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Matchups to watch for in Bengals vs. Chiefs

Kansas City’s out for revenge. Here’s what can Cincinnati do to stop it.

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

So many firsts were accomplished by the Cincinnati Bengals last year. So what’s one more against the team they kept from the Super Bowl?

The Bengals will look to become the first team to beat the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs for a third-straight meeting. Not only that, they’d do it in almost exactly 11 months.

Say what you want about #QBWinz, but Mahomes has quarterbacked 67 victories in five years including postseason action. A loss would mean 15% of his defeats would come from the Bengals, a team in a different division that he’s faced just four times.

An unprecedented statement can be made in Paycor Stadium in front of a national audience, and these matchups have our attention.

Joe Burrow vs. Chris Jones

The sacks Burrow takes often overshadow the sacks he avoids. Jones has to be thankful for that, because there were a few takedowns he missed against the Bengals’ quarterback last season.

Turnovers are often linked to Bengals losses, but the games when Burrow is not only sacked, but sacked often relative to the amount of pressures he faces, correlates strongly with defeats. In four losses, Burrow has been sacked on 40% of pressures. In seven wins, that percentage is a meager 18.3% in comparison.

Want a damning example? Burrow was sacked just once by the Chiefs in the AFC Championship. He was pressured 17 times. 5.9% ain’t gonna cut it for a defense led by a 10-sack 3-technique in Jones. He’ll be looking to finish the job this time around.

Sam Hubbard vs. Andrew Wylie

A good start has turned into a good season for Hubbard. The Cincinnati native has always been a reliable run defender, but his 16% win rate as a pass rusher is a current career-high, and don’t expect it to take a dip this week.

Wylie and his bookend tackle Orlando Brown Jr. are the NFL leaders in pressures allowed off the edge this year with 35 a piece, but Wylie’s pass blocking grade of 58.7 is notably lower than Brown’s 71.3. Part of that is due to the seven penalties Wylie’s been called for in 11 games, which is also the most in the league for a tackle (tied with Trent Brown).

If there’s a weak link protecting Patrick Mahomes, it’s here.

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Bengals secondary vs. Travis Kelce

When it comes to forcing missed tackles, no tight end does it better than Kelce. It’s not even remotely close, either. Kelce’s 21 MTFs are as many as the next two have combined. And he’s doing it at 33 years old. Insane.

That’s why this comes down to more than just Tre Flowers, who will surely be following the future Hall of Famer. Flowers won’t put up a clean sheet, so the entire backend of the defense will have to corral Kelce to prevent medium gains from becoming big gains, and big gains from becoming touchdowns. Eli Apple, Mike Hilton, and Vonn Bell all have missed tackle percentages north of 13% on the year. One missed opportunity can change the game.

Hayden Hurst vs. Justin Reid

What, low hanging fruit? Our popcorn is ready regardless.