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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Chiefs secure spot in Super Bowl with victory over Bengals

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The NFL, typically, is a league of variance and parity – every team in the league has the capability to win on any given week. In the playoffs, this variance is further displayed by the single-game elimination playoff system currently in place. While there are often overwhelming favorites, one poor performance can usher a team into the offseason prematurely.

However, the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals, led by star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow, do not recognize such variance. The Chiefs have hosted the AFC Championship for an astounding five consecutive years, while this year marks the second consecutive AFC Championship appearance for the Bengals. 

The Burrow-Mahomes, Bengals-Chiefs rivalry has been styled by many as the next great rivalry in the NFL, reminiscent of the Manning-Brady, Colts-Patriots rivalry of the early 2010s. However, this rivalry has been a bit one-sided thus far. 

Since Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season, the Chiefs and Bengals have met three times. The Bengals have prevailed in all three meetings. Unquestionably the most painful of these losses for Chiefs fans came in last year’s AFC Championship game. Up 21-3 with two minutes left in the 2nd quarter, it appeared the Chiefs were rolling to their third consecutive Super Bowl, a monumental feat only achieved three times in NFL history. 

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Two Evan McPherson field goals, a two-yard touchdown pass by Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase, and an incredible effort by the Bengals’ defensive line allowed the Bengals to roar back and send the game to overtime. 

In overtime, an interception by Patrick Mahomes gave the Bengals excellent field position, which the Bengals capitalized on by kicking a 31-yard Evan McPherson field goal, sending the Bengals to their third Super Bowl in franchise history and their first in 33 years. 

 While the Bengals fell 23-20 to the Los Angeles Rams two weeks later, it was a massive step for a franchise that has been met with struggles for decades. For the Chiefs, it signaled the first arrival of a true AFC challenger in the Patrick Mahomes era. 

The Bengals backed up their AFC Championship win with a 27-24 victory over the Chiefs in Week 12 of this year and a second consecutive AFC North title, ending the regular season as the No. 3 seed in the AFC. 

After grinding out a tough divisional battle against the Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati stormed into Buffalo and decimated the Bills. A team thought to be the class of the league before the year began. 

Kansas City, meanwhile, received a bye in the wild card round, and subsequently secured a berth in the AFC Championship with a 27-20 victory over the red-hot Jacksonville Jaguars and rising star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.  

During the second quarter of the Chief’s win, Patrick Mahomes, the likely MVP of the league, sustained a brutal-looking ankle injury. After limping back onto the field and completing a superhuman drive ending in a field goal, Mahomes exited the game. 

Following an incredible 98-yard touchdown drive by Chad Henne, the Chiefs’ backup quarterback, Mahomes re-entered the game but was clearly limited. It was announced the following day Mahomes had suffered a high ankle sprain. 

While a high ankle sprain typically more negatively affects positions such as wide receiver and running back due to their reliance on speed and agility, it is a worrisome injury for Mahomes nonetheless. About half of the quarterbacks who suffer a high ankle sprain miss the following week. 

Concerning his availability for next week’s game, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid expressed confidence in Mahomes’ ability to play. 

“He’s worked hard in the treatment and is doing OK. He told you guys. He mentioned to you that he’s going to play. That’s his mindset,” Reid said in a post-practice press conference. “Then we’ll just take it day by day and see how he does.”

Speaking at a postgame press conference, Mahomes downplayed the injury.

“It feels better than I thought it was gonna be now. Obviously, I have a lot of adrenaline going right now. So, we’ll see how it feels. But I’ll hop right into treatment tonight and try to do whatever I can to bed as close to 100% by next week,” Mahomes said. 

The consensus opinion is that Mahomes will play in the Conference Championship game, but he will be limited to being a pocket passer. Due to these limitations, the Bengals are favored by 1.5 points, marking it the first time in four years that Mahomes has been a home underdog. 

The Chiefs went on to secure a 23-20 win against the Bengals on Sunday, Jan. 29.

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