A 2021 AFC championship game rematch hits the slates as the Cincinnati Bengals aim to make their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. The Bengals seem to have the Kansas City Chiefs‘ number like no other team, as Joe Burrow is 3-0 against Patrick Mahomes over the past two seasons.
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Although the NFL world still has the Bengals’ playoff run from a year ago still fresh in their minds, the Chiefs are headed to their fifth consecutive AFC championship game under the best quarterback in the NFL, and they seek to avenge last year’s defeat to head to their third Super Bowl in five seasons.
It all sets the stage for an incredible sports betting experience this weekend.
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Top 2 QBs in the NFL: Burrow and Mahomes
New York Jets fans have dealt with decades of subpar quarterback play, highlighted only by the underappreciated Chad Pennington and a measly season or two from Vinny Testaverde. It oftentimes leads to tricky situations via New York Jets betting odds heading into each NFL season.
Sure, Mark Sanchez did his thing in the NFL playoffs, but it was all downhill from there (2010 regular season).
The fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick holds the team record for TD passes in a single season speaks to Gang Green’s star-crossed history at the QB position. (For fans scoffing at Derek Carr, note that his worst seasons would be close to record-setting for the Jets’ franchise.)
The AFC championship represents the exact opposite of the Jets’ quarterback play. Patrick Mahomes is pretty much the undisputed best signal-caller in the league right now, but Joe Burrow may be playing the best ball around.
Burrow sliced and diced the Bills’ No. 4-rated defense by DVOA, going 23-for-36 for 242 yards and two touchdowns and posted a 101.9 passer rating. His stats belie how thoroughly he outplayed Josh Allen, who has long received more hype as an elite QB. It’s Burrow, however, who is establishing himself as the next in line following the likely NFL MVP in Mahomes.
In fact, Dan Orlovsky is so high on Burrow that he named him the best pure quarterback in the league.
.@danorlovsky7 says Joe Burrow is the “best quarterback in football” 👀
“Patrick Mahomes, best player. He’s the most talented player in the NFL and he’s the most dynamic weapon. Joe Burrow’s the best quarterback in football when it comes to quarterbacking.” pic.twitter.com/wiy7ScWpnk
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) January 23, 2023
In Burrow’s three victories against the Chiefs, he has completed 72.2% of his passes for 327.3 yards per game at a 9.1 YPA clip, an 8:1 TD:INT ratio, and a 121.0 QB rating. He has also been sacked only six times, or two per game, which is a narrative that was somewhat quieted after Burrow’s makeshift offensive line kept him clean all game against the Bills.
Will Burrow live up to the hype in this game? He’s steadily shown that he has ice in his veins and can withstand the pressures of Arrowhead Stadium, which is one of the loudest and truest home-field advantages in the NFL. He’s firing on all cylinders, connecting with both his top targets (Ja’Marr Chase) and lesser-known ones (Hayden Hurst).
Meanwhile, the Bengals’ defense somehow improves against top 10 passing offenses, which aids Burrow tremendously in beating top teams.
One of the interesting questions for this week is why Lou Anarumo's defense seems to play better against better QBs.
The numbers aren't as strong as I expected but:
-1.4% pass defense DVOA against Top 10 pass offenses
+6.7% pass defense DVOA against other pass offenses
— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) January 23, 2023
The Bengals’ defense is uniquely suited to stop Mahomes, as they have one of the best pass defenses against tight ends. The Chiefs ranked fifth in the NFL in DVOA against tight ends at -16.8%.
Though Travis Kelce elevated his game this season to an otherwordly level from his already slam-dunk Hall of Fame resume, leading all tight ends in DYAR, receptions, receiving yards and TD, he will have his work cut out for him against the Bengals’ linebacking corps, led by underrated middle backer Logan Wilson.
One of the biggest question marks in this game is Patrick Mahomes’s ankle. The ankle was bent backward pretty badly against the Jaguars, and Mahomes limped off the field while missing a 98-yard TD drive orchestrated by Chad Henne and Isiah Pacheco.
He returned to the game but lacked the same explosiveness afterward, relying on the poor Jaguars’ defense to make plays over the middle. He won’t have such a luxury against Cincinnati.
Mahomes insists that the high-ankle sprain will not keep him out of the Championship Game, and Andy Reid reiterated today that his QB is ready to go. Reid pointed out that Mahomes also had a high-ankle sprain in 2019 and did not miss any time because of it, noting that this sprain is not as bad as the previous one was.
Still, high-ankle sprains are rarely one-week injuries, and as mobility both inside and out of the pocket are a large part of Mahomes’s game, the best current NFL player will be sorely tested (pun intended).
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Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals Odds
The line on this matchup has already seen some fluctuation, as it opened at -1 for the Chiefs, was pick ’em at some sportsbooks, and currently sits at -1.5 for Cincinnati. Expect more variations as the week goes on or slight differences depending on the sportsbook, no matter when you claim the best bet365 Promo Code in the business.
The spread is unlikely to go far past 1.5 points in either direction, though, as this matchup is closely contested.
All three of the Burrow-Mahomes matchups have been decided by a field goal—two 27-24 results and one 34-31 shootout. It’s a thin margin of error to bet with if you’re risk-averse. However, there are some other, more enticing bets with excellent odds for those who don’t have a clear gut feeling about the game.
Chiefs vs. Bengals Best Bet
Patrick Mahomes under 273.5 passing yards (-115)
In Mahomes’s past three matchups against the Bengals, he has averaged 252.5 passing yards per game and eclipsed 273.5 yards only once—by 1.5 yards in last year’s Championship Game that went to overtime. Given his balky ankle and the fact that the Bengals may take away Travis Kelce, I expect the Chiefs to try to get their run game going.
Isiah Pacheco ran for 95 yards at 7.9 YPC in the Divisional Round. He is a sneaky weapon for Kansas City, as he rushed for 830 yards at 4.9 YPC during the regular season. Cincinnati ranked 14th in rush defense DVOA during the season, but the Chiefs will still try to test that part of the defense to take some pressure off Mahomes.
With Mahomes already averaging below his over/under total against the Chiefs, I wouldn’t expect anything to change in this game—unless Cincinnati goes up early, as they did against Buffalo.
Still, the Bengals held Josh Allen to 243 yards in the Divisional Round, and their shaky corners will not face a Stefon Diggs-level talent this week. (Eli Apple can keep gloating on Twitter, at least for now, although karma can be quite nasty at times.)
Cancun on 3 🏿 https://t.co/oOHSw1AMsT
— Eli Apple (@EliApple) January 24, 2023