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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Charles Goldman

Behind Enemy Lines: 5 questions with Bengals Wire for AFC Championship Game

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The Kansas City Chiefs are gearing up to face the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. They’ll get a rematch with their opponent in last year’s AFC title game with hopes of a better result.

To learn more about Kansas City’s opponent, we spoke with managing editor Chris Roling over at Bengals Wire and asked him a few questions.

Chiefs Wire: What’s the biggest difference between this Bengals team and the one K.C. faced in Week 13?

 Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals Wire: For one, they’re running the ball much better, even behind backups. Joe Mixon missed the Week 13 game and looks as fresh as he has all season. Another is rookie Cam Taylor-Britt is more comfortable starting on the boundary at corner and rotational defensive line depth has surged out of nowhere. And frankly, odd as it might sound, Joe Burrow just keeps improving in multiple areas, such as a leap in the percentage of decisions to scramble and pick up first downs. They’re just very hot right now, having won 10 in a row, the last loss on October 31.

Chiefs Wire: What do you think has been the secret to Cincinnati’s success against Kansas City in the Joe Burrow era?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals Wire: Burrow and Anarumo with a splash of good luck. No game is out of reach with a quarterback like Burrow, who can make magic happen under duress in a way Chiefs fans know well with Mahomes. Anarumo has specifically schemed to stop the likes of Lamar Jackson twice a year and it pays off against Mahomes when he drops eight or disguises coverages. And while 3-0 seems wild, there’s just some good luck there, be it a goal-line stop before halftime or a Travis Kelce fumble.

Chiefs Wire: Are there any concerns that the Chiefs’ pass rush could cause problems for Joe Burrow this week with those backup linemen in there?

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer

Bengals Wire: Undoubtedly. Backups Jackson Carman (left tackle), Max Scharping (right guard) and Hakeem Adeniji (right tackle) looked good in Buffalo, but that was in the snow against a team that looked straight-up out of gas. Chiefs rushers will especially give Carman more problems because they can use different moves. The question is whether it bothers Burrow because frankly, nothing has phased him lately and he’s changed his game compared to last year to guarantee fewer sacks. Blitzing him is a bad move usually and he might be navigating messy pockets better than anyone in the league. The line should hold up well enough despite how bad it sounds, but Burrow’s a big part of that.

Chiefs Wire: Do you think Bengals DC Lou Anarumo will send a lot of pressure after Patrick Mahomes with his ankle injury or go with more coverage looks?

 Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals Wire: I’d imagine the pressure looks are few and far between after the success of dropping eight into coverage during prior matchups. That will enable tight-end stoppers like Tre Flowers and Dax Hill to stay on the field with the likes of Mike Hilton. Unless his front three or four can’t get pressure, Anaruno has sounded like a guy prepping to play a 100 percent Mahomes. It’ll be interesting to see how he attacks Chiefs 13 personnel because they’re one of the most explosive in the league from it, so if he doesn’t bring more linebackers in, his unit could get gashed.

Chiefs Wire: What’s your prediction for the game? Is Kansas City finally getting their win?

Sam Greene / The Enquirer

Bengals Wire: It’s really, really hard to pick against Burrow right now. He’s on a level we haven’t seen before from him and the sudden resurgence of the running game sure doesn’t hurt. Mahomes will get his too, ankle or not, and Isiah Pacheco is very dangerous. But Burrow’s current play paired with the sound defense is just a tough sell as losers. His backs and tight ends should exploit Chiefs linebackers all day again. All that said, I’d still expect one critical play, be it Ja’Marr Chase or somebody else, to set up a field goal that ends it. Bengals 30, Chiefs 27.

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