The Cincinnati Bengals are back in the AFC Championship, where they’ll once again face Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs...we think.
By now, you probably know all about Mahomes’ high ankle sprain suffered in Saturday’s Divisional Round win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
When the injury occurred, Mahomes was able to finish the drive, which ended with a field goal that gave the Chiefs a 10-7 lead.
After that, Mahomes was taken out of the game for further testing and an X-ray.
On the ensuing drive, backup quarterback Chad Henne led the Chiefs 98 yards for a touchdown to go up 17-7.
Mahomes returned for the second half and completed 10/15 passes for 111 yards and a six-yard touchdown in the 27-20 win, which saw the Chiefs defense force two turnovers late in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
However, the normally mobile Mahomes only ran three times for eight yards in the game. He had logged double-digit rushing yards in nine of his previous 10 playoff games.
#Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters that QB Patrick Mahomes "worked hard on the treatment and is doing OK." Asked about his status, Reid says he's "gonna play" and that this isn't as serious as the one Mahomes suffered in 2019.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 23, 2023
It was obvious the injury made it difficult for Mahomes to move the pocket against Jacksonville, and it’s fair to think that will continue this week vs. a Bengals defense that sacked him four times in last year’s AFC Championship. They also got him twice in this season’s Week 13 matchup, a game the Bengals won 27-24 at Paycor Stadium.
This isn’t the first time Mahomes has suffered this specific injury. It happened to him in Week 1 of the 2019 season, also against the Jaguars, and he didn’t miss any time while continuing to play at a high level. But this sprain is on Mahomes’ plant leg, whereas the 2019 injury was to his other leg.
It’s worth noting that head coach Andy Reid has already said this sprain isn’t as bad as the one Mahomes had in 2019.
“I think this one isn’t quite as bad as that one,” Reid said of Mahomes’ previous ankle injury. “But it’s similar. Sore, but not quite the same.”
So, will Mahomes play Sunday?
Over at Sports Injury Central, their team of former NFL doctors believes Mahomes will suit up and be effective this week but will likely be limited in the pocket.
Speaking of, ESPN’s Adam Teicher had this blurb on Mahomes’ effectiveness in the pocket vs. Jacksonville and overall this season.
Mahomes’ creativity and ability to make off-schedule throws are a large part of what makes him the player he is, but the Chiefs would likely make Mahomes a pocket passer, as they did in the second half against the Jaguars. He threw no passes from outside the pocket after returning to the game for the start of the second half. That’s only the second time this season Mahomes went for a half without making an outside the pocket throw. Mahomes threw more passes from outside the pocket (113) than any other quarterback during the regular season and was tied for second with seven touchdown passes.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Mahomes scrambled against Jacksonville at least 8 yards six times on his first 12 passes, before the injury. He scrambled just once on a pass attempt after the injury. So this is a dramatic change to the Chiefs’ offense, and it’s unclear how well Mahomes could make it work over the course of a full game.
So yeah, it’s fair to think Mahomes won’t be as big a threat to scramble and extend plays this week.
Is that affecting the spread on this game?
When the Bengals defeated the Bills, the opening odds at several sportsbooks had the Chiefs favored in the 2.5-point range. Even a hobbled Mahomes at home should be enough for the Chiefs to be favored.
However, the line has already shifted to Bengals -1 at DraftKings Sportsbook. Good luck finding a game where a Mahomes-led Chiefs team was ever an underdog at home.
All told, do you believe Patrick Mahomes plays Sunday vs. the Bengals? Let us know in the poll below and the comments section!
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