Chiefs-Bengals match between 2 of AFC’s top teams

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow admitted that this week he heard the warning from Baltimore defensive coordinator Wink Martindale not to place him in the Professional Football Hall of Fame so early in his young career in the NFL.

Burrow then shredded the Ravens for 525 yards passing in a blowout of their rivals AFC North.

He may have to replicate that performance on Sunday, when the AFC champion West Kansas City comes to town. After all, the Chiefs have their own quarterback – Patrick Mahomes – who looks destined to land in Canton, Ohio one day.

“I think whoever is in line in front of us, we’re going to be happy to play,” Burrow said, brushing aside any discussion of a quarterback showdown.

“It’s a great opportunity, whether it’s the Chiefs or whoever we’re pitching against us. We have an opportunity to win and to qualify for the playoffs.

Indeed, the Bengals (9-6) can clinch their division with a victory over the Chiefs (11-4) on Sunday.

That would take a lot of pressure off their regular season final in Cleveland and give Bengals coach Zac Taylor the rare opportunity to rest Burrow and some of his other stars ahead of a wildcard playoff game the following week.

But beating the Chiefs right now might just be the toughest job in football.

After a lousy start that left them with a seven-game loss record in the season, Mahomes and the rest of his cohorts have turned things around in a remarkable way.

They’ve pulled off eight straight wins, including last week’s 36-10 loss to Pittsburgh to clinch their sixth straight division title, and are back almost in full swing after a COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s a big game the way you want to express it,” Taylor said. “You want to win the division and go to the playoffs. As it turns out, the Chiefs are the team right in front of us that allows us to do it. They are a great football team. They have had great success over the years. We understand this. But we don’t put too much effort into it. It’s about us.

That’s not to say the Chiefs don’t have a lot to do with the outcome. They head to the weekend ahead of Tennessee with a game for the No.1 seed, meaning the AFC’s only pass and home ground advantage throughout the playoffs.

“The job is not done,” Mahomes said. “We want to get the No. 1 seed.”

As for his clash with Burrow on Sunday?

“Not only is he a great football player, I think he’s a great leader,” said Mahomes. “He can lead anyone, no matter where he is. He can come out with swag, this mentality, “We’re going to win no matter what.” It takes a lot of experience and to go out there and do it for people to believe it.

TAKE HOME

Chiefs linebacker coach Matt House was hired as the defensive coordinator at LSU this week. But Chiefs coach Andy Reid said this week that House will continue to work in Kansas City as long as the team is alive in the playoffs.

“He’s going to be great for the Tigers,” said Reid. “We have several in our team. They are excited for him.

WATCH THE WATCH

Burrow needs 38 assists to break Carson Palmer’s single-season franchise record of 373, set in 2007, and he needs 129 passing yards and four touchdown passes to break Andy Dalton’s records. from 4,293 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2013.

He is not the only Bengals player to record a record, however. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase needs 278 yards to pass Chad Johnson (1,440) for most in a single season, and running back Joe Mixon’s 16 total touchdowns are lower than Carl Pickens’ record set in 1995 and his 13 touchdown runs are two short of Ickey Woods’ 1988 record.

Take it away

The Chiefs have dominated the battle for turnover in recent weeks, a major reason they have won eight straight wins. The Chiefs have forced 20 turnovers and committed six in the last seven games.

Last week was a prime example: they knocked out Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger while recovering two fumbles with no turnover.

STAR WARS

Want to know what will be the offensive firepower that will be displayed on Sunday? The AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week award gives a pretty good indication.

Mahomes won it twice and tight end Travis Kelce took home the honor for Kansas City in Week 15. Burrow also won two awards, including last week, while Chase won it for Cincinnati in Week 15. Week 7 and running back Joe Mixon in Week 12.

That’s almost half of the honors awarded this season.

SHELL GAMES

One way the teams have tried to slow Kansas City down is to play two safeties in a “shell” deep in the field, forcing them to work their way down on offense.

But there have been signs in recent weeks that Mahomes and Co. have figured out this strategy, and that means it might not be as effective for Cincinnati.

“The teams are mixing up more than we think,” said Reid. “We see shells, unique safeties, men – they throw a lot at you and this crew is no different. They have a whole package that they perform really well.


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