Bengals at Chiefs: 5 things to know about today’s game

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Credit: Jeff Roberson

The matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs was anticipated to be another potential playoff game preview, another showcase of two of the league’s top quarterbacks, when it was originally placed on the schedule for New Years’ Eve.

Instead, it’s a game the Bengals have to win just to make the postseason, and Joe Burrow will be watching from the sidelines, while Patrick Mahomes is trying to get the Chiefs’ offense out of its funk.

The hype around the game might be different this time but Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt said it will still be a “must watch” event for football fans when Cincinnati (8-7) plays at Kansas City (9-6) on Sunday. Here are five things to know about the game.

1. No luster lost, really

Although the matchup lost some of its luster with Burrow out and both teams not as strong as originally expected, there is still plenty of hype surrounding the game.

The Chiefs have plenty of motivation coming off a stretch of four losses in six games and trying to clinch the AFC West title. Kansas City has dropped three straight games at Arrowhead Stadium and suffered its most defeats in a season since 2017.

Cincinnati had a three-game winning streak snapped last week and has to win this week. It’s two “prideful” teams looking to get back on track, as defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said.

“I think it’s just two great football teams,” Taylor-Britt said. “I think both teams are beat up in some ways with injuries but still fighting. These teams playing each other last two years in the AFC championship game so it’s bound to be a good game. Who doesn’t want to watch Bengals and Chiefs? So that’s what we’re going to give them Sunday, a good game.”

2. Chase ‘adding fire to the fuel’

Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase remains questionable with a separated shoulder, but he sounded like he was planning to play Thursday with some comments he certainly would want to back up with action Sunday.

When asked what stands out about the Chiefs’ secondary, Chase said “nothing,” which is something he’s said about other defenses in the past. Then, he took it a bit further, adding “it’s not like they got a Jalen Ramsey” and that is why the Chiefs double team the Bengals, “to stop the two best players on the outside.”

“They can take it how they want,” Chase said. “That’s why they double everybody because they can’t do it one on one. … I’m not bugged about it. They know I’m good. They know how to play us. That’s what it is. But it’s not like they got a superstar on they defense.”

Chase knew he was “adding fire to the fuel.” He wasn’t as sure about his status for Sunday but said he has the range of motion needed to be able to play Sunday. The contact is what he’s uncertain about because he hasn’t faced that yet, but he added “everybody (is) sacrificing” at this point in the season.

3. Chiefs defense improved

Although Chase wasn’t very complimentary of the Bengals’ newest rivals, Kansas City has allowed the fourth-fewest points this season and is much improved from 2022.

The Bengals struggled with Chris Jones in the AFC Championship, as he accounted for two of the five sacks the Chiefs made on Burrow, plus a lot more pressure. Jones has 8.5 sacks this season, while defensive ends George Karlaftis (9.0 sacks), Mike Danna (6.5) and Charles Omenihu (5.5) add a combined 20.0 sacks.

Chase said cornerback L’Jarius Sneed is Kansas City’s best defensive back. Trent McDuffie and safety Justin Reid are two other playmakers the Bengals will need to account for.

”They’ve always had a really good scheme, and I think the DBs too, as well, are playing really well,” said left tackle Orlando Brown, who will face his former team for the first time. “And so, when you got that combination, it makes it easier for the guys rushing up front when you got 95 (Jones) being his type of player he is and surrounding crew around him and how well they do in coverage and mixing coverages up.”

4. Defending Mahomes

Kansas City’s offense hasn’t been as dominant as it has in years past, but Mahomes is still Mahomes and his connection with tight end Travis Kelce is a concern for a defense that has allowed the most yards to tight ends this season (1,023), according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said stopping Kelce will be on more than just safety Dax Hill, and that is task No. 1 for the defense to try to take him out of the game. He actually won’t be surprised to see Mahomes “chuck it down the field even more” than usual against Cincinnati, especially considering explosives have killed the Bengals this season, but the defensive backs just have to “plaster” the receivers.

“I see them just really being aggressive and that’s not going to surprise me one bit,” Anarumo said. “I really think that’s how they’ll come out and we’ve got to make sure we weather the storm there and take advantage. He’s throwing more interceptions than he’s ever had, so we just got to catch him. If we get the opportunity, and our guys will be ready.”

Mahomes, who hasn’t had a consistent cast of wide receivers this season, has a career-high 14 interceptions.

5. Injury updates

While Chase is questionable, the only other Bengals player in doubt is cornerback Jalen Davis, who is dealing with a groin injury. Joe Mixon showed up as a limited participant in Friday’s practice because of an ankle issue, but he did not have a designation on the status report.

The Chiefs will be without wide receiver Kadarius Toney (hip) and left tackle Donovan Smith (neck). Meanwhile, running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire (illness) and Isiah Pacheco (concussion/shoulder), wide receiver Mecole Hardman (thumb) and Sneed (calf) are all questionable. Sneed and Edwards-Helaire did not practice Friday, and Pacheco was upgraded from not practicing Thursday to limited Friday. Hardman has practiced all week but is returning from injured reserve.

Kansas City’s running game could take a hit with the injuries to the top two backs.

Cincinnati will have Taylor-Britt back after he was added to the roster Friday from injured reserve. He said the Chiefs’ wide receivers have good speed but the Bengals should be able to match that.


Bengals at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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