Shawn’s Staturday: Why this AFC Championship matchup is different than the past three

With the AFC Championship quickly approaching and the opportunity of another Super Bowl standing at the Chiefs’ doorstep I thought it would be appropriate to scroll through the endless stats that show why Kansas City could win and how the Bengals could pull out the upset. And to cap everything off there are some fun stats and records to keep an eye on when the game kicks off Sunday afternoon!

Last week’s NFL divisional round provided some of the best playoff football games of all time, ending in a firework show with the Chiefs winning 42-36 in overtime over the Bills in what is being called one of the best NFL games of all time.

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, with ice in his veins, made one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL playoff history by going down the field in less than 13 seconds and beating the Bills’ #1 overall defense in dramatic fashion

Now it’s onto the AFC Championship game for Mahomes and the Chiefs, marking their fourth straight appearance in the final game before the Super Bowl. Not only are they in the game for the fourth straight year but they are hosting it for the fourth straight year–another accolade to add to the list.

Mahomes is the only quarterback to begin their career with four straight championship game appearances, so it’s easy to say he’s used to the limelight. But this game is going to be tough in ways that the Chiefs’ past three AFC Championships simply were not.

That’s because this game is against the newly-rejuvenated Cincinnati Bengals and their confident quarterback Joe Burrow, (also known as Joe Shiesty, Joey Franchise, Smokin’ Joe, Joe Chill, and many more aliases).

Joey “Brr” Burrow and his main weakness

The Bengals may not have the most impressive stats in the world but that does not diminish their lethality and meticulous offense when Burrow is on the field. Cincinnati finished the regular season ranked sixth in total touchdowns (54) with Burrow throwing for 34 of those (8th-most).

And even though Burrow has turned up the heat on opposing secondaries over the past month–including week seventeen’s 34-31 victory over Kansas City–he’s going to have to be perfect against the Chiefs if he wants to bring Cincinnati to their first Super Bowl since 1989 (SB XXIII). In Burrow’s last four games he’s thrown for ten touchdowns, the same as Mahomes, which is just one behind Buffalo’s Josh Allen (11) for most since week sixteen. This shouldn’t be a surprise to Chiefs fans who watched him toss four touchdowns against them in Cincy’s Paul Brown Stadium just four weeks ago.

Not only did those four passing scores tie a career-high for the 2021-22 PFWA Comeback Player of the Year but they helped him score a career-high 148.0 passer rating and helped his favorite weapon, Ja’Marr Chase, set the rookie record for most receiving yards in a game (266 yards).

Note: a perfect passer rating is 158.3, just a few completions and yards away for Burrow.

But there is one thing that has plagued Burrow, especially in the Bengals’ most recent playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, and that is the Cincinnati offensive line.

This is music to the ears of the Chiefs defensive linemen and after watching the Titans sack Joe “Burreaux” nine times last week in Nashville they know that it could be a huge day for “sack nation”.

The good news?

The Bengals’ right side of the offensive line is a major liability for them no matter what.

Their second-year offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji has allowed a 7.1% pressure rate (69th out of 84 qualifying guards since week nine) and their right tackle Isaiah Prince has allowed pressure on 8.9% of his pass-blocking assignments. This is all according to PFF who also rank the right side of Cincinnati’s offensive line in the bottom five of almost every major category.

This is great for #ChiefsKingdom because superstar pass-rusher Chris Jones has lined up against the right side of opposing lines on 60% of his snaps this season.

There is also the Chiefs record at home in the playoffs (11-8 all-time), specifically their postseason record at home since Mahomes became the starter four seasons ago (8-1). His .800 win percentage in the playoffs is impressive and is also a great predictor for future success but it also ranks second amongst quarterbacks that have started at least 10 postseasons (Bart Starr – .900 WP%).

And Mahomes’ eight playoff victories is already tied for 22nd all-time and is fifth-most among active passers; Tom Brady leads that pack with 35 total victories in the postseason and is distantly followed by Aaron Rodgers (12), Joe Flacco (10), and Russell Wilson (nine).

But, Mahomes aside, the Chiefs still have the best creative ingenuity with their offensive geniuses, Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy, who will call on random players to step up when the game is on the line.

That could be Travis Kelce throwing a touchdown (below), an offensive lineman catching a TD pass, or Tyreek Hill returning punts. No matter what there is always a trick or two up Kansas City’s sleeve and they may need a few against Cincinnati.

