Photo by: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The Kansas City Chiefs are preparing for their 5th straight AFC Championship game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Chiefs earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC after a 14-3 record, which granted them a bye into the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.
The Chiefs hope to be as healthy as possible against a Bengals team coming off a huge win last week, and Chiefs got some great news on that front on Monday. There’s obviously no bigger story heading into the AFC Championship than the health of Patrick Mahomes. Even more surprising, the immediate post-game updates on Mahomes’ post Jaguars game injury indicated that he may be doing better than we would have expected. Now that leaves the team extra time to plan ahead for their next opponent. We know the Chiefs have lost 3 of their last games against this elite offense led by a top young quarterback, experts think our hopes of returning to the Super Bowl may hinge on Patrick Mahomes’ status but there’s more to it. I believe there are ways the Chiefs can counter the attacks of the Bengals come Sunday.
So let’s take a look at 5 ways the Chiefs can beat the Bengals to advance to Super Bowl 57.
1. Utilize Pacheco and McKinnon:
This was one of the reasons why the Bills lost to the Bengals because of their lack of physicality in the running game. The Chiefs need to manufacture consistent yardage by rushing. What’s better than having a great running back on your team? Having two. Isiah Pacheco shows the ability to forces defenders to be sound in their gaps. He can get to the hole too quickly just opens up cutback lanes and he does a great job of finding it. Dual-threat running backs like Jerick McKinnon not only force defenses to be ready for anything, but they allow offenses to keep their best playmakers on the field in any situation.
The Chiefs should also manufacture a couple of rushes for Kadarius Toney, who was inactive in the last Bengals match. We are passing attack team. However, A tough, reliable running game allows an offense to command a game’s pace. In the majority of contests, it can also control the game’s result.
2. Limit their Offensive Big Plays
Yes we’re going against an explosive offense, the Chiefs’ defense has to limit their explosive plays. In order for that to happen, Steve Spagnuolo’s unit needs to look at Week 2 and Week 5 when the Bengals loss to both the Cowboys and Ravens in those game.
Spagnuolo needs to force Joe Burrow into a high number of check down, dump-off throws and quick screen passes. That leaves Nick Bolton and Willie Gay in doing their jobs. We have to eliminate Chase, Higgins and Boyd starting with jamming them at the LOS. Rush the passer, and if Perine is out their in a package they have, have Leo Chenal spy him. The Chiefs are going to need Justin Reid to play the striker role and be the excellent downhill safety that he is and let Trent McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed play their game. Make sure the middle of the field is locked down and I believe Juan Thornhill has tapped into his inner Earl Thomas at the right time.
3. Need a Big Game from Chris Jones and Frank Clark
The Chiefs need their pass rushing duo to be nightmares to the Bengals offense this Sunday. The Bills’ defense allowed Burrow to complete each of his first nine attempts as the Bengals took a big early lead. They were pushed around by a Bengals’ offensive line that played without three starters. Joe Cullen should put Clark and Jones in their spots where they can easily create havoc and constantly force Burrow off his spots. Create a chance for Nick Bolton or Willie Gay to get a sack because of Clark and or Jones forcing Burrow on the move. I believe the Chiefs have to play with anger in the A gap and B gap so the Bengals don’t run up the middle of the field again and it starts with the guys up front on Defense.
4. The Offensive Line needs their Best Game of the Season:
The Chiefs offensive line can’t allow Mahomes to deal with pressure especially after what happened last weekend. The Chiefs offensive line needs to afford Mahomes ample time and space to make the right decisions and play their game. Orlando Brown and Andrew Wylie play two of the most important offensive line positions in all of football and the two tackles need to play at their best in order for the Chiefs to advance to the promise land. Mahomes needs a clean pocket to defeat the Bengals Cover 1 and 3 coverages with the running backs and plays being the LOS, intermediate throws which sets up the openings deep. If Andy Reid has to, utilize the tight ends in the blocking game more.
5. Win the Special Teams battle
The 3rd phase, Special Teams. It gets overlooked but the Special Teams units can also be a deciding factor in these games. Just ask the 49ers about Kyle Williams. Here’s how the sequence for the Chiefs special teams has to play out: 1. Townsend pins his punts inside the 20. 2. Make sure the blocking on punt return is set for Kadarius Toney to have a nice return for decent field position. 3. The coverage units on both kickoff and punt is doing their jobs and eliminate the big plays like last week. Then finally 4. Harrison Butker makes his kicks and if comes down to the leg of Butker for a victory, it should be good after having a solid weekend vs the Jaguars. If the Chiefs defense limits the Bengals to 2-3 scores of 9-10 play drives, Butker’s contributions will be paramount.