For the second straight year, the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals will face off in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. Last year, it was the away team that came out on top to advance to the Super Bowl.
Looking ahead to this weekend's conference championship rematch, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow feels his team is even better equipped to beat the No. 1 seeded Chiefs than they were a year ago.
Burrow pointed to the growth he has seen from Cincinnati since last season and believes his team has the components needed to win.
"I think we're a more complete team," Burrow said comparing the 2021 Bengals to the 2022 Bengals (via NFL.com). "I think we're a better team, and we just seem to make plays when it counts. That's all there is to say. I think our O-line is better, I think our run game is better, I think our defense is better, I just think our special teams is better. We're just overall a much better team than we were last year."
In Sunday's divisional round win, Burrow went 23 of 36 for 242 yards and two touchdowns. The Bills were the favorite not only to win the divisional game, but they were expected by many to be holding up the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. Cincinnati had other plans.
The Bengals made it difficult for the Bills early on in the game, scoring a touchdown on their first two drives and keeping the lead throughout the entire game. After the win, cornerback Eli Apple claimed the Bills never stood a chance.
"It was never close," he said with a cigar in hand, adding, "it should have been 31-10," in reference to a controversial Ja'Marr Chase touchdown that was called back.
The Bengals offensive line has been an issue for them over the last few years, but on Sunday, even with three starters injured, Burrow was only sacked once. Their defense also stood out, holding Buffalo to their fewest points of the season.
The Bengals have won their last 10 games, a stat Chase says speaks for itself.
"We've got some dogs in this locker room," the wide receiver said. "The record speaks for itself. Everything is going our way right now."
Whether or not they are a more complete team as Burrow states will be proven with a win over the Chiefs and a Super Bowl victory to follow, but on Sunday they certainly made a strong case.
Last season the team fell just short, losing to the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl. Apple knows they are far from finished when it comes to proving the doubters wrong.
"We are not done yet," Apple said. "Win the Super Bowl. Then we'll be better."
The Chiefs will not be an easy opponent to beat, but the Bengals have exceeded expectations all season. For a team that finished the season as strong as they did, they flew slightly under the radar, not getting as much hype as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.
The AFC title game will be broadcast on CBS at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.