There’s never going to be anything to top the NFL’s divisional-round playoffs. Not only did each of the four games come down to the final play, three of the four underdogs won, per the NFL betting odds.
The Cincinnati Bengals kicked things off, taking down the AFC’s top-seeded Tennessee Titans. Possible to do it again? The Kansas City Chiefs were the only favorites to survive the previous round, getting some Patrick Mahomes magic to force overtime and beat the Buffalo Bills.
Upset of the Week: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
These teams met before, when the Cincinnati Bengals snapped the Kansas City Chiefs’ eight- game winning streak. Quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase torched the Chiefs’ secondary. Burrow threw for 415 yards and four scores, despite absorbing four sacks.
What has changed since then? Other than several key injuries on both teams, the Chiefs are now bigger favorites on the NFL lines, at more than a full touchdown. Kansas City is 2-1 in conference title games, the Chiefs’ only loss to the underdog New England Patriots in 2018.
Bengals vs. Chiefs AFC Championship Game Odds by BetUs
|+7½ ( -120 )
|54 ( -110 )
|-7½ ( EV )
|54 ( -110 )
The Favorite: Kansas City Chiefs (14-5, 10-9 ATS)
Why They Are The Favorites: The Chiefs are led by a spellbinding quarterback in Mahomes. The former league and Super Bowl MVP proved it against the Bills. Even opposing the NFL’s top defense, a few seconds was all the Chiefs needed.
Since 2018, the quarterback and Kansas City are 31-7 (20-17-1 against the spread [ATS]) as home favorites, including 8-2 (7-3 ATS) in playoff games. Those losses came at the hands of Tom Brady. Patrick Mahomes has a passer rating of 107.2 in the playoffs, with a 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Mahomes under center and the Chiefs figure to be favored.
Why They Could Lose: Aaron Rodgers’ fans can lament all too well that football is won and lost as a team. We saw Mahomes unable to do anything in last year’s Super Bowl, due to a faulty offensive line. This season, the KC defense has been hot-and-cold, lately the latter.
Kansas City’s secondary has been getting burned and, as a result, the Chiefs have allowed an average of 28.8 points in their last four games. Against elite quarterbacks such as Burrow and Josh Allen (twice), the Chiefs allowed passer ratings of over 130. If they can’t get it together, KC may once again be on the wrong side of online NFL betting.
The Underdog: Cincinnati Bengals (12-7, 12-7 ATS)
Why They Are The Underdogs: Burrow and Chase may be the best quarterback-receiver duo since Brady and Randy Moss, but they can only do so much. As Mahomes also found out, winning can be tough if you’re constantly running for your life. The Bengals are just 2-4 when Burrow gets sacked five or more times.
The Bengals are also banged up on defense. Cincy’s missing at least five starters on defense, including four on the line. This team has also been getting gashed on the ground, allowing over 100 rushing yards in six of its last seven games. If the Bengals do not repel Kansas City’s running game, it will give Mahomes more room to do his thing.
Why They Could Win: If any team has shown it can overcome the odds, it’s the Bengals. Joe Burrow tied an NFL record, winning a playoff game despite getting sacked a ghastly nine times. Also, zero touchdowns passes and an interception, but Cincinnati held its ground.
Against the Chiefs, Burrow can carve a secondary that will likely be missing Tyrann Mathieu (concussion). Cincinnati is 9-2 when Burrow hits the century mark in passer rating, which he’s done in five of his last six games. Cincinnati’s defense also allows the fifth-fewest yards per play on the road, so minimizing big plays figures to give Burrow a shot.
How It Happens…
It’s unlikely Burrow throws for over 400 yards and four touchdowns again. It’s unlikely Chase sets another franchise receiving record. These don’t need to occur, however, as Cincinnati has the better defense. The team forces turnovers, at least two in its last three games.
Cincinnati hasn’t lost the turnover battle since Week 13. The Chiefs are only 5-4 when committing two or more turnovers and only 4-4 when allowing 250 or more passing yards, which is about that unit’s average.
The Bengals are also 4-2 as a road underdog, with the wins coming against teams who made the playoffs this season or last. Cincinnati has continued to find ways to win. Why stop now?
Pick: Cincinnati Bengals +290