After a week full of trash talk and injury concerns surrounding Patrick Mahomes's ankle and Travis Kelce's back, the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals approach kickoff with a chance to punch their ticket to Super Bowl LVII. Here's how the Arrowhead Report crew sees the rematch playing out.
Joshua Brisco: In a rematch that has already soaked up more than its fair share of pregame drama, the Chiefs’ path to the Super Bowl now relies on Patrick Mahomes’s ankle, Chris Jones’s dominance, and the team’s ability to play mistake-free football. Ultimately, I’m most concerned about that third key, and the Bengals have earned the befit of the doubt for the time being. However, with recent growth from the Chiefs’ defense and the potential for an all-time gameplan from Andy Reid and Co., the case for KC isn’t hard to make. I’ve never disliked or distrusted a prediction more than this one. Virtually nothing would surprise me, other than a ho-hum affair with a real lack of trash talk.
Prediction: Bengals 28, Chiefs 27
Jordan Foote: The Chiefs showed in Week 13 — as well as in their other two matchups against the Bengals — that they're more than capable of hanging with Cincinnati. Actually defeating Joe Burrow and Co. has been another story, though. Kansas City's question marks in the middle of the field on defense are legitimate, especially against this specific team. This is hands-down the worst matchup for an otherwise-dominant Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes-led team, and that's even without factoring in Mahomes's bum ankle. I can't pick the Chiefs until they prove that they can beat the Bengals, so another close loss it is.
Prediction: Bengals 31, Chiefs 27
Zack Eisen: I’ve yearned for this game since the Chiefs lost in overtime last year’s AFC Championship Game. This version of the Bengals is the only team to truly have the edge over the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs. Cincinnati boasts a 3-0 record over Kansas City in the last 13 months, but the Chiefs have blown those games more than the Bengals have won them. With a Super Bowl trip on the line, I expect the Chiefs to be focused and at their best.
As the late great Terez Paylor used to say, this is an over-my-dead body game for Kansas City. Mahomes will be absolutely dialed in and play at an all-time level as he leads the Chiefs to their third Super Bowl in four years. Arizona, here we come.
Prediction: Chiefs 34, Bengals 23
Mark Van Sickle: This is it. The rematch we’ve waited nearly a year to see. The Bengals have won three in a row against the Chiefs, so it’s tough to say those were flukey wins despite some very strange things that took place. Most specifically, when it looked like Patrick Mahomes forgot how to play football for the second half of last year’s AFC Championship Game.
That isn’t going to happen again this year. Mahomes will be able to overcome whatever the Bengals throw at him and he will show the world why he is the NFL MVP. The defense will finally get to Joe Burrow and get him on the ground. The Chiefs have too much pride to lose a fourth straight to the Bengals. I know earlier in the season I said I couldn’t pick the Chiefs to beat the Bengals until they could show me with a win. However, the playoffs hit differently.
Andy Reid will have a masterful offensive gameplan, and you get the feeling Mahomes will not let them lose a second consecutive AFC Championship Game at home. The Chiefs will head back to the Super Bowl to face the Philadelphia Eagles in a Super Bowl matchup I predicted before the season!
Prediction: Chiefs 38, Bengals 24
Marlow Ferguson Jr.: Despite it being a real possibility, it’s just incredibly difficult to imagine any team defeating this iteration of the Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs four times out of four, particularly with three of the four at home. The Bengals haven’t been shy about providing bulletin-board material, something that would normally immediately make one lean Kansas City’s way. But, a few factors are just difficult to ignore:
1. The Bengals’ defense has matched its offense’s brilliance; they’ve allowed just 18.1 postseason points per game in the Burrow era.
2. The Chiefs rank 31st in defending No. 1 wide receivers, with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins coming to town, and, of course...
3. Injuries to both Mahomes and Kelce.
Even so, the Chiefs have always just found a way. Emotion trumps logic in this prediction, and that means a Kansas City win.
Prediction: Chiefs, 28; Bengals, 26
Conner Christopherson: The Chiefs will eventually beat the Bengals, but I don't think it will be this year. While Patrick Mahomes was healthier than expected off a fresh ankle sprain last week, I have a hard time believing he will be 100%. Coupled with disciplined Bengals edge rushers, that is a huge cause of concern for me. Mahomes needs to turn in his best pure pocket passing game of his career in order for the offense to be consistent and win.
That is not the only worry I have, though. The Bengals' offense targeted the Chiefs' middle-of-the-field defense relentlessly last time these teams played, and I have a hard time seeing the Chiefs' defense solve this issue for the rematch. Steve Spagnuolo and the defensive players will have to play their best game of the season for them to slow down the Bengals enough to win. The player to watch this game is Isiah Pacheco, because if he can run well and break off one or two big runs, the Chiefs have a much better chance of getting to the Super Bowl. For me, however, I just don't think the Chiefs will be able to do enough.
Prediction: Bengals 30, Chiefs 29