Conference Championship Games Upset Alert: Will There Be an AFC Underdog by Sunday? 

Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs Cincinnati Bengals
Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP.

The spread for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game has been moving all week and currently finds the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs as 1-point favorites at the best online sportsbooks against the No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals.

Here’s why we think the Bengals prevail. 

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs 

Sunday, January 29, 2023 – 06:30 PM EST at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium 

Potential Record Night for Chiefs and Mahomes

CBS has the telecast of Sunday’s AFC title game. Of course, Cincinnati was an upset winner in Kansas City in the 2022 AFC Championship Game, and this marks the seventh time since 1970 that teams meet in back-to-back conference title games.  

The Chiefs are the third team to reach five straight conference title games (1973-77 Raiders and 2011-18 Patriots) and first to host five in a row. Kansas City is 2-2 in the previous four.

Patrick Mahomes, who is still only 27, is the only quarterback to lead a team to five conference title games before the age of 30. He will join Tom Brady (eight straight) and Ken Stabler (five in a row) as only QBs to start five straight conference championship games. 

Mahomes also can pass Brady for most playoff wins all-time by QB before turning 28 (currently has nine) and pass TB12 as the youngest QB to reach three Super Bowls. Coach Andy Reid can pass Tom Landry for the second-most playoff wins all-time (currently at 20). 

On the lookahead lines for Super Bowl 57, the Chiefs are -1.5 against the 49ers and -1 against the Eagles, but here’s why we think the Bengals win – they are opening short dogs vs. San Francisco and Philadelphia for a potential Super Bowl matchup. 

Attention on Mahomes’ Ankle 

Obviously the big storyline this week is the high-ankle sprain suffered by Mahomes in the Divisional Round win over Jacksonville. Bettors’ uncertainty first over whether he would play at all in this game and then how bad the injury was caused major line movement this week at BetMGM (odds for Chiefs): 

• -1.5: Open 

• +1.5: Monday 

• +2.5: Tuesday 

• +1.5: Wednesday morning 

• +1: Wednesday night 

• -1: Today 

Mahomes has not appeared to be favoring the ankle in footage from practice, and that’s surely why the spread shifted back to Kansas City as a favorite at the NFL odds – it would be the 15th straight playoff game the Chiefs are favored, by far an NFL record (that streak actually started with Alex Smith). 

What Does the Public Say?

The public is still very heavy on Joe Burrow and the Bengals with Burrow 3-0 (SU & ATS) against Mahomes, the only quarterback to have beaten him three straight games. All were by three points and the Bengals outscored Chiefs 26-6 in the fourth quarter/OT of those games: 

Week 13 this season in Cincinnati: Bengals won 27-24 on an 8-yard TD pass from Burrow to Chris Evans with 8:54 remaining 

2022 AFC title game in Kansas City: Bengals rallied 21-3 second-quarter deficit to win 27-24 in OT on Evan McPherson’s 31-yard field goal early in the extra session after Mahomes was intercepted 

Week 17 of 2021 season in Cincinnati: Bengals rallied from 28-14 second-quarter hold to win 34-31 on McPherson’s 20-yard field goal as time expired.  

That Cincinnati wins by 1-6 points this time is +320 and Kansas City to do the same is +290. The Chiefs winning by a score of 27-24 is +4500 and the Bengals by that score yet again is +5000.  

The Pick

Hard to place our NFL picks against “Joe Cool” Burrow as he’s 5-1 in his playoff career (Cincy was 5-14 in the postseason pre-Burrow) and 3-0 on the road (Bengals were 0-7 on the road in the postseason without Burrow).

After knocking off Buffalo last week, Cincinnati can become the fifth club to beat two 13-win teams in postseason before the Super Bowl (1999 Titans, 2005 Steelers, 2007 Giants, 2011 Giants). 

The Bengals, who enter on a franchise-record 10-game winning streak overall, are 13-2-1 ATS in their past 16 games vs. teams with winning records overall, while the Chiefs have covered just one of their past 10 at home overall.

Cincinnati will become the first team ever to beat the same team on the road in back-to-back conference championships. 

NFL Pick: Bengals ML (+105) at BetMGM