Key Matchups: Bengals meet the Chiefs in the AFC Championship for the second straight season (2023)

The Bengals and Chiefs will meet for the fourth time in 392 days in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

Cincinnati is 3-0 in those contests, thanks in large part to their defense. They were Patrick Mahomes' kryptonite. Mahomes is 72-16 against all other NFL teams and 1-3 against the Bengals.

Meanwhile, Joe Burrow has had great success against the Chiefs' defense and will be looking to continue his hot hand against them this week.

A Bengals victory on Sunday would make Cincinnati the team to beat in the conference. That would give them four straight wins over the Chiefs, wins over the Bills and Chiefs in back-to-back weeks, and two trips to the Super Bowl in as many years.

Will they make it or will Kansas City take the crown in its fifth straight AFC title game?

Let's take a look at the matches to watch on Sunday:

Matchup des Spiels: Bengals Pash Rush x Patrick Mahomes

The most important plot of the game is the health of Mahomes. Despite suffering a severe ankle sprain against the Jaguars last week, the quarterback has been a full part of this week's practice.

Mahomes has one of the strongest arms in the NFL, but lower-body mechanics are his foundation; Allusion to defenders, pocket rolls, planting and cutting.

Depending on how much his ankle can hold up, the veteran gunslinger may have to resort to pocket passes. He has been an elite passing player this season, completing 391 of 552 passes (70.8%) for 4,598 yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Cincinnati's defense can quickly test Mahomes' mobility by applying pressure. It will be interesting to see how Lou Anarumo plans this attack. A big part of why Mahomes struggled against the Bengals is because his defense puts seven or eight players in cover and relies on a three- or four-man run in scrimmage.

Between last year's AFC Championship game and Week 13 of this season, Mahomes completed 8 of 18 passes for 78 yards, one interception and five sacks against one.three man race.

The Chiefs' top five offensive lines will bring back Joe Thuney for this game. The Pro Bowl point guard lost the first meeting of the two teams.

Although this offensive line finished with the best pass gain rate (75%) according to ESPN Analytics, Andrew Wylie remains a weakness in safe tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, Wylie allowed nine sacks and 49 pressures in the regular season.

For an in-depth look at how Mahomes' ankle injury could affect the Bengals' defense, head over to our breakdown of the movie.on here.

Joe Burrow vs. the Chiefs pass rush

Burrow played some of his best football games against the Chiefs in his young career. He averaged 327.3 yards per game and threw for eight touchdowns and just one interception.

A key factor in his success is that he's only been sacked six times in three games, with four of those sacks coming in a Week 17 win at Paycor Stadium last season.

The Bengals will again be without three of their top five offensive linemen this week.Jonah Williams (knee) and Alex Cappa (ankle) are out. La'el Collins suffered a torn cruciate ligament in Week 16 against the Patriots. The forward three began the Week 13 matchup.

Jackson Carman, Max Scharping and Hakeem Adeniji faced the Bills last week. They protected Burrow by giving up just one sack and giving him shooting time throughout the game.

You'll be up against a much better front seven this week with a dominant striker in Chris Jones, arguably the best centre-back in the league. He finished fourth with 15.5 sacks and is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year.

Kansas City's defense forced the fifth-highest pass rush (24.9%) during the regular season.

If the redesigned offensive line can keep the pocket from collapsing and allow Burrow to run a spread offense effectively, getting the ball to his weapons sooner, the quarterback should have another successful game in which he hits a secondary takedown from 19th. Chief.

Mike Hilton, Tre Flowers contra Travis Kelce

Kelce is listed as doubtful due to a back injury ahead of Sunday's game, but expect him to be fully back on Sunday.

He is the heart and soul of this offense in Kansas City outside of Mahomes. Kelce is hard to stop, but Cincinnati has managed to find a formula in recent competition to do just that.

The Bengals' defense has always been a tight end double, particularly with Flowers paired with an extra cornerback, linebacker or safety. Flowers is the tallest corner in the NFL at 6-foot-3. He can take on big receivers like Kelce well.

Another area where Cincinnati slowed down All-Pro is in the line of scrimmage. Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard or other defenders blocked Kelce as soon as they caught the ball to derail his route before continuing his passing frenzy.

As a result, Eric Bieniemy is able to split time between Kelce and Kadarius Toney in the slot.

Kelce led all tight ends in receiving, yards, and passing yards from the spot in 2022, while the Bengals have conceded the most goals (71), completions (47), and receiving yards (495) to tight ends this season. season.according to state-of-the-art statistics.

Hilton is about as physical as a slot machine corner looks. He isn't 5'9" tall to keep up with Kelce, but he won't be afraid to get in Kelce's way either and will help out Flowers, Vonn Bell or Jessie Bates.

Bengals Run Defense contra Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon

While Mahomes was fighting in week 13, Pacheco and McKinnon secured the shards for the boss raid.

The duo combined for 117 yards on 22 carries (5.3 yards per carry). They succeeded on the ground with their speed outside the hash marks. Pacheco ran a 4.37 40-yard dash while McKinnon posted a 4.41.

Bieniemy avoided running into DJ Reader under center to make Cincinnati's forwards and linebackers work against the running backs.

The Chiefs' offensive line is also one of the best in the running game. They ranked third in career blocks win rate (74%). Once Pacheco and McKinnon get to the second and third levels of a defense or outfield, it's a nightmare scenario for opposing defenders.

With Mahome's ankle and Bengal's pass coverage win over Kansas City, Pacheco and McKinnon may carry more of a load than usual in this game.

Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson, Joseph Ossai, Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson should be ready to get the Speedsters out of the backfield.

Joe Mixon x Nick Bolton

Mixon did not play in the regular season between the two due to a concussion.

He delivered one of his best performances of the season last week in Buffalo. The running back had 20 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown.

The offensive line did its job, opening gaps against a top-five attacking defense led by Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards. Mixon received a cue ball after last week's game, butgave the cue ball to the offensive linefor your part in its success.

Bolton is another great run-and-stop linebacker. The sophomore led the Chiefs with 180 tackles. His nine tackles for loss ranked second on the team behind Jones (17).

Balanced offense was a key factor in the Bengals' three-point victory last week. Another great mixed night will prevent a multi-weapon attack from going one-dimensional and opening up the playbook.

Cincinnati is battling Kansas City for a spot in the Super Bowl this Sunday at 6:30 p.m. m. Eastern time on CBS. The game is available via fuboTV:Start your free trial here.

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