Series history: The Bengals lead the regular-season series 16-14 overall and have won five of the last six meetings. The Chiefs, however, lead 9-7 as the home team. This weekend’s game will mark the first-ever postseason meeting between the two teams.
Last game: The Bengals beat the Chiefs 34-31 on Evan McPherson’s 20-yard field goal as time expired on Jan. 2. They fell behind by 14 points three times in the game, but held the Chiefs to three points in the second half while the offense played catchup. Ja’Marr Chase had a rookie record 266 yards and three touchdowns, including a 69-yarder and a 72-yarder, on 11 catches, and Joe Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes threw for 259 yards but 205 of those were in the first half, and top receivers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce caught just 11 passes for 60 yards and one touchdown combined.
Postseason history: The Bengals are 7-14 in playoff games and heading into their third AFC Championship. They are 2-0 in conference championship games but lost both of their Super Bowl appearances in 1988 and 1981. This is the organization’s first postseason trip since 2015, and they broke an eight-game playoff losing streak two weeks ago to end a drought that spanned over 31 years. … The Chiefs are playing in their fourth straight AFC Championship and won the last two, going on to win the Super Bowl to conclude the 2019 season but losing to the Bucs in last year’s Super Bowl. They are 17-20 overall in playoff games, including 4-2 in the conference championship and 2-2 in the Super Bowl.
Coaches: Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor is 18-32-1 in three seasons as head coach; Andy Reid is 233-135-1 in 23 seasons as a head coach, including a 145-103 record in nine years with Kansas City
Bengals notes: The Bengals rank in a tie for seventh with 27.0 points per game, and their 259.0 passing yards per game ranks seventh as well. Joe Burrow threw for a franchise-record 4,611 yards passing and 34 touchdowns in the regular season, while his 70.4 percent completion rate led the league among regular starters. He threw for 348 yards last week against the Titans despite getting sacked nine times. … Joe Mixon’s 1,205 yards rushing in the regular season ranked third best in the league, and he had 13 rushing touchdowns. … Ja’Marr Chase broke Chad Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record with 1,455 yards on 81 catches and he also has 13 touchdowns. He had 22 catches for 20 yards or more in the regular season. … Tee Higgins topped 1,000 yards in his second season, recording 1,091 yards and six touchdowns on 74 catches, but was quiet in the Wild Card game and could be looking for a bounceback performance. … Tyler Boyd has been solid on third down and adds 828 yards and five touchdowns. … The defense went from recording just 17 sacks in 2020 to finishing off 42 sacks in 2021. Trey Hendrickson led the team in the regular season with 14 sacks, and Sam Hubbard added 7.5 sacks. Larry Ogunjobi, who had 7.0 sacks, suffered a season-ending foot injury in the wild card round. … The Bengals bring the fifth-best run defense in the league, allowing 102.5 rushing yards per game. ... Rookie kicker Evan McPherson has four game-winning kicks at the gun this season, including last week against the Titans and in Week 17 to beat the Chiefs.
Chiefs notes: The Chiefs had the fourth-highest scoring offense in the league with 28.2 points per game in the regular season, and they scored 42 points in both of their previous playoff games against the Steelers and in overtime against the Bills. Kansas City also finished third in net offense with 396.8 yards per game, including 281.8 yards passing. … Patrick Mahomes threw for 4,839 yards and 37 touchdowns with 13 interceptions in the regular season, and he was sacked 28 times (almost half as much as Burrow). He had 11 touchdowns of 40 yards or more, which ranks fourth best in the league. Tyreek Hill led the receivers this season with 1,239 yards and 9 touchdowns, while tight end Travis Kelce followed with 1,125 yards and nine touchdowns. … The Chiefs didn’t have running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first matchup in Cincinnati, but he returned last week against the Bills and rushed for 60 yards on seven carries. He had 517 yards and four touchdowns through 10 games before a shoulder injury sidelined him. Darrel Williams stepped up in his absence and had 14 carries for 88 yards against the Bengals. He led the team with 558 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season. … Defensively, Tyrann Mathieu is the player to watch and it seems he is on track to return Sunday after suffering a concussion in the first quarter against Buffalo last week. He had three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and 76 combined tackles in the regular season. Defensive tackle Chris Jones sacked Burrow twice in Week 17 and is the anchor up front, recording nine sacks in 14 regular-season games. … The Chiefs gave up a lot of yards this season but were eighth in scoring defense, allowing just 21.4 points per game, including holding opponents to 14 points or less in six games the last nine games in the regular season.
Quoted: “(It will take playing) near perfect. I think every week of the playoffs has proven that. It goes through Kansas City, and Patrick Mahomes has been near-perfect for four years, however many years he’s been starting. So that’s what it’s gonna take for me. It’s not just a quarterback-driven game. It’s a team game, but I think wins and losses usually come down to how each quarterback plays.” – Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow
Prediction: Chiefs 28, Bengals 24