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AFC Championship Game Betting Preview: Bengals-Chiefs

A full betting breakdown for Sunday's AFC championship matchup between the Bengals and Chiefs.

It will be hard to top the playoff classic we just witnessed between Buffalo and Kansas City, but NFL fans are in line for another fantastic matchup in the AFC championship game. The title game will feature Patrick Mahomes and the AFC West Champion Chiefs against Joe Burrow and the AFC North Champion Bengals.

Kansas City will be making NFL history on Sunday afternoon by becoming the first team to host four consecutive AFC Championship games.

The No. 4 seed Bengals advanced to the AFC Championship game after a thrilling 19-16 win over the Titans last Saturday. Cincinnati, after beating Las Vegas and Tennessee, have now posted a 12-7 straight-up (SU) record, which has also returned a solid profit for sports investors with an identical 12-7 against the spread (ATS) mark. The Bengals, who upset the AFC’s top-seeded Titans as 3-point road underdogs on a walk-off field goal by rookie Evan McPherson, have now won five of their last six games.

The No. 2 seed Chiefs head into Sunday’s showdown with the Bengals fresh off one of the most thrilling come-from-behind playoff wins in NFL history. Kansas City earned a wild 42-36 overtime win over Buffalo thanks to Mahomes, who drove the team to a game-tying field goal with only :13 seconds remaining from his own 25-yard line. The star signal caller sealed the win in overtime driving the club for a game-winning touchdown that culminated with a tremendous catch by tight end Travis Kelce in the far corner of the end zone.

The Chiefs, who have now won 11 of their last 12 games this season, have also won seven consecutive home playoff games dating back to 2018. More importantly for sports bettors, Kansas City has also covered six straight games against the spread at Arrowhead Stadium this season.

The question bettors must answer in this matchup is simple: Can Cincinnati, who is 6-0 ATS over its last six games, upset Mahomes for the second time this season and end his seven-game consecutive home playoff winning streak?

In Week 17, when the two clubs faced off in the regular season, the Bengals outlasted the Chiefs, 34-31, as 3.5-point home underdogs. Oddsmakers have made a sizable adjustment to their power rankings now installing Kansas City as a full touchdown favorite for Sunday’s showdown between these two AFC foes.

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Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates after a 9-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati.

No. 4 Cincinnati bengals (12-7) at No. 2 Kansas City (14-5)

Spread: Cincinnati +7 (-110) | Kansas City -7 (-110)
Moneyline: Cincinnati (+260) | Kansas City (-333)
Total: 54.5 – Over (-110) | Under 54.5 (-110)
Public (Spread) Betting Percentages: CIN 54% | KC 46%
Game Info: Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022 | 3 p.m. ET | CBS
Editor's Note - Odds are subject to change

The line has ticked up since the opener of Kansas City (14-5 SU; 10-9 ATS) as 6.5-point home favorites over Cincinnati (12-7 SU; 12-7 ATS) to a full 7-point demand at SI Sportsbook. The total, which opened at 53.5, has risen up to 54.5 following strong public money backing the over. In the first meeting, the two clubs combined for 65 points, easily surpassing the game total of 51.

Joe Burrow, who guided an explosive offensive attack that ranked seventh in scoring (27.1) in the regular season, has engineered an offense that has averaged 22.5 points in two playoff wins. Burrow, who finished eighth among all quarterbacks with 34 touchdowns, has completed 73.2% of his passes, resulting in 592 yards and two touchdowns in his first two career playoff starts. The second-year signal caller has now thrown for 1,569 yards (392.0 yards per game) and 10 touchdowns in his last four games overall.

Thus far in the postseason, rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase has led a cast which includes Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd on the outside. In the club’s upset over the Titans, Chase finished as the club’s leading receiver with his second consecutive 100-yard receiving effort in the postseason.

Chase, who broke Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson rookie regular season receiving yard record, has been the Bengals' best player on the field in both playoff victories. The electrifying wideout, who finished third among all wide receivers with 13 receiving touchdowns in the regular season, leads the team in receptions (14) and receiving yards (225) in the postseason. In the first matchup several weeks ago, the unstoppable rookie torched the Kansas City defense, grabbing 11 of 12 targets for 266 yards and three touchdowns.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) catches a pass for an 18-yard touchdown as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati.
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After seeing what Gabriel Davis (8/201/4) did to the Chiefs secondary in the Divisional round, Chase will easily be the most popular target of sports bettors looking to invest in the over in all of his respective player proposition markets on Sunday.

