The Cincinnati Bengals are seven-point underdogs for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs. The Bengals are decided underdogs despite recording a 34-31 win over the Chiefs earlier this month behind quarterback Joe Burrow's 446 yards and four touchdown passes. The win clinched the AFC North division crown for the Bengals, who earned a trip to Kansas City this weekend after defeating Las Vegas and Tennessee in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
While the Chiefs will be the Bengals' biggest and final challenge en route to the franchise's first Super Bowl berth in 33 years, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Brian Callahan has a pretty good reason to feel confident about his team's chances.
"I do like the idea of having Joe playing a team the second time around," Callahan said on Monday, via Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He knows the technique, the players, the strengths and the weaknesses. It's like a division game for us."
Burrow has been lights out in rematch games this season. Here's a look at how the second-year quarterback fared in his first three rematch games heading into Sunday.
Joe Burrow in 2021 rematch games
|Steelers (Week 12)||20 of 24, 190 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT||Bengals, 41-10|
Ravens (Week 16)
37 of 46, 525 yards, 4 TD
Raiders (wild card round)
24 of 34, 244 yards, 2 TD
Burrow's game preparation and ability to take mental notes of his opponents' tendencies were among the reasons why he has had success in rematch games. He has also taken advantage of his deep receiving corps that includes rookie phenom Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and C.J. Uzomah. Midway through the season, with defenses focused on stopping Chase, Burrow looked more to his other receivers. Their success ultimately led to Chase's late-season resurgence after defenses realized that Burrow would pick them apart with his other teammates if they continued to focus too much on the star rookie.
Another reason for Burrow's success has been his willingness to absorb punishment in the pocket. Despite being sacked nine times in Nashville, Burrow remained poised while delivering a critical completion to Chase that set up Evan McPherson's game-winning field goal as time expired. While he expects the Chiefs' defense to apply similar pressure on Burrow, Callahan is confident that his quarterback will continue to overcome whatever is thrown at him. He said the Bengals will also make adjustments this week in order to correct some of the issues that led to Burrow's high sack total this past weekend.
"He doesn't mind the physicality part of playing football, which is unique to Joe," Callahan said of Burrow. "It's what makes him pretty special."