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Where have we seen this match up before? The AFC Championship will once again feature a battle of top quarterbacks as Joe Burrow leads the Cincinnati Bengals into war against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. In what may be the next generation’s version of Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning, it’s time to see who wins round two in their postseason series.
Cincinnati took the longer road but it may have been worth it. Starting with a wild card round win over the division rival Baltimore Ravens, the Bengals looked primed for a huge upset. That ultimately came when they went on the road, in the snow, with the added inspiration of Damar Hamlin watching from the skybox as the Buffalo Bills looked to stop Cincy.
They failed and Cincinnati rolled on to the AFC Championship game.
Meanwhile, Kansas City did what they do best: win. After going 14-3, which was good enough for the top seed in the AFC, K.C. got a much deserved first-round bye.
After the rest, Kansas City sent this year’s Cinderella team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, home with no glass slipper and no Prince Charming. Now with redemption in mind, can Kansas City reclaim their spot as the best AFC team?
Sunday afternoon at 6:30, it all comes down to this. The stage is set at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Cincinnati: Joe Mixon – Running back
The last time these two faced off, Samaje Perine was filling at running back for Joe Mixon while he was dealing with injury. Perine carved up the Kansas City defense, rushing for 106 yards and recording 49 yards as a receiver. With Mixon back in the lineup, expect him to be utilized more often. If Mixon is on, this could be a long game for Kansas City’s defense.
Kansas City: Chris Jones – Defensive Tackle
Kansas City needs to get pressure on Burrow. With 15.5 sacks, Jones is going to have to lead the charge. George Karlaftis and Frank Clark are going to need to step up. If they can’t do anything against this line, they’re done.
Prediction: Cincinnati wins, 30-24.
This game should be game of the year. It should be even better than last year. The thing is, Kansas City doesn’t have that speed threat they did last year (Tyreek Hill), and Mecole Hardman took a step back. While Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster stepped up this year, they don’t replace the speed that’s missing.