AFC and NFC Championship Game Predictions

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

AFC and NFC Championship Game Predictions


AFC and NFC Championship Game Predictions


Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs will start out the second-to-last weekend of the playoffs at 3 p.m. EST on Sunday. The winner of the AFC Championship Game will wait for the NFC Championship Game to be decided. In the second game on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams will wrap up the final championship game at 6:30 EST.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Kansas City Chiefs

If you go back and look at the last time the Cincinnati Bengals were in the AFC Championship game it was in 1988 with Boomer Esiason at quarterback. The last time they were in this position as well, they ended up going to the Super Bowl after beating the Buffalo Bills 21-10. Now it is 2022 and the Joe Burrow-led Bengals have officially made it back after their 19-16 win over the No. 1 seed Tennessee Titans.

While the Bengals defense and special teams won them their game it was the opposite for the Kansas City Chiefs. In their 42-36 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills, it was the offense with Patrick Mahomes throwing for 378 yards and three touchdowns. With the win, the Chiefs are now hosting the AFC Championship Game for the fourth year in a row at Arrowhead. These two teams met back in week 17 with the Bengals coming out on top in a 34-31 win, and this time it should be just as close. 

How The Cincinnati Bengals Can Win:

For starters, making sure Burrow doesn’t get sacked nine times again is going to be crucial for the Bengals. Yet the Titans’ defensive line is one of the best at pulling stunt moves, the Chiefs on the other hand aren’t up there with the Titans. How the Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo runs the defense is he likes to blitz heavily, and he does so with having five cornerbacks on the field over 70% of the time.

When it comes to pressure from defenses blitzing the way the Chiefs do, Burrow finds success. This was evident in their first matchup when he was pressured on 36.9% of his dropbacks but still threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns. Being able to repeat this, as well as getting Joe Mixon more involved on the outside zone runs that the Chiefs have been susceptible to as of late will be huge. This will allow the Bengals to run the clock keeping Mahomes off the field. 

On the defensive side of things for the Bengals just like with Burrow, when it comes to Mahomes you can’t blitz him. This works into the style that Lou Anarumo runs, as the Bengals have blitzed the tenth fewest amount of times in the NFL with 142. Instead, they rely on getting pressure with their front four as they have gotten pressure 170 times which is the eighth-most in the NFL. Trey Hendrickson is the leader for this as he has 45 pressures which he has turned into 14 sacks.

The pressure they are able to get on quarterbacks causing them to throw before they are ready has led to two game-sealing interceptions in their playoff matchups. One from Germaine Pratt against the Las Vegas Raiders, and one from Logan Wilson last week. Turning the pressures into turnovers is what the Bengals defense will need to do against the Chiefs. 

How The Kansas City Chiefs Can Win:

The passing attack by Mahomes was on display as well the last time these two met, but the Bengals held him to 259 yards and two touchdowns. What worked for the Chiefs last week in their win over the Bills is they got Tyreek Hill more involved. Against the Bills, he had 11 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals on the other hand gave up 142 yards to A.J. Brown, but limited Julio Jones to only 62 yards.

If the Bengals limit Hill and Travis Kelce like they did the first time the Chiefs will need to get Jerick McKinnon going in the passing attack. Over the two playoff games, McKinnon has racked up 135 receiving yards, and 85 rushing yards. McKinnon didn’t play in week 17 and should be someone the Chiefs try to get involved if they want a spark on offense to test the Bengals’ defense. In addition, Mahomes will need to continue his success on third downs, Mahomes and the Chiefs have the highest third-down conversion rate at 52.2%. This has led to the Chiefs having an average drive time of 3 minutes testing the patience and stamina of defenses. 

The Chiefs’ defense will need to find a way to limit Ja’Marr Chase if they want to win this time. Last time he had 11 receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns. Just last week the Chiefs let Josh Allen throw for 329 yards and four touchdowns, 201 of those yards and all four touchdowns were by Gabriel Davis because of the Chiefs bracketing Stefon Diggs.

The health of Tyrann Mathieu as the week progresses will be one to monitor, if he can’t go it will leave a void in the middle of the field for Burrow to target. With the type of quarterback Burrow is, he is extremely accurate, in 2021 he led the NFL in on target throw percentage with 81.3%. All in all the secondary will need to correct things if they want to slow down the Bengals’ high-powered offense and that will be done by adding onto their 69 defended passes and 15 interceptions. 

The Spread Via FanDuel:

Kansas City Chiefs: -7(112), (-350) Money Line

Cincinnati Bengals: +7(-108), (+275) Money Line


Final Prediction: Bengals 31, Chiefs 28


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