AFC Championship Game Preview – The Upstarts And The Unsurprising

Eric Urbanowicz
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The divisional round of the NFL was everything that fans could ask for. All four games ended on walk-off moments, including the finale which saw the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs go to overtime. This may go down in history as the all-time greatest week of playoff football.

Can the AFC Championship game continue the trend of legendary playoff games? With quarterbacks like Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes, it’s very possible.

 

Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) – Sunday, 3:00 PM

It was only four weeks ago that these two faced off with their playoff futures (at the time) on the line. After an early Kansas City 14 point lead, Cincinnati rallied and went on a tear, ultimately leading to a field goal by kicker Evan McPherson to clinch the AFC North for Cincinnati.

Since that fateful afternoon, Cincinnati has made the most of their opportunities in the playoffs. They faced off with the Las Vegas Raiders in the Wild Card round, defeating them in an interception on a final push by quarterback Derek Carr.

The next week, they bullied Tennessee Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill en route to McPherson sending them to the AFC championship game with a walk-off field goal.

On the other side of the coin, Kansas City had their own battle. First, they squashed the Pittsburgh Steelers in what was probably Ben Roethlisberger’s final game. Then in the shootout to end all shootouts, Kansas City battled back against Buffalo to force overtime, where they won on an eight-yard pass to tight end Travis Kelce.

And that’s how we ended up here.

 

X-Factor:

Cincinnati: Head Coach Zac Taylor – Kansas City is a strong team, but they are beatable. There are two ways to beat them: pressure quarterback Patrick Mahomes without blitzing (what Tampa Bay did in the Super Bowl last year) or outsmart Andy Reid. Taylor was able to do it once, but he’s going to have to step it up another notch this week if they’re going to pull off the upset.

Kansas City: Defensive Tackle Chris Jones – In two postseason games, Joe Burrow has sacked 11 times (twice against Las Vegas and nine times against Tennessee). While Burrow is on pace to becoming the next elite quarterback, when pressured he struggles to hit the mark (no touchdowns, one interception and 28-37 passing). If Kansas City can get to Burrow, they’ll have a much better chance of winning.

Prediction: Kansas City wins, 37-23. Cincinnati was able to beat Kansas City in the regular season. However, like the 2000s and 2010s New England Patriots, once the postseason starts, they’re an entirely different team. This is where Kansas City makes their third straight appearance in the Super Bowl.

Eric Urbanowicz

Connecticut

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