With the Bengals set to face the Chiefs on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, Kansas City will be playing at home in their fourth consecutive AFC title game. Let’s take a look back at their Week 17 tilt where there were keys to Cincinnati’s victory that should be given a closer look.
Specifically, Joe Burrow’s aerial attack dominated Kansas City, as the second-year quarterback threw for 446 passing yards and four touchdowns. He was not alone in this incredible display of passing fireworks with former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase having a total of 266 receiving yards and three touchdowns. According to PFF, Chase had an incredible five receptions deemed explosive, meaning at least 15 yards. The Bengals finished with nine of these explosive pass plays, which put them third in the league for Week 17.
Although the Chiefs are currently sizable favorites in this game, these larger plays might just be the key to stunning the Chiefs and the rest of the NFL world on Sunday. Let’s take a look to see if the numbers back this up.
Offenses that are characterized as high-powered are typically those that score an abundance of points. The Chiefs are thought of as such by most because primary contributors Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill are each among the best at their positions. These potent offenses usually can generate explosive plays more often than others. As seen in the graph above, the Chiefs have had over 130 more pass attempts than the Bengals, yet Cincinnati has more of these explosive passes. Even though Kansas City has had a consistently great offense for a longer period, the Bengals have shown the ability to make these big plays throughout this season. The point here is that Cincy’s offense might be able to counter Kansas City’s explosiveness. An important factor to consider is how often Kansas City concedes these explosive passing plays to gauge if this could have a crucial impact on Sunday’s game.
Taking a look at explosive receptions allowed, Kansas City has allowed 15 or more yards on 14.9% of coverage snaps this season. This is the 9th-highest percentage in the NFL this year, which shows they are somewhat prone to surrendering such plays. Also, Kansas City ranks in the top three in passing yards allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, and first downs allowed in coverage. It is important to consider that as the fourth-highest scoring offense, teams are forced to pass against them more, which can be seen in their top ten rank in total coverage snaps.
Although the game plan for the Bengals will not be known until Sunday’s game kicks off, it is plausible to think the passing game, and specifically deep shots, should be implemented in this matchup. The Chiefs also have Tyrann Mathieu, who is in concussion protocol, and Rashad Fenton who is listed as questionable on their injury report. These are two impact players in their secondary, and Mathieu has led their defense in total snaps this season. Joe Burrow and his receivers’ ability to reel in long passes, coupled with Kansas City’s yielding of such plays, could be the best shot they have at victory. Few thought the Bengals would be one game away from Super Bowl LVI as they had the third-longest odds in the preseason, but Cincinnati can return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1988 with a win on Sunday.
All information taken from TruMedia and PFF