the seams after their lone playoff game? No. What it does tell us is that the Bengals showed last week that they should never be considered underdogs. The Bills, on paper, are straight-up a better team, and so are the Chiefs, for that matter. Paper means nothing, though, once that first whistle blows, and the Bengals seem geared to pull it off yet again in what will likely be one of the most exciting games of the season. Don’t count out Joey B and the rest of the Bengals, though, because they’re going to sneak into the Super Bowl yet again, so take the Bengals and get $200 if you pick the winner!
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