Cincinnati Bengals @

Kansas City Chiefs

Sun, Jan 29
3:30 PM Pacific
Rotation: 323
Odds: Kansas City Chiefs -2, Total: 48

Game Analysis

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KANSAS CITY (-2) vs Cincinnati

Strong Opinion – Patrick Mahomes (KC) Over 2.5 Passing Touchdowns (+145) to +130

· Patrick Mahomes endured a high ankle sprain when his right leg was landed on by Jacksonville edge rusher Arden Key late in the first quarter last week. Mahomes finished the drive, but backup Chad Henne played the rest of the first half.

· Mahomes returned after getting his ankle taped and averaged 6.6 yppp in the second half with a touchdown. Mahomes only had 9 rushing yards against the Jaguars with 5 coming before the ankle sprain and 4 on one carry in the second half.

· Mahomes added 1.4 points per game with legs during the regular season according to our metrics and he has averaged 2.1 points added in 11 career playoff games because he is a more willing scrambler when it is win or go home. I think it is safe to assume that Mahomes will not add any value running the ball with his high ankle sprain.

· Mahomes threw for a league-high 881 yards on the run this season as well as leading the NFL with 183 designed rollouts and scrambles, but I do not believe Andy Reid will have Mahomes on the move much at all in the gameplan this week. Half of Mahomes’ throws were outside the tackle box before the high ankle sprain last week and then 89% of his passes were inside the tackle box once he came back onto the field.

· Mahomes will not have his normal backyard football game available to him this week and he will operate almost exclusively as a pocket passer. This will take away some of the spectacular moments we become accustomed to with Mahomes, but it will also likely lower his interception count. Mahomes has a career interception rate of only 1.6% even with the out of structure passes and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mahomes did not throw a pick on Sunday.

· Our analysis suggests Mahomes on a high ankle sprain is 4.3 points worse than Mahomes at full strength after factoring in his lack of mobility and less throw power. For reference: Henne starting would be 7.7 points worse than a healthy Mahomes.

· The video posted from practice showed Mahomes moving around better than a player typically would on a high ankle sprain, but I believe our adjustment is on the conservative end of the spectrum.

· The Chiefs had a 46% rush success rate this year (4th) and the ground game should support Mahomes as it did with Henne last week. We saw Kansas City’s rush offense account for 60 of the 98 yards on Henne’s touchdown drive in the 2nd quarter.

· The Bengals rated 5th against the run by EPA since week 11 when interior defender DJ Reader came back into the lineup. Reader also had 23 pressures in the 10 weeks he was on the field in the regular season (18th). Reader had two hits and three hurries last week but he will be shut down in this game by Chiefs LG Joe Thuney, who ranked 4th in pass blocking efficiency and was not available in the week 13 game versus Cincinnati. Kansas City C Creed Humphrey ranked 3rd in pass blocking efficiency, and he will chip in against Reader as well.

· Travis Kelce had a career-high 14 receptions last week and half of them were on hitch routes which tied for the most by any receiver in the last five seasons. Kelce caught all 13 of his targets under 10 air yards. Tight ends averaged 7.2 yards per target this year in the NFL and Cincinnati’s defense was right around average allowing 7.1 yards per target to tight ends (14th). I do think Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will sell out to stop Travis Kelce after seeing Kansas City’s offense last week. Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson ranked 13th in coverage grade by PFF and Anarumo could send an extra player along with Wilson to bracket Kelce.

· Mahomes might have to look somewhere other than Kelce when he needs to get the ball out quickly and his first instinct will likely be WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who led all wide receivers with a 67% success rate this season. However, Bengals nickelback Mike Hilton conceded only 1.02 yards per cover snap in the slot (4th) and should limit Smith-Schuster on the inside.

· Anarumo does like to blitz his nickelback in some instances. Hilton had 4 pressures on 6 pass rushes last week and I expect Mahomes to find Smith-Schuster when he sees Hilton is not in coverage.

· Cincinnati second-round rookie CB Cam Taylor-Britt saw six targets in coverage last week but conceded only 20 yards. The Bengals’ other cornerback on the outside, Eli Apple, ranked 61st in coverage grade by PFF this year out of 67 qualifiers. I expect Mahomes to target Apple with either Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Kadarius Toney depending on the side of the field the wide receivers are lined up on.

· Chiefs RB Jerick McKinnon gained 1.50 yards per route run this season (5th) and tied the NFL record with 9 receiving touchdowns by a running back. The Bengals are allowing 4.9 yards per target to RBs (8th), but I think McKinnon will be a factor regardless because Mahomes will toss it to him without the ability to scramble if everything is covered downfield. Cincinnati’s zone forced 9 check downs by Josh Allen last week in Buffalo.

· The Bills closed as 6-point favorites last week after we saw the market move about 2 points for cluster injuries on the Bengals offensive line.

· The only remaining starters on Cincinnati’s offensive line are C Ted Karras and rookie LG Cordell Volson, who ranked 43rd in pass blocking efficiency this season out of 53 qualifiers.

· Bengals backup RT Hakeem Adeniji surrendered 6 sacks last playoffs and already allowed another to this postseason as well as surrendering 5 pressures last week. Cincinnati backup RG Max Scharping ranked 43rd in pass blocking efficiency through the first half of last season before the Texans benched him. Scharping has surrendered 5 pressures in the playoffs which is the 2nd-most among guards. Meanwhile, Bengals backup LT Jackson Carman did not take a snap in the regular season and is a ticking time bomb to when he blows up in the postseason.

· Cincinnati lost starting right tackle La’el Collins 19 snaps into the week 16 against the Patriots and since then they’ve lost two more starters on the offensive line. Burrow is averaging only 5.8 yppp in his last four games and it seems the market is now mostly ignoring Cincinnati’s offensive line after adjusting two points for that line just last week.

