Bengals-Chiefs betting preview: Can Cincinnati keep up at Arrowhead?

Andy Lyons / Getty Images Sport / Getty

It's all about legacies for NFL quarterbacks, and days later, we're still discussing Sunday's duel between Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. We expect that to be one of many head-to-head matchups between the two signal-callers in years to come, just as we hope this AFC Championship is the first of a few playoff meetings between Mahomes and Joe Burrow.

However, looking at this game through the lens of a handicapper, we may come to remember this contest a decade from now as the appetizer in the postseason history between these two young quarterbacks, with more competitive matchups down the road.

Bengals @ Chiefs (-7, 54.5)

With a flicker of Chiefs -6.5 on the open, the point spread for this game was off like a shot and instantly moved to a flat -7. With -6.5 probably not returning, the value has certainly been taken out of a Chiefs spread bet. It's likely that the key number of seven becomes available to Bengals bettors if the line ticks to -7.5 by game day.

Bengals backers will cite two main arguments for taking the underdog here: Burrow's "it" factor and Cincinnati's win over Kansas City earlier this month.

However, a lot has happened over the last month. The Bengals narrowly escaped with a home win over the Raiders in the wild-card round before needing all the help they could get from Ryan Tannehill's three interceptions to squeak past the Titans.

Here's a pair of interesting stats from those two games:

GAME CIN YPP OPP YPP CIN TO MARGIN
LV @ CIN 5.0 5.4 +2
CIN @ TEN 5.4 6.8 +2

In each contest, Cincinnati earned two more turnovers than they gave up - not including the crucial fourth-down stop against the Titans and the significant win probability gifted to them when the Raiders stepped out of bounds on their own 2-yard line fielding a kickoff.

As bettors, we must understand how we arrived at a given result to determine its validity and sustainability. Do we think the Bengals will be able to lose the yards-per-play battle with the Chiefs (7.4 YPP vs. Steelers, 7.6 YPP vs. Bills), but make up for it by turning Mahomes and Kansas City over the same way they did Derek Carr and Tannehill?

We know everything we need to by now about the Chiefs' glowing offense, but whether or not they cover this touchdown spread will come down to their defense. They gave up 446 yards to Burrow - all but 29 of the Bengals' total yards that day - during the Week 17 game in Cincinnati.

While the Bengals impressed in coming back from a 14-point deficit, they'll need more from their run game here. Referees gifted them a wealth of questionable drive-extending penalties in the first meeting, which the Bengals can't rely on Sunday.

Cincinnati's biggest issue, though, comes in pass protection. The Bengals' rise from being the team with the fourth-lowest win total in the preseason to a club in the final four indicates they've gotten this far despite not being a finished product. That's clearly seen in an offensive line that gave up nine sacks to the Titans, three to the Raiders, and four the first time around to the Chiefs.

In a loud, raucous environment that encourages false starts, holding penalties, and sacks, the Bengals will need an uncharacteristically strong performance up front to prevent Burrow from playing behind the sticks for much of the game.

The pick

As we've discussed in our weekly teaser pieces, getting the Chiefs at -1 with a -270 price would be a great deal, but there isn't a second leg that's mathematically viable or otherwise attractive. However, we can still use the alternative spread market to create a synthetic teaser for the same -120 price that we're used to. I'm fine with selling the half-point - to -1.5 on this leg - to get an extra half-point on the NFC Championship Game.

Bet:

  • Chiefs -7
  • Alt spread parlay: Chiefs -1.5, 49ers +10 (-120)

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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Bengals-Chiefs betting preview: Can Cincinnati keep up at Arrowhead?
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