The Cincinnati Bengals will play in one of biggest regular season games in franchise history when they host the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday in the Queen City. With a win, Cincinnati (9-6) will clinch its first AFC North title and playoff berth since 2015.
To do that, the Bengals will have to defeat a Kansas City team that has won eight consecutive games after a 3-4 start. The Chiefs locked up their sixth consecutive AFC West division crown last Sunday, but they will have to keep winning to increase their odds at earning the AFC's only playoff bye. Sunday's game is the first matchup between quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow. Mahomes was recently selected to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl, while Burrow responded to his Pro Bowl snub by throwing for 525 yards and four touchdowns in last week's win over the Ravens.
We'll preview the game along with giving our prediction for Sunday's outcome. Here's how you can follow the action in real time.
How to watch
When the Chiefs have the ball
Kansas City's offense continues to run through the trio of Mahomes, receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce was recently activated off of the reserve/COVID-19 list after he was forced to miss last week's win over Pittsburgh. The Chiefs will likely be without running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who exited last week's game with a shoulder injury. Kansas City will likely split its carries between Darrell Williams and Derrick Gore, who combined to tally 97 rushing yards and 91 receiving yards against the Steelers.
The Bengals may have linebacker Logan Wilson back in the lineup after he missed the team's last three games with a shoulder injury. Despite missing the last three games, Wilson has 92 tackles and four interceptions this season while being a stabilizing force in the middle of the Bengals defense. Cincinnati also has a formidable pass rush, led by Trey Hendrickson (14 sacks), Sam Hubbard (7.5 sacks) and Larry Ogunjobi (7 sacks). The Bengals are fourth in the NFL in rush defense but 29th in passing yards allowed, which could lead to another big game for Mahomes if he's able to avoid Cincinnati's pass rush.
When the Bengals have the ball
Despite not allowing a 300-yard passer since Week 5, the Chiefs pass defense is 25th in the league in passing yards allowed. They are also just 20th in the NFL in run defense after allowing three of their last four opponents to run for at least 130 yards. Turnovers has been the Chiefs' biggest strength on defense, as they have forced at least one turnover in each of their last 10 games and 21 turnovers during their eight-game winning streak. Kansas City's defense forced three turnovers that led to 17 points in last Sunday's blowout win over Pittsburgh. The unit continues to be led by perennial Pro Bowlers Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu. Rookie Nick Bolton has emerged as the Chiefs' leading tackler with 102 stops in 14 games.
Kansas City's offense will have its hands full against a loaded Bengals offense. Burrow already has 4,169 yards and 30 touchdowns this season while throwing the ball to rookie phenom Ja'Marr Chase and fellow receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Burrow also has Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon, who comes into Sunday's game with 1,159 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. A big key for the Bengals' offense during the team's two-game winning streak has been their ability to take better care of the ball. The Bengals have gone two games without committing a turnover after committing at least one in nine straight games. Turnovers and below-average pass protection (Burrow has been sacked 47 times this season) are the Bengals' biggest flaws on offense.
The Bengals' front-seven will have its moments, but Cincinnati's secondary will likely struggle to contain Kansas City's array of playmakers, led by Hill and Kelce. And if they can apply consistent pressure on Burrow while coming up with a few turnovers, the Chiefs will be on their way to their ninth straight win while getting another step closer towards the AFC's No. 1 seed.
Score: Chiefs 27, Bengals 24