The AFC Championship is a rematch of last year’s two teams. The Kansas City Chiefs will once again host the Cincinnati Bengals. Can the Bengals win again or will the Chiefs find a way with an injured Patrick Mahomes to get to the Super Bowl?
The Bet QL experts weigh in on who they think will advance and throw in some other bets to look at for Sunday’s game.
Chiefs, Bengals Building Rivalry
Not only is this a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game, but the Bengals and Chiefs are also becoming one of the hottest rivalries in the NFL. This will be the fourth time these teams have crossed paths since January 2, 2022, and they’re not even in the same division.
Even more surprising than that is the fact that the Bengals have won all three of those previous games. They won, 27-24, at home this season, knocked off the Chiefs in overtime in last year’s AFC title game at KC, and won 34-31 late in the 2021 regular season. If you go even further back to 2008, the Bengals have won seven of the last eight head-to-head meetings between these teams with Andy Reid just 1-4 against the Bengals during his tenure in Kansas City. Of course, the last three games have all been decided by three points, so we could have another instant classic on our hands.
Despite losing in last year’s AFC championship, the Chiefs have gotten back to the conference title game for the fifth straight season, going 2-2 in the previous four games. They have also put together a six-game winning streak late in the season and won 11 of their last 12 games. However, the caveat is that Kansas City is just 5-7 against the spread during that stretch, so it hasn’t been the most reliable at covering spreads.
Of course, the spread is close to meaningless in this game, as it’s almost a toss-up. That being said, the Chiefs are 2-2 SU this season in games that have a spread of three points or fewer, including their loss in Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, the Bengals have to be feeling good about going into Buffalo last week as six-point underdogs and winning, 27-10. They now head to Kansas City with a 10-game winning streak and an 8-2 ATS record during that winning streak. They are now 3-0 ATS and 2-1 SU as underdogs this season, including their win over the Chiefs. The AFC championship game will be Cincinnati’s 11th game this season with a spread of four points or fewer. In those other 10 games thus far, the Bengals are 8-2 straight up with both of those losses coming against divisional opponents. It could also be worth noting that the Bengals are 3-0 this season when playing a team for the second time, avenging losses to all three of their AFC North rivals.
On the other side, the Chiefs are 4-0 SU when playing teams for the second time, although they had no losses to avenge in those four games.
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Burrow will Lead Bengals to Win
Did you see Joe Cool on Sunday? There’s no way I’m betting against Joe Burrow right now, especially with a hobbled Mahomes on the other side of the field. I fully expect Mahomes to play on Sunday, and while an injured Mahomes is still far better than most other quarterbacks in the league, the Bengals defense has been huge over the last month, holding opponents under 20 points in six of their last eight games.
If that unit can get to Mahomes and force him out of the pocket, that’s going to mean trouble for someone playing on a high ankle sprain. Plus, Cincinnati doesn’t seem to be as fazed as other teams when it comes to playing at Arrowhead.
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Ride Confident Bengals
When asked how long Cincinnati’s Super Bowl window would be open, Burrow recently told reporters, “The window’s my whole career. … And everybody we have in that locker room, all the coaches we have, things are gonna change year to year, but our window is always open.”
After going into Buffalo and absolutely beating down the Bills in the snow, I’m not going to fade Joe Cool in this spot. While the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes have been a dynamic offensive bunch all year even without Tyreek Hill, they’ve shown an inability to put teams away and have gone just 3-6 ATS at home despite their 8-1 SU record.
The Bengals have gone 7-3 SU (8-2 ATS) on the road and are one of the few teams that thrive in that setting. Since Week 2, they’ve failed to cover the spread one time (on Halloween) on the road! I’ll grab them +1.5 points for more safety, but I’ll also be betting their moneyline as I am more confident in them winning this game outright.
The Bengals will win and cover.
Watch Mahomes Injury
The Bengals are full of confidence coming into this game after dominating the Bills, and Burrow is 3-0 against Mahomes.
Speaking of Mahomes, he’ll very likely not be at 100 percent after his ankle injury against the Jaguars, which is a factor certainly in favor of the Bengals. The Bengals also beat the Chiefs, 27-24, this season, and I think they can take them down again in the AFC title game for the second straight season.
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