Who: No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals (14-4) at No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (15-3)
What: AFC Championship
When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
TV/Radio: Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
The Bengals have won seven of the last eight meetings, including three times in the 2022 calendar year. The Chiefs lead 9-8 as the home team. This weekend’s game will mark the second straight AFC Championship matchup between these teams.
Last game: The Bengals beat the Chiefs 27-24 on Dec. 4 at Paycor Stadium after taking a 14-3 lead in the second quarter and needing a fourth-quarter comeback that started with an Evan McPherson field goal. Germaine Pratt forced Travis Kelce to fumble on the next drive and Pratt recovered to set up the game-winning drive, capped by Chris Evans’ 8-yard touchdown catch with 8:54 left. Joseph Ossai’s third-down sack sealed the game on the Chiefs’ final drive, as Harrison Butker missed a 55-yard field goal.
Postseason history: The Bengals are 10-15 in playoff games and heading into their fourth AFC Championship, first in back-to-back seasons. They are 3-0 in conference championship games but lost all three of their Super Bowl appearances in the 1981, 1988 and 2022 seasons. This is the organization’s second postseason trip since 2015. Last year, they broke an eight-playoff game losing streak to end a drought that spanned over 31 years. … The Chiefs are playing in their fifth straight AFC Championship and won two of those, going on to win the Super Bowl to conclude the 2019 season but losing to the Bucs the following year. They are 18-22 overall in playoff games, including 4-3 in the conference championship and 2-2 in Super Bowl appearances.
Coaches: Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor is 28-36-1 in four regular seasons as head coach; Andy Reid is 247-138-1 in 24 seasons as a head coach, including a 117-45 record in 10 years with Kansas City.
Bengals notes: The Bengals finished the regular season ranked seventh in scoring offense with 26.1 points per game and sixth in scoring defense while allowing 20.1 points per game. Joe Burrow, an MVP finalist, leads an offense averaging 360.5 yards per game (eighth most), including 265.0 yards passing (fifth most) and 95.5 yards rushing (ranked 29th). Cincinnati continues to find success in its redzone offense, scoring 37 touchdowns on 57 trips inside the 20-yard line (64.9 percent) and only having nine no-scores. … Burrow completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,475 yards and 35 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and 41 sacks in the regular season. WR Ja’Marr Chase leads the team with 1,046 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in just 12 regular-season games after missing four games because of a hip injury. Tee Higgins also topped 1,000 yards receiving for a second straight season, finishing with 1,029 yards and seven touchdowns. Joe Mixon adds 814 yards rushing and seven touchdowns in 14 regular-season games. … Cincinnati’s run defense continues to be its strength on that side of the ball, allowing just 106.6 yards rushing per game (seventh fewest) and 229.1 yards passing (ranked 23rd). The Bengals might not get as many stops between the 20-yard lines but they have a tendency to buckle down in the red zone, allowing just 26 touchdowns in 44 redzone situations (52.0 percent) and preventing scores on six occasions in the red zone. The Bengals produced 24 turnovers (eighth most). Safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates lead the team with four interceptions each. Logan Wilson finished with 123 combined tackles. Trey Hendrickson had a team-leading 8.0 sacks and 24 quarterback hits in 15 regular-season games with three forced fumbles. Sam Hubbard adds 6.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hits. … The Bengals are still missing three starting offensive linemen with Alex Cappa and Jonah Williams out and La’el Collins on injured reserve. … They are on a franchise-record 10-game winning streak.
Chiefs notes: Kansas City brings the highest-scoring and most explosive offense in the league, averaging 29.2 points per game and 413.6 yards per game. The Chiefs average 297.8 passing yards behind the top quarterback in the league with Patrick Mahomes a leading candidate for the MVP award. Mahomes, who has 5,250 yards passing and 41 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions, was a full participant all week in practice despite suffering a high ankle sprain against Jacksonville last week. His favorite target, tight end Travis Kelce, finished the season with 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns. JuJu Smith-Schuster adds 933 yards receiving and three touchdowns. … The Chiefs average 115.9 rushing yards per game (20th most) with Isiah Pacheco leading with 830 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Kansas City’s redzone offense ranks as the second best in the league, scoring touchdowns on 50 of 65 trips in the redzone. … The Chiefs’ defense, like Cincinnati’s is best against the run, allowing just 107.2 rushing yards per game (eighth fewest) while giving up 220.9 yards through the air (18th most). They have allowed 21.7 points per game (16th fewest), 328.2 total yards per game (11th fewest). Kansas City has produced 20 turnovers on defense (20th most). … Chris Jones leads the team with 15.5 sacks, and L’Jarius Sneed and Juan Thornhill each had a team-high three interceptions. Nick Bolton leads the team with 180 tackles.
Quoted: “We’ve been in these spots. We have the experience, we know what team we’re playing. A team that has been to this game the last five seasons, and they’ve all been in that stadium. So to me, they’re still the team to beat and we’re coming for them for them, but we know it’s gonna be tough. We know it’s gonna be hard fought, and we know the kind of players they have on that side.” – Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow
Prediction: Bengals 28, Chiefs 24
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