The Cincinnati Bengals will head to visit the Kansas City Chiefs for another edition of what has become a thrilling, seemingly annual rivalry. There’s plenty on the line this Sunday (12/31/23) just before the New Year, so get Bengals vs. Chiefs, picks and predictions below as our best bet is Chiefs -7.5
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs Prediction
They call it the new Brady vs. Manning, and while that might be a step too far, it’s not too often that you see teams face off in back-to-back conference championship games. Joe Burrow may not be able to participate in this year’s edition, but there will be absolutely no love lost as the Bengals try and pick up another huge win at Arrowhead – or, if you ask them, “Burrowhead.” Even though it’s not all that likely that these teams meet in the AFC Championship Game once again this season, this game still means plenty for each side’s postseason hopes, and the intensity will be extremely high.
The Chiefs are out of the race for the AFC’s top seed. For just the second time, Patrick Mahomes will play on Wild-Card Weekend, and while it’s no guarantee, there’s a very good chance that he’ll play his first road postseason game. Now, the task is to clinch the AFC West and secure home field advantage for at least one game. The Chiefs just need to win one of their last two games, or hope for a Raiders loss, but after a shocking Christmas Day upset, Vegas can win the division if they win their last two games and the Chiefs lose both of theirs.
The Bengals are one of four AFC teams with an 8-7 record, leaving them in a tie for the seventh seed. Unfortunately, they’re dead last in that group as per the tiebreaking ladder, so they’ll need some help to make the postseason. In addition to outside results, they also definitely need to keep winning. After a hot start to the Jake Browning mini-era, Cincy has come back to Earth a bit with a tough loss to the Steelers. But a couple of wins to end the season would make that rivalry loss an afterthought.
This line was sitting at -7.5 for the Chiefs just after the Christmas games wrapped up, but now you can get a flat -7, making it a much better value. If the Chiefs have been sleepwalking, they’re officially awake. Their defense should be able to stifle Browning just as they did to Aidan O’Connell even in the loss, and the offense, as diminished as it may be, can move the ball against a declining Bengals defense after struggling hard with an underrated Raiders unit.
It’s fun to think about the hypotheticals of what could happen if Kansas City truly bottoms out, but it’s not going to happen. They’ll clinch the West once again with a win this week, and position themselves for yet another playoff run, but this time, as an underdog.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs Prediction: Chiefs -7
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs Best Odds
The Chiefs are favored by just over a touchdown at home with a spread of -7.5 and a moneyline of -330. The Bengals are +265 to pull off the upset, while the total is set at 44.5 and there are odds of -110 set for both sides of that number.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs Key Injuries
Top Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco has entered concussion protocol and right guard Trey Smith is dealing with a calf injury, while the top injury concern for Cincinnati is superstar wideout Ja’Marr Chase.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs Key Matchups
The Bengals will be looking to run the football effectively against a very rough Chiefs ground defense, while the Chiefs will look to throw at a vulnerable Bengals secondary to re-establish the air game in a big home opportunity.
Kansas City Chiefs Air Offense vs. Cincinnati Bengals Pass Defense
The centerpiece of the Chiefs’ air game is superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes. That’s always been true throughout his tenure, but now, with Tyreek Hill gone, Travis Kelce on the decline, and a lack of peripheral weapons, Mahomes is even more of a sole driving force behind his offense’s success. The breakout of Rashee Rice has been a positive development for KC, but there’s little else to be optimistic about as Kelce, still the team’s top receiver, has slipped from utterly dominant to above average.
The good news for the Chiefs is that they can spend this week attacking a terrible Bengals air defense, which has sorely missed safeties Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell as both departed over the offseason. Cincy just let Mason Rudolph light them up, as they descend toward the bottom of the league in EPA, DVOA, and success rate against the pass. A solid season from veteran cornerback Mike Hilton and the continued excellence of edge rusher Trey Hendrickson stand as the only positives for this troubled unit.
Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense vs. Kansas City Chiefs Run Defense
The Bengals ground offense has been just about average this year by most metrics, as Joe Mixon has been mediocre but still has a chance to reach 1,000 yards on the season with a strong finish. Chase Brown seemed to be breaking out, but he’s faded out in recent weeks. The O-line has done little to help, ranking 23rd in PFF’s run blocking grade and just below average by most yardage created metrics.
Luckily, Mixon will be running at a shockingly bad Chiefs run defense. Kansas City is pushing the bottom five by DVOA against the run, as they’re allowing 4.6 yards per carry to opposing rushers. Key linebacker Nick Bolton has been in and out of the lineup, while star lineman Chris Jones has simply not graded well against the run, failing to be a much-needed anchor for a floundering unit.