Whether or not the good outweighs the bad, or vice-versa, the Chiefs have the edge in every stage of the game when it comes to Sunday’s matchup. They have the experience, the mindset of a team hungry to redeem themselves in the Super Bowl, and they have a better offensive line.

Either way, there’s going to be some fireworks on both sides of the ball.

The bad news?

Burrow is good enough to rise above the hefty amount of sacks like he did last week when he became the first quarterback in postseason history to be sacked eight or more times in a playoff game and win.

Rookie sensation wide receiver Chase also leads all receivers in yards after catch (111 YAC) this postseason and that type of play gave the Chiefs all sorts of fits one month ago. If he is allowed to break free from tackles like he has done so often this year then it won’t matter if Burrow is continually sacked or pressured.

There is also the recent drop in production from the Chiefs defense who only allowed an average of 12.3 points per game from weeks nine through sixteen (the week before the first Chiefs-Bengals matchup). Since then the defense has given up 28.8 points per game (second-most among all playoff teams — New England).

This may not be the same Chiefs defense that was being slandered throughout the first half of the season but one might say that ever since Cincinnati snapped Kansas City’s league-leading eight-game win streak the defense has regressed heavily.

Some Fun Stats

On a lighter note some records could be tied, broken, or closed-in on during this upcoming AFC Championship match for Kansas City, here are just a few:

  • With another touchdown reception Sunday Kelce would have 12 total postseason receiving touchdowns which would tie Hall of Fame wide receiver John Stallworth for third-most behind Rob Gronkowski (15) and Jerry Rice (22).
  • With three receptions in Sunday’s game Kelce will also move past Gronkowski (98) for third-most postseason receptions by any receiver or tight end behind only Rice (151) and Julian Edelman (118).
  • Edge-rusher Frank Clark is currently fifth all-time in postseason sacks (11) tied with the likes of Dwight Freeney, James Harrison and Clay Matthews. With one more sack Clark would tie hall of famer Reggie White (12) and with one-and-a-half more sacks he’ll tie former Chief and Ravens legend Terrell Suggs (12.5).
  • If the Chiefs score two touchdowns they will surpass the Buffalo Bills for sixth-most total TDs in the AFC championship game (16) while playing in one less AFC title game. This would also propel them over the Washington Football Team (16) for 8th-most touchdowns in any conference championship game all-time.
  • Win-or-lose this will be Andy Reid’s fourth-straight time hosting the conference championship game, breaking his own record from the 2002-04 seasons when he led the Philadelphia Eagles to three-straight conference title games at home.
  • With a win on Sunday Reid would also tie Hall of Fame head coach Tom Landry with 20 postseason wins, trailing only Bill Belichick (31) for most all-time.
  • Kelce has a chance to break his own record for most catches in a conference championship game (13) which he set in last year’s AFC Championship game against Buffalo.
  • Tyreek Hill, who currently sits at 1,003 postseason receiving yards, could surpass players like Anquan Boldin (1,057), Art Monk (1,062), and Drew Pearson (1,105) on his way up the leaderboard in most postseason receiving yards. Meanwhile, Kelce sits at eighth-most on the same list with 1,196 receiving yards and could move past Andre Reed (1,229), Reggie Wayne (1,254), or Cliff Branch (1,289) if he has a game similar to his past two games (102 receiving yards per game).
  • Mahomes currently sits at 18th all-time in postseason completions (254). So with “the Grim Reaper” averaging 25.4 completions per game he could hurdle players like Warren Moon (259), Terry Bradshaw (261), and Russell Wilson (275) on that list.
  • With a win on Sunday the Chiefs would become just the fourth team in NFL history to make three consecutive Super Bowls. The Miami Dolphins (1971-73) and New England Patriots (2016-18) both reached three straight while the Bills (1990-93) made four straight.
  • Also with a win on Sunday the Chiefs would break their tie with Seattle and Tennessee for most postseason wins (17) and sit at 15th all-time behind the Miami Dolphins (20).
  • If the Bengals (2-0) were to win Sunday they would remain with the New York Giants (5-0) as the only NFL teams to never lose an AFC or NFC championship game. The next best win percentage is Washington who has gone 5-1 (.833) in the NFC title game.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or through Twitter (@SportsGuyShawnO) and be sure to check out more Shawn’s Staturdays and other free daily articles on Arrowhead Live every week!