On the other side of the formation, Tee Higgins, who is battling a foot injury, stepped up his production last week against the Titans hauling in seven of nine targets for 96 yards. The former Clemson standout, who was tremendous over the club’s final six games of the regular season, will need to contribute more than just the three receptions for 62 yards he produced in the Week 17 meeting.

Joe Mixon, who finished third in the NFL in rushing yards (1,205) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (13) in the regular season, has failed to top 65 yards rushing in his last seven games. The fifth-year back, who found the end zone last week against the Titans on the ground, has been solid in the passing game, adding 10 receptions in the club’s two playoff wins. Kansas City’s defense, which has allowed 119.5 rushing yards per game in the playoffs, will need to contain the talented Mixon. The Chiefs, who have allowed 10 total touchdowns to opposing running backs in 19 games (0.42) this season, have only allowed two opposing running backs to top 100 yards rushing yards in a game (Javonte Williams, 102; Melvin Gordon, 110).

When diving into the other side of the ball, of course the player who pops off the film is arguably the best quarterback in the game today in Mahomes. The star signal caller, who is looking to advance to his third Super Bowl appearance in his just his fourth season as a starter, once again performed at an elite level last week, throwing for 378 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 69 yards on the ground and a score. Mahomes, who finished fourth in the NFL in passing yards (4,839) and fourth in passing touchdowns (37) in the regular season, will face a Cincinnati defense that surrendered the 26th-most passing yards (248.4) per game in the regular season.

In the first meeting with the Bengals, Mahomes threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns. The elite talent has taken his game to another level in the playoffs, completing 75.9% of his passing, averaging 9.4 yards per completion and 9.8 yards per rush while accounting for nine total touchdowns. After diving into these numbers, it is easy to see WHY the Chiefs are overwhelming favorites to win Super Bowl LVI in the futures market at SI Sportsbook at odds of +110.

In the passing game, Kansas City’s incredible tandem of wideout Tyreek Hill and Kelce are once again stepping up in the postseason. Hill, who finished third among all wide receivers in receptions (111) in the regular season, has grabbed a team-high 16 receptions for 207 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs.

Kelce, who entered the postseason posting 34 or fewer receiving yards in four of his last five regular season games, has been outstanding in both playoff wins over Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Arguably the best player at his position in the NFL, Kelce has scored at least one touchdown in five straight games, including the game-winner in overtime last week against Buffalo. In the first meeting with Cincinnati, Kelce was held to a season-low 25 yards and it's safe to conclude that he will easily surpass that production in the AFC Championship game.

The Chiefs' rushing attack was strengthened by the return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) to the lineup last week against the Bills. The second-year back, who ran for 60 yards on the ground, formed a solid one-two punch with veteran Jerrick McKinnon, who has emerged as a key contributor in both playoff wins. The sixth-year back has been a difference-maker working out of the backfield, adding 11 receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown.

Unlike the divisional round, when every game was listed at less than a six-point demand, bettors now find a full touchdown point spread being demanded by oddsmakers in the AFC Championship. Mahomes has thrown the most touchdown passes (25) of any quarterback in their first 10 playoff games in NFL history. His prowess to dominate the postseason has led respected money to target this game as the first leg in teaser wagers and we will once again follow their lead.

BET: TEASER (7-point); Chiefs ‘PK / 49ers +10.5 (-120)

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For the second consecutive week, respected plays on NFL Playoff wagering did not get off to a good start. Divisional weekend commenced with the Titans (-3) not being able to overcome three interceptions by Ryan Tannehill against the Bengals, while the Packers (-5) poor special teams play prevented the club from beating the 49ers. My weekend closed out strong as the Rams (+3) held on to defeat the Buccaneers followed by my teaser play involving Los Angeles (+10) combined with Buffalo (+9) cashing with ease. In addition, my lock prayer proposition wager of the weekend involving Matthew Stafford and Josh Allen each throwing more than 1.5 touchdowns (+143) came through in smashing fashion.

2021 SI Betting Monday Night Football: 9-8 ATS / Props 16-12 +5.75 units
2021 SI Betting Playoffs: 5-5-1 ATS / Props +0.70 units
2021 SI Betting NFL Football Overall YTD: 50-42-1 ATS & Props +11.02 units
2020 SI Betting NFL Football: 72-58-1 ATS (55%)

Frankie Taddeo is a successful high-stakes fantasy football player who created the first-ever DFS program ever offered in a Las Vegas sportsbook. Frankie is SI Betting's Senior Analyst who provides his significant experience and resources in the sports betting scene. You can follow Frankie on Twitter @Frankie_Fantasy for his latest betting and fantasy insights from Las Vegas.

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