Jennifer Fox has good timing.
Last season, the first time the Bengals advanced to the playoffs since 2015, Fox purchased two season tickets. After the team lost to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVII, she doubled her season tickets so she could share them this season with her two daughters and three grandchildren.
Fox, 58, and her 27-year-old daughter Sarah Wisecarver drove from Dayton to Buffalo for last weekend’s AFC Divisional game against the Bills. They spent the night in Erie, Pa., then finished the drive Sunday morning.
They parked in a shopping center and rode a bus with about 30 other Bills and Bengals fans. A three-mile drive that should have lasted 10 minutes took 45 minutes due to heavy traffic. They got to their seats eight minutes before kickoff.
The Bengals took the opening possession right down the field and never trailed, winning 27-10.
“I kept thinking that Buffalo would come back,” Fox said. “Then I looked up and the fourth quarter was about over. I couldn’t believe how it was going.”
Most of the Bills fans were friendly until the end of the game. One man stayed until the last few seconds and after hearing the “Who-Dey” chant one too many times, he told Fox: “I’m rooting for KC.”
Instead of riding back to their cars on the bus, Fox and her daughter walked. Several people rolled down their windows and yelled “bring the trophy home” to them, she said.
“It was all positive,” she said.
Due to her work schedule with Paragon Investigations, Fox will be unable to attend the AFC Championship game in Kansas City, she said.
Fox’s prediction: Bengals 27, Chiefs 21
‘They’re still having to prove themselves’
Jennifer Bryant hopes what she calls “my vision” continues seeing 20/20.
The 44-year-old Franklin Twp. resident predicted the Bengals would upset the Buffalo Bills and she thinks the Bengals will beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship, then defeat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVII in two weeks.
“I love their commitment to a cohesive locker room,” she said when asked what she enjoys about this year’s team. “This team just wants to win and they don’t care who shines. The underdog thing has gotten to them. They’re still having to prove themselves. This team is special.”
Bryant, a longtime season ticket holder, was in Highmark Stadium last weekend with her husband, Aaron, and several friends. She will continue following the team on the road until it loses.
She was surprised by the atmosphere in Buffalo and how she and her friends were treated by Bills fans. When Bryant, one of six people who rode in the rented van, stepped out at a popular wing joint in Buffalo, she got plenty of “dirty looks,” she said.
She told the Buffalo fans: “I thought we were friends here. Am I not allowed to eat?”
When the Bengal players were introduced, Bryant was shocked by the boos that echoed around the stadium.
But eventually, after the Bengals took control of the game, Bryant said the Bengals fans “silenced the Bills Mafia.”
She has already booked her flight to Arizona and her hotel rooms for the Super Bowl.
Bryant’s prediction: Bengals 31, Chiefs 22
‘This is a team of destiny’
As a Bengals season ticket holder for 27 years, Steve Millard, 60, of Washington Twp., remembers what he calls the “good, bad and ugly” seasons.
The Bengals, he said, are “now in the good phase,” and Millard is enjoying the ride.
He and his son-in-law, Craig Ashworth, will be in Arrowhead Stadium for the AFC Championship game, and if the Bengals win, Millard has booked flights for him and his wife, Suzanne, to attend Super Bowl LVII Feb. 4 in Arizona.
He’s confident the Bengals, winners of 10 straight, can extend that to 12 games and capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl after three losses.
“This is a team of destiny,” he said. “Last year was a surprise and the team has made some very important and impressive upgrades.”
While quarterback Joe Burrow, a MVP candidate, understandably gets most of the credit, Millard believes owner Mike Brown should be applauded for “building a team to last.”
Not long ago, Millard said, the Bengals were the “laughing stock” of all professional sports.
“That has changed dramatically,” he said.
Millard’s prediction: Bengals 30, Chiefs 27
‘It was a great time to be there’
Minutes after Middletown’s City Council completed its work session on Jan. 21, City Manager Paul Lolli and some buddies started driving to Buffalo for the Bengals AFC Divisional game against the Bills.
The trip, he said, cost between $1,000 to $1,200, or as he said with a laugh: “Nothing compared to the $20 million (in American Rescue Plan Act) we spent on Saturday.”
Lolli, a longtime season ticket holder, said 50-year-old Highmark Stadium resembled an older Division II college football stadium with bleachers.
“Metal bleachers at that,” he said.
Lolli and the group returned to Middletown on Monday tired from the seats at the game and in the car.
“Winning heals everything,” he said. “It was a great time to be there.”
He said those in restaurants and bars commented that it was “unbelievable” how many Bengals fans attended the game. Some of the Bills fans told Lolli they were thankful for how the Cincinnati community supported Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered a cardiac event during a Monday Night Football game on Feb. 2, then recovered and attended the playoff game.
Lolli’s prediction: Bengals 34, Chiefs 21
‘An almost stress-free playoff game’
Jason Irick has attended six consecutive Bengal playoff games, four last season and two this season.
All six games, five Bengal wins and a 3-point loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, were decided by seven or fewer points.
Irick, assistant city law director for the city of Springfield, expected the same when he and his dad, Dave, 59, drove to Buffalo for the AFC Divisional game. Instead, it was a 27-10 Bengal blowout.
He remembers how nervous he was walking into the stadium, and the relief he felt in the fourth quarter.
“It was nice to experience an almost stress-free playoff game,” said Irick, 33. “It was different without all the anxiety all the way through.”
They left the Springfield area at 6 a.m. Sunday and drove straight to the stadium. Then drove straight home after the game. That’s 13 hours in the car for a three-hour game.
“Long day,” he said.
Now he’s heading to Kansas City after buying tickets 24 rows from the field for $450, face value. He’s hoping for a Bengal victory and then finding in a hotel near St. Louis.
Irick’s prediction: Bengals 34, Chief 17
HOW TO WATCH
WHAT: AFC Championship game
WHO: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs. Winner plays Philadelphia Eagles/San Francisco 49ers winner, Feb. 12 in Super Bowl LVII
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Sunday
BETTING LINES: Chiefs minus 1; Over/under: 47
About the Author