For the first time in the 21st Century, the Cincinnati Bengals have advanced to the American Football Conference Championship.
Perhaps it is only fitting, then, that their opponents would be the Kansas City Chiefs.
After all, it was the Chiefs who were the expansion Bengals’ opponent in their first game of any kind on August 3, 1968 at Nippert Stadium on the University of Cincinnati campus. Kansas City won that one, 38-14.
The stakes are a little higher this time.
The winner punches their ticket to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on February 13, 2022.
For Cincinnati, it will be the third trip to the big game and its first since the 1988 season, when the Bengals lost a heart-breaker to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 20-16. Cincinnati’s inaugural trip to the Super Bowl, after the 1981 season, ended in similar fashion with a 26-21 loss to the 49ers.
Kansas City, on the other hand, finds itself in its fourth straight AFC Championship. The Chiefs have won the last two, including a Super Bowl victory over the 49ers after the 2019 season.
Suffice it to say that success has been no stranger to Kansas City this century. The Chiefs have found themselves in the playoffs 11 times, including a string of seven straight appearances, beginning with the 2014 season.
Success against the Cincinnati Bengals, on the other hand, has been fleeting. The Bengals have won five of their last six games with Kansas City, including the 34-31 home victory on January 3 that gave the Bengals the AFC North Division title.
Of course, this game will be in Kansas City. Cincinnati’s last trip to Arrowhead Stadium in October of 2018 ended with an embarrassing 45-10 loss.
Overall, the Bengals and Chiefs have met 30 times during the regular season, with Cincinnati holding a 16-14 edge. The teams have never met in the playoffs.
Probably the most memorable Bengals’ victory, up until a couple of weeks ago at least, probably came in 2003 when an undefeated Kansas City brought its 9-0 record into Riverfront Stadium against a 4-5 Bengals’ team.
Chad Johnson declared beforehand that Cincinnati would end Kansas City’s perfect season, and the rest of the team made that prediction stand up.
Rudi Johnson ran for 165 yards and Jon Kitna threw for two touchdowns, including the game-sealing 77-yard catch-and-run to Peter Warrick, in the victory. Warrick also added a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown. Johnson finished with seven catches for 74 yards.
This past Sunday, not long after the Bengals had disposed of the Tennessee Titans to earn their spot in the AFC championship game, another Cincinnati receiver, tight end C.J. Uzomah, made yet another prediction.
“We’re winning the whole thing,” Uzomah guaranteed.
Let's see if the Bengals can back this one up, as well.