Chiefs vs. Bengals how to watch: time, watch on CBS, stream on Paramount+, matchups for 2023 AFC Championship

Let’s not waste time with a long preamble: It’s Championship Sunday in the NFL. In the AFC Championship, the No. 1 seed and AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs will play host to the No. 3 seed and AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals.

These two teams met earlier this season, as well as in the Conference Championship game last year. Cincinnati won both games, but the Chiefs are once again working with home court advantage. Before we break down the matchup, here’s how to watch the game.

How to watch

Date: Sunday January 29 | Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Place: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)
TV: CBS| Current: Paramount+ (click here)
Opportunities: Leaders -1.5, O/U 48

Recommended game | Kansas City Chiefs v Cincinnati Bengals

When the Bengals have the ball

Last week, the big story about the Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills game was the offensive line. How would the group hold up for Joe Burrow with three starters and taking into account the likes of Jackson Carman, Hakeem Adeniji and Max Scharping? As it turned out, it held up just fine.

According to Tru Media, Burrow was pressured on only 31.6% of his dropbacks, well below the average rate. Bengals ball carriers averaged an impressive 1.94 yards per carry before contact, a significant improvement from the 1.26 per carry they clocked during the regular season. Not just Buffalo’s defensive line not dominate the game; it was largely dominated. Cincinnati controlled the line of scrimmage from the jump.

Now the question arises whether the offensive line can do it again. The Chiefs put even more pressure on opposing quarterbacks during the regular season (35.7%) than the Bills (33.7%). And given that Buffalo was without Von Miller last week, the Chiefs also have a higher caliber individual threat (Chris Jones) than any of the Bills that came on the table a week ago. There is good news and bad news for the Bengals on that front. The good thing is that the two remaining starters along the offensive line (Ted Karras and Cordell Volson) both play inland, where Jones does his job. The bad thing is that Scharping also plays on the interior, and the Chiefs can line up Jones wherever they want to generate advantageous matchups.

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However, the real way the Bengals can neutralize the rush is through Burrow. Against Buffalo, Burrow got the ball out in an average of 2.57 seconds, according to Tru Media, a figure right in line with his season average of 2.55 seconds to throw. Only Tom Brady (2.33 seconds) was faster off the ball this season, and only Brady released a higher proportion of his throws (55.3%) than Burrow (55.0%) within 2.5 seconds of the snap ). Burrow’s superpower is his ability to quickly decide where to go with the ball and get the ball out of his hands when the situation calls for it, but he also has the expansive playing ability offered by the league’s other superstar quarterbacks. .

It helps that he has arguably the best cadre of guns in the league – or at least in his conference – to choose from. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins give him two alpha No. 1 receivers, each of whom can make contested grabs as well as create yards after the catch. Chase is nearly impossible to take down with the first tackler, and the Bengals take advantage of that fact by giving him the ball on screens and crossers so he can steam-charge defenders. In the first game between these two teams, the Chiefs too often left their inexperienced corners on an island with Chase or Higgins on the outside, and Burrow repeatedly made them pay for it. Steve Spagnuolo has to come up with a different plan of attack this time.

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It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs move L’Jarius Sneed back out and put Trent McDuffie back in the slot after swapping those positions back against the Jaguars last week. Jacksonville’s main receiving threat was Christian Kirk, so the Chiefs brought Sneed back to slot. The biggest threats to Cincinnati remain Chase and Higgins, not Tyler Boyd, so it might make sense to get Sneed back to the perimeter and allow McDuffie to physically play against Boyd inside. However, Spagnuolo still needs to be careful to give Sneed and Jaylen Watson the right help or Burrow will work aggressively on the one-on-one matchups and trust his guys to win the ball in the air. Being able to send enough bodies behind Burrow to put pressure on while maintaining enough cover to ensure they don’t get smoked on the outside will be a tricky balance.

The Bengals got a lot better at running the ball when they got away from the way they wanted to run the ball at the start of the season. They were a team below center, outside the zone early on, and it was extremely vanilla. They switched to almost exclusively shotgun attack early in the year, which allowed them a little more unpredictability in their rushing attack. Kansas City finished a respectable 15th in DVOA DVOA this season, according to Football Outsiders, so this isn’t one of those units where you can just run the ball down your throat if you want to, as in past seasons off. and then happened. Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine certainly have their part to play here, but the Bengals can best do what they do best: let Burrow control the game by playing point guard from the pocket.

When the Chiefs have the ball

Well, this really all boils down to one question: is Patrick Mahomes healthy enough to play as Patrick Mahomes? Honestly, I have no idea, and I think anyone (except maybe the Chiefs team doctors) who tells you they know with any certainty is lying.

So let’s try to find out what we do know:

  • We know that Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will once again have a tailored game plan to deal with Mahomes and the Chiefs passing offense.
  • We know that the game plan will probably be at least a little different from what we saw in Week 13, which itself was also a little different from what we saw in last year’s AFC title game.
  • We know that Kansas City’s passing game is flowing through Travis Kelce, and the Bengals will likely try to take him away by using Tre Flowers to physically get close to the line of scrimmage with him. and sending other cover defenders his way further into the field.
  • We know that the Chiefs redesigned their offense last season to counter the kind of defense the Bengals and other teams used against them last year, fitting players into specific roles to play their fast play, straight return and run game . another level.
  • We know that all of those moves have largely worked, with Mahomes leading the NFL in EPA by dropback, Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon giving them their most versatile backfield in years, and the Chiefs having arguably their best offensive season since Mahomes (his first) won MVP. price back in 2018.
  • We know that the Bengalis know all those things, and the Chiefs know they know, and the Bengals know that the Chiefs know they know and so on.
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If Mahomes is sane, he should be trusted to sort things out. Even in the loss to Cincinnati earlier in the season, Mahomes completed 16 of 27 passes for 223 yards (8.2 per attempt) and a touchdown, while also adding a score on the ground. If it weren’t for a fumble from Kelce, we could be talking about that game very differently. After all, it’s not like Mahomes was shut down completely. Kansas City scored on four of its first six drives, and one of those drives just hit the clock in the first half with two runs from deep in their own territory. So on five possessions they totaled 24 points. Then Kelce fumbled, Cincy scored, Harrison Butker missed a decisive field goal and the rest is The mayor of Cincinnati claims that Burrow is Mahomes’ father, or something. (It should at least be Anarumo, Mahomes’ father, but I digress.)

In that game, however, the Bengals made sure Mahomes was incredibly patient. He averaged 3.36 seconds before passing the ball, the seventh longest time to throw of his 91 career games. (Two of the six games he took longer were last year’s AFC title game loss to Cincinnati and the Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers the year before.) Part of the reason he was able to succeed nonetheless , was that he could maneuver in the pocket with his mobility, and he used that mobility to create big plays on the field. The fast game material the Chiefs have been trying to add to their offense this season has been largely unavailable.

Whether it’s available this week depends on whether Anarumo decides that Mahomes’ injury means applying pressure and letting him try to move, or whether he shouldn’t apply pressure because Mahomes can’t move. If Cincy applies pressure, Mahomes can ramp up the defense out of his own pocket, as he did against the Jaguars last week. However, the Bengals have very rarely blitzed the last two games against the Chiefs, and they’re not a heavy blitz team anyway. It seems unlikely that Anarumo will suddenly change course there. But if the Bengals don’t send additional bodies, it’s also likely that the wall the Chiefs have built for Mahomes over the past two years will hold and give him time to find the free man further down the field.

I would expect Kansas City to be in shotgun more often than not so Mahomes doesn’t have to move too much to ease the run game or get into the play-action pass drafts which means it would be a tougher game must be for McKinnon than for Pacheco. McKinnon is a great pass protector and has a bit more big-play juice due to his agility, but Pacheco has the ability to go downhill and penalize the Bengals for playing with light boxes. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Chiefs try to get their run game going early so the Bengals have to creep up and allow more downfield throws.

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