2022 AFC Championship Game Preview

Story posted January 27, 2022 in Sports, CommRadio by Ethan Ellis

After a weekend that was both exciting and controversial in the AFC divisional round, it’s finally time for the AFC Championship game.  The Bengals and Chiefs, both led by two of the best quarterbacks in the league, roll in fresh off of impressive wins that showcased just how much talent the two teams contain on their roster.

The Bengals, who have gained an almost cult-like following this postseason, have reason to be excited in both these playoffs and the ones they will inevitably make in the years to come.

Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have been electric on field this season and watching them finally find their chemistry with one another has been entertaining, to say the least. Expect that high-energy attitude to carry over into this weekend's game.

Chase and Burrow will need to be on the same page in this game like they were when they played the Chiefs back in Week 17. In that game, Burrow threw for 466 yards and four touchdowns; Chase accounted for 266 of those yards and a majority of Burrow’s touchdowns, catching three of his four.

If the Bengals can develop an effective game plan that prioritizes these two, then the game could very well be over before it starts.

Defensively, the Chiefs need to look back at that Week 17 game and see what they could have done differently. Let’s be clear: if the Chiefs defense lets Burrow and Chase put up those numbers again, they will not win Sunday’s game.

Steve Spagnolo, the Chiefs defensive coordinator, needs to develop a game plan where Chase is rarely one-on-one which will force Burrow to look for other targets downfield. Spagnolo also needs to get some of the defensive line in Burrow’s face during the game. A young quarterback like Burrow will be easy to get off his game and having defenders getting in his face and knocking him down could very well do that.

Offensively, Patrick Mahomes just needs to do his thing. This is the fourth consecutive home game for the Chiefs in the AFC championship and should be a comfortable place for the Chiefs and Mahomes. Mahomes will have plenty of targets downfield in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but will also need to be sure to establish the run game.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs starting running back, will play in this game, unlike in Week 17. If the Chiefs can develop a game plan that prioritizes the passing game while still having a healthy mix of the run game, they will be hard to stop.

The task for the Bengals defense is clear: stop Mahomes early. Cincinnati’s secondary needs to be all over Hill and Kelce when they go downfield and need to put a stop to the passing game early on.

The Chiefs have not had a strong rushing game all year and forcing them to rely on that aspect of their offense will wreak havoc on offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s game plan. Forcing the Chiefs to rely on Edwards-Helaire would effectively bring the Chiefs offense to a stand-still in the game and allow for the Bengals offense to dominate the time of possession.

But if the Bengals can’t keep Patrick Mahomes from hooking up with his receivers early, then the Chiefs offense will get in a rhythm that could very well put the game away for them early.

This game will certainly be one of best NFL games of the year, as two of the best offenses in the league take each other on for the second time this season.

Will Mahomes lead the Chiefs to a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance? Or, will Burrow lead that young Bengals team to their first Super Bowl since 1989? Find out on Sunday at 3:00 p.m EST.

 

Ethan Ellis is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at ece5133@psu.edu.