The Cincinnati Bengals are set to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of last year's AFC Championship overtime thriller. The Bengals absolutely dismantled the Bills on the road last week, while the Chiefs survived an injury scare to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and beat the Jaguars.
The spread for this game has moved around all week amid reports about the health of Mahomes' ankle, but has settled with the Chiefs as slight favorites by 1 or 1.5 points. Most sportsbooks have the game total set at 48 points.
How Will Mahomes' Ankle Impact the Game?
Reports are that Mahomes seems to be moving well in practice but it wouldn't surprise me if he takes a ton of snaps out of the shotgun in this game. Normally some of the magic of Patrick Mahomes is his mobility behind the line of scrimmage to set up plays down the field. Instead we might see a slightly more traditional drop back approach at least early in the game.
This means a talented Bengals defensive front should pin their ears back and go after Mahomes early, trying to disrupt the timing of the offense and get him to move within the pocket.
The Chiefs will lean on a well orchestrated screen game and the immensely talented Travis Kelce to negate the pass rush, but Andy Reid and company need to isolate the weaker Bengals corners against the faster chiefs edge players with quick passes early in the game. The key to their success is to make the Bengals DBs have to tackle in the open field.
Can the Chiefs Stop Joe Burrow and the Electric Bengals Offense?
It was one year ago when the Chiefs held a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter against Cincinnati. In game stats gave Kansas City more than a 94 percent chance to win that game at their peak. In the second half the offense fell apart for Kansas City, mustering only 3 points, while the defense couldn't do enough to slow down the Bengals passing attack. A critical Mahomes interception all but sealed the game in overtime.
You know Chiefs Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has thought about that second half game plan for the entirety of the last year. Spagnuolo is widely respected across the league and has done a good job this season keeping an undermanned Kansas City secondary out of harm's way. That task will be incredibly difficult against one of the deepest and most explosive wide receiving corps in the league.
The strength of the Bengals offense lies in Joe Burrow's ability to sit in the shotgun and correctly diagnose a defense quickly. In order to try and stop this, the Chiefs must mix up their coverage throughout the game, create constant pressure up the middle with star players like Chris Jones, and limit the Bengals ability to run after the catch.
The Bengals offensive line played extraordinarily well in the snow in Buffalo last week. However, this unit was the Achilles heel for Cincinnati for much of the last two seasons. If the Chiefs hope to come away with a win, they must dominate the line of scrimmage and make the Bengals feel the pain of their o-line once again.
Let's Look at the Sharp Money Trends
This situation is a bit more complicated because the line has been so volatile, it is hard to know when larger wagers were placed. However we can tell that the public is on the Bengals, with Cincinnati receiving 69 percent of the bets. The sharps are on Kansas City (or at least placed some big bets when they felt as though they had a great number) because 53 percent of the total money is on K.C.
The public and sharps are also split when it comes to the point total in the AFC Championship. 67 percent of the bets are on the over, but 52 percent of the money is on the under.
With so much movement on the lines during the week we can't pull as much information as normal from this, but what we can tell is that the public really likes the Bengals in a shootout.
The Battle for the AFC Throne: Who You Got?
RELATED: Chiefs Touchdown King Travis Kelce has Officially Entered the GOAT Tight End Conversation
I truly believed that the Bengals had been on a very fortuitous run the last two playoffs before last week's game in Buffalo. Cincinnati beat the Bills at everything they are good at, on the road and in the snow. It was a thorough dismantling and it was truly dominant. I'd argue it was their only dominant playoff performance of the last two seasons, but it was exceptional.
That being said, you don't get a lot of chances to bet on Kansas City, at a nearly even spread, in a game at home. It's a revenge game for the entire Chiefs staff and I expect Mahomes to come out on fire early and put any questions about his ankle to bed.
I am once again going to try to extend my victory window by placing my largest bet on a 7-point teaser in this game. I was able to get the Chiefs at +6 and the total over 40.5 points. In a matchup of two truly incredible quarterbacks, it feels right to bet on a close game and a plethora of points. With that in mind I also took the Chiefs at -1 by itself and I bet the over on 47.5 points for the game. I just can't say no to that coach and quarterback tandem at home with such a small spread.
I think we could get a game for the ages in Kansas City on Sunday Night, and I think the Chiefs pull it out 34-27.
MORE: NFL Playoffs: Five Key Matchups to Watch in the AFC and NFC Conference Title Games
Enjoy all things sports?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.