The Bengals have beaten the Kansas City Chiefs by 3 points three straight times. They’ve won 10 straight games, including five on the road. They’re the defending AFC champions, playing against a quarterback who sprained his ankle last week.
And yet, here they are as slight underdogs against K.C. in the AFC Championship Game to be played at Arrowhead Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
A Bengals backer could get 1.5 points Friday morning at some of the major online sportsbooks now offering legal betting in Ohio, including FanDuel, BetMGM, and PointsBet, while others were giving Cincinnati just 1 point.
Some of the sportsbooks were also offering a plus return on Cincy’s moneyline, including FanDuel at +106 and BetRivers at +105. The points total was 48 at many books, but an “over” bettor could use Caesars Sportsbook to get 47 or PointsBet to get 47.5.
Point spread fluctuated
The game has had an unusually volatile point spread during the week, with Kansas City starting out as a small favorite, which quickly changed to favor Cincinnati by a point or two. In addition to the Bengals looking so strong in their 27-10 win at Buffalo Sunday, there was considerable uncertainty about Patrick Mahomes’ status due to his ankle injury sustained in the Chiefs’ 27-20 win over Jacksonville Saturday.
By Wednesday, though, the league’s MVP favorite was practicing without evident difficulties, and the line switched back in Kansas City’s favor. That was grand news for bettors who like Cincinnati, considering the roll they’ve been on and recent track record against the opponent.
“Obviously, I feel like I can still do a lot of things.” https://t.co/nolONoldPZ
— L.A. Times Sports (@latimessports) January 27, 2023
On Dec. 4, the Bengals beat the Chiefs 27-24, the identical score by which Cincinnati won an overtime thriller in last year’s AFC Championship Game after battling back from an 18-point deficit. And near the end of the 2021 regular season, Cincinnati won another matchup between the teams, 34-31.
In other words, Joe Burrow has never lost to Mahomes and the Chiefs. That may or may not have a lot of bearing on who wins Sunday night to advance to the Feb. 12 Super Bowl — “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” as the stock traders are fond of saying — but it certainly shows how capable these Bengals are.
Worth a Super Bowl bet at +280?
Neither of these two teams is currently the favorite to win the Super Bowl. That is the Philadelphia Eagles, who are favored by 2.5 points to beat the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s first game. The Eagles have odds ranging from +230 to +245 to put their hands on the Lombardi Trophy.
Anyone believing Cincinnati will claim its first Super Bowl — it is one of 12 franchises never to do so — might want to head to PointsBet for its +280 price on the Bengals, a tad higher reward than what others offer.
And all Cincinnati needs to do to enrich that bettor is play two more games as completely as it did against Buffalo. The offense had 30 first downs, including conversions on six of 10 third downs, while keeping the ball for almost 34 minutes. The defense, meanwhile, limited the Bills to 64 rushing yards.
Burrow completed 23 of 36 passes for 242 yards, with touchdown throws to Ja’Marr Chase and Hayden Hurst. Further, Joe Mixon had his best game in more than two months, running 20 times for 105 yards and a score.
Perhaps most vitally, no negative impact was evident from the Bengals missing three starters from the offensive line against Buffalo, and one or more of the trio could be back on the field Sunday.
Let's talk about the O-line's performance last week 👏
Bengals | Lap's Look pic.twitter.com/52tjNhL0Pn
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 27, 2023
Against the Jaguars, Mahomes left the game briefly with his high ankle sprain, with backup Chad Henne leading Kansas City on a touchdown drive in his absence.
Mahomes finished the game 22 of 30 for 195 yards and two TDs, both of those caught by Travis Kelce among his 14 receptions. Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco ran 12 times for 95 yards.
Look for props, boosts, and bonuses
The sportsbooks have already posted wide-