AFC Championship Game Picks: Can Bengals Keep Pace With High-Flying Chiefs?

Can KC make it three Super Bowl trips in a row, or is it Joe Burrow's time?

by

The AFC is where the big boys play, and the Kansas City Chiefs are hoping to fend off yet another rising power when they host the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game.

The Chiefs obviously have become a mainstay in the Super Bowl, taking the baton from the New England Patriots. Many believe KC essentially won the AFC title game a week ago by knocking out the Buffalo Bills in an overtime thriller. However, Joe Burrow and the Bengals have defied expectations to get to this point, and they’re hoping to keep the Chiefs out of their third straight Super Bowl while putting their own rebuild into warp speed.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a hearty line for Sunday’s first conference showdown. Can the Bengals give the Chiefs a game? NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle get into it all with their against-the-spread picks below.

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

Cincinnati Bengals at (-7) Kansas City Chiefs, 3 p.m. ET
Mike: Bengals.

At the risk of putting too much stock into these teams’ Week 17 matchup, the Bengals did some impressive things. The first was how they were able to get Ja’Marr Chase the ball in space, allowing him to absolutely go off for 266 receiving yards. Certainly, the KC game plan will focus on taking him away, but Joe Burrow has no shortage of weapons, and we did just see Taylor Gabriel go off against the Chiefs’ secondary that might be without Tyrann Mathieu.

Defensively, the Bengals limited Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Granted, Patrick Mahomes still spread it around, but Cincinnati at least should stay in the game if that’s the case again. Winning this game probably is too much to ask of the young Bengals, but there’s enough in their favor to keep it within the number.

Ricky: Chiefs.
Cincinnati’s pass protection has been a problem, evident by the Bengals’ offensive line ranking 31st in adjusted sack rate. That glaring weakness was on full display in the AFC divisional round, when the Tennessee Titans sacked Burrow nine (!) times despite Cincinnati’s road win, and it could rear its ugly head again Sunday against a Kansas City defense that ranks fifth in pressure rate.

Burrow seemingly can make every throw imaginable, but he still has just 28 NFL games under his belt. Inexperience — at the QB position, along the O-line and on the sideline with head coach Zac Taylor — finally will catch up to the Bengals, as the Chiefs are equally as explosive and far more seasoned.

Picked For You