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2022-2023 AFC Championship Game Preview: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs

2022-2023 AFC Championship Game Preview

Scott Logush

Sports Editor

The final two teams in the AFC are set as the Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. A showdown between two of the top quarterbacks in the league with explosive offenses will decide who gets to go to the Super Bowl. Let’s take a look at how these teams compare and see who will win.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

6:30 pm Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)

Three Key Matchups: 

1. Chirs Jones vs Cincinnati Interior Offensive Line

There’s been this stat flying around about how Chris Jones doesn’t have a postseason sack yet, but he still has a large impact in postseason games. Despite not having a single sack in the playoffs, Jones still has over 38 career postseason pressures and 37 in the past five postseasons. He had six last week against Jacksonville, and 19 in the past four AFC Conference Championship Games. He makes his presence felt and makes a great impact despite not actually sacking the quarterback. Pressures are much easier to predict than sacks, and their impact is more consistent. The interior line for Cincinnati is below average at best, and Chris Jones has the potential to completely ruin Cincinnati’s offense.

2. Cincinnati Pass Rush vs Kansas City Offensive Line

Mahomes is still recovering from his high ankle sprain that forced him to be a true pocket passer in the divisional round, and this Cincinnati front can get pressure on the quarterback. They pressured Josh Allen 21 times on 42 dropbacks in the divisional round and that showed in Allen’s misses. Allen missed a few deep balls and that proved costly as the Buffalo offense was flat. They also pressured Tyler Huntley 13 times on 34 dropbacks in the Wildcard round. Kansas City’s offensive line is significantly better than Buffalo’s, but that pressure threat is still there, and if Mahomes’ mobility is hampered in any way, that Cincinnati pass rush can fire off the line and cause major problems.

3. Kansas City Corners vs Cincinnati Wide Receivers 

Kansas City has a number of young corners who have played reasonably well this season, but Cincinnati’s wide receivers are a completely different animal. Tee Higgins is a number one wide receiver who is behind Ja’Marr Chase in Cincinnati, keeping both of them long-term will be a problem but that doesn’t matter now, they’re both here. Tyler Boyd is a solid slot option, making this one of the best wide receiver groups in the league. L’Jarius Sneed and rookie Trent McDuffie are a great corner pairing, while rookie Jaylen Watson has been serviceable. Sneed and McDuffie are the main two, with Watson taking over outside while McDuffie bumps into the slot in nickel packages. In the game against Jacksonville, there were big plays available, if not for a couple of drops the Jaguars might be playing in this game instead.

 Getting Higgins or Chase isolated on Watson has to be Cincinnati’s goal, and Joe Burrow can absolutely take advantage of that matchup. Can the young corners keep up? I have my doubts, but in their previous matchup this year they did a fine job.

Prediction

The Mahomes ankle is a wildcard, he looked fine walking in a video taken after a press conference as he was walking without a limp, but it has to be a factor in this upcoming game. Ultimately, I want Kansas City to win, but I’m siding with Cincinnati. I was impressed with how Cincinnati played against Buffalo, and am concerned about a number of things with Kansas City as detailed above.

Score: 34-31 Cincinnati Bengals

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