· Pass rush becomes more valuable than coverage in the playoffs with teams averaging 3 or more sacks in the regular season being 45-32-1 ATS in the playoffs (38-20-1 ATS if not favored by 7 points or more). Kansas City’s defense averaged 3.2 sacks this year (3rd) and will give Cincinnati’s backups across the offensive line a much tougher test than Buffalo’s mediocre pass rush last week which was slowed down by the snow.

· Chiefs DT Chris Jones ranked 3rd in pass rushing efficiency this season and had 6 pressures against Jacksonville last game.

· Kansas City’s defense led the NFL in press coverage snaps in three of four seasons since coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s hiring in 2019. Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase crushes press coverage and has 417 yards as well as four touchdowns in three games versus the Chiefs since the start of last year.

· Spagnuolo used Quarters coverage on 36% on Trevor Lawrence’s dropbacks last week and I expect Kansas City’s secondary to continue dropping four into deep zones on Sunday to shut down downfield shots to Chase.

· Chiefs’ rookie CB Trent McDuffie was carted off of the field with a left hamstring injury 32 snaps into his career and did not return until week 9. The difference in Kansas City’s secondary with McDuffie compared to Joshua Williams was drastic. Williams was targeted about the same amount (43) and McDuffie this year (45), but Williams surrendered 434 yards to McDuffie’s 242 yards allowed.

· In weeks 2-8 with Williams and Rashad Fenton (before he was traded to Atlanta) starting at cornerback alongside Jaylen Watson, Kansas City’s defense surrendered a 49% dropback success rate (25th). The Chiefs pass defense is conceding only a 42% success rate since week 9 with McDuffie on the field with Watson (5th).

· McDuffie allowed only 1.2% of the targets in his coverage to go for 15+ yards, ranking 2nd among the 86 cornerbacks who played at least 300 snaps during the regular season.

· McDuffie will often go inside to nickelback and is allowing only 0.64 yards per cover snap in the slot. For reference, K’Waun Williams led all qualifying nickelbacks conceding 0.81 yards per cover snap in the slot this season. L’Jarius Sneed took all 29 cover snaps at nickelback versus the Bengals in week 13 but Sneed is taller than McDuffie and I could see him lining up on the outside some this week against Cincinnati’s larger wide receivers.

· Watson will be the Chiefs cornerback to attack as he ranked 54th in coverage grade by PFF out of 67 qualifiers in 2022. Watson mostly lines up on the left side of the defense which would be against Cincinnati WR Tee Higgins, whose 65% success rate (2nd) this year was better than Tyler Boyd’s 60% success rate and Chase’s 55% success rate.

· Bengals RB Samaje Perine had 5 targets against the Bills and Joe Burrow threw 3 passes to RB Joe Mixon, whose 1.47 yards per route run this season ranked 6th. Kansas City’s defense is always weak defending running backs out of the backfield under Spagnuolo and allowed 5.9 yards per target to RBs this season (23rd).

· Cincinnati had just a 36% rush success rate through the first five games of the season (28th) before they completely retooled the ground game using more gap and power designs as well as running out of shotgun formations more frequently. The Bengals only used zone blocking on 31% of rushes in 2022 compared to 58% in Zac Taylor’s first three years in charge.

· Cincinnati’s offense had a 45% rush success rate from week 6 to the end of the regular season and gained 5.1 yards per carry last week. Mixon averaged 2.6 rush yards before contact against the Bills, which was his most since 2019. The Bengals backups on the offensive line are certainly worse in pass protection but it seems they are at least passable as run blockers. The Chiefs are allowing a 40% rush success rate (10th) and I doubt they will get pushed around like Buffalo’s defense last week.

· Kansas City’s defense surrendered 378 rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks in the second half of the year (31st) and Burrow had a season-high 11 rushes against them in week 13. I think Burrow will have to get on the move again in this game with the Chiefs pass rush bearing down on him.

· The media covers Burrow like he’s the next Tom Brady because he’s 5-1 to start his career in the playoffs, but his offense is only gaining 5.2 yppl in those games (opponents have averaged 5.5 yppl). Burrow’s wins can be partially explained by turnover variance, as his defense has 12 takeaways in those 6 games.

· Our model makes Kansas City a 1.7-point favorite with a predicted total of 48.3 points but there is a lot of variance given the uncertainty of how Mahomes will play on his injured ankle. But, the value on KC comes from Cincinnati’s offense being overrated given their offensive line issues.

  • Team Stats
  • Game Log
  • Bengals
  • Chiefs


  • Pass Plays 0.00 0.00
  • Succ Pass Plays 0.0% 0.0%
  • Sack Rate 0.0% 0.0%
  • Int Rate 0.0% 0.0%
  • Deep Pass Rate 0.0% 0.0%
  • Big Pass Yards 0.0% 0.0%
  • NYPP 0.00 0.00


  • Rush Plays 0.00 0.00
  • RB YPR 0.00 0.00
  • Stuff Rate 0.0% 0.0%
  • Succ Rush Plays 0.0% 0.0%
  • Big Rush Yards 0.0% 0.0%
  • Yards Per Rush 0.00 0.00


  • All Snaps 0.00 0.00
  • Early Down Succ 0.0% 0.0%
  • Succ Rate 0.0% 0.0%
  • Big Yards Rate 0.0% 0.0%
  • Yards Per Play 0.00 0.00
  • Fumble Lost Rate 0.0% 0.0%
  • Time Per Play (sec) 0.00 0.00
  • Run Ratio 0.0% 0.0%
  • Starting Field Pos 0.00 0.00
  • Game Control 0.00 0.00
  • Points 0.00 0.00
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