AFC Championship Game 2022: Keys for Chiefs-Bengals
The 2022 AFC Championship Game is taking place Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. These are the keys for the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals.
5. Bengals: Test Patrick Mahomes’ ankle
Mahomes has been a full participant in practice all week despite suffering a high ankle sprain on Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, there’s still concern whether the likely MVP is close to 100 percent, something we won’t know until the game kicks off Sunday night. Cincinnati has to get pressure and flush Mahomes — with a blitz of a four-man pressure — to see how capable he is on the move.
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4. Chiefs: Take away the middle of the field
Kansas City was torched by Joe Burrow in a Week 13 loss, allowing him to complete 25-of-31 passes including two touchdowns. Almost all the damage came in the middle of the field, and most of it against zone coverage. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo must figure out a way to force Burrow into throws along the boundaries, allowing his defensive backs to play more aggressively on in-breaking routes.
3. Bengals: Win in the red zone
The Chiefs are great at plenty, but they’re terrible defensively in the red zone. Only the Indianapolis Colts allowed a worse touchdown percentage against inside the 20-yard line. Kansas City has been susceptible all year in this regard, while the Bengals have one of the league’s top red-zone offenses, ranking fifth. When the Chiefs have the ball, Kansas City is second only to the Dallas Cowboys in that area, but Cincinnati sports a top-10 defense. Huge points at play here.
2. Chiefs: Get home with pressure on Burrow
Kansas City has only notched two sacks combined over the last two meetings between these teams — both Bengals wins. Cincinnati will be down three starting offensive linemen however, with tackles Jonah Williams and La’el Collins, and guard Alex Cappa all out with lower-body injuries. The Chiefs have the firepower to win with a four-man rush, as they had the most sacks (55) of any AFC team this year. If Chris Jones, Frank Clark, George Karlaftis and Carlos Dunlap create havoc, it tips the game for Kansas City.
1. Chiefs/Bengals: Turnover battle
It’s boring, but it’s a huge factor. In the three games between Burrow and Mahomes, the Chiefs are -2. They’ve lost each game. Once, neither side turned the ball over but Kansas City took 10 penalties for 83 yards, including the negation of a kickoff-return touchdown. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes likely wins.