One game stands between four teams and the Super Bowl. In the AFC Championship Game, Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals are trying to reach the franchise’s first Super Bowl since 1988. To do so, they have to go through Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, who are looking to make their third-consecutive Big Game appearance.
The Chiefs come in as healthy favorites (-7, -340 money line), but don’t tell that to the Bengals. They’ve covered the spread in their last six games, including a 34-31 win over Kansas City in Week 17.
Here are three reasons why Burrow the Bengals will beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
3. The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17
If the Cincinnati Bengals can use the same blueprint from Week 17, they have a real chance of winning. Furthermore, if they do, the AFC Championship Game will be amazing to watch.
The last time the two teams met was an offensive explosion. Patrick Mahomes was an ultra-efficient 26-of-35 for 256 yards and two touchdowns while running backs Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore combined for 125 yards on 17 carries, and Williams found the end zone twice.
Cincinnati’s ball-carrier Joe Mixon didn’t fare as well, rushing for just 46 yards on 12 carries, but he didn’t need to. Joe Burrow was 30-of-39 for 446 yards and four TDs, and rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase had a staggering 11 catches for 266 yards and three of Burrow’s four scores.
If the Bengals can answer every Chiefs score with one of their own and turn the game into another track meet, they have a real chance for the W.
In this scenario, it will come down to who has the ball last, and that’s where the Bengals’ secret weapon comes in.
2. Evan McPherson is the secret weapon
Between the Jacksonville Jaguars drafting Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence No. 1 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafting Houston LB Grant Stuard No. 259, NFL teams selected 257 college players in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Only one of those players was a placekicker.
At No. 159 in the fifth round, the Cincinnati Bengals took Florida Gators’ K Evan McPherson. That decision worked out exceptionally well for the organization.
McPherson was perfect inside of 40 yards and buried 46-of-48 extra points. He also kicked game-winning FGs in Week 1 vs. the Minnesota Vikings, Week 4 vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, Week 17 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, and in the Divisional Round vs. the Tennessee Titans.
Meanwhile, Kansas City’s normally reliable Harrison Butker struggled in the Divisional Round vs. the Buffalo Bills. He did make a clutch 49-yard kick to send the game to overtime, but he also missed a 43-yarder in the second quarter and a PAT.
If this game does come down to a final kick, McPherson is the specialist you want out there.
1. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase make magic
Sure, on paper, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are the better team. The Chiefs have a higher-ranked scoring offense (fourth vs. seventh) and scoring defense (eighth vs. 17th). KC also has the experience, and the quality wins, arguably beating a better team than the Cincinnati Bengals last week vs. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.
All that said, the Bengals have Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase.
Two years ago, these two took another group of championship-starved Tigers to a big win, leading LSU to a national championship over Clemson.
Sometimes in sports, it’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Ja’Marr’s and Joe’s, and these two seem to be prime-time players. Yes, they’re young and unproven at the NFL level, but that may be an advantage, both physically and mentally, against a team that’s played 75 games in over the last four seasons.
Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce have had their moment. Maybe it’s just time for Burrow, Chase, and Joe Mixon (or Tee Higgins, or C.J. Uzomah) to have theirs.
The No. 1 reason that the Bengals will beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game is that Burrow and Chase are the next great duo in NFL history, and not even the high-powered Chiefs can change that.
If Burrow and Chase show up and show out on Sunday, “Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals?” Nobody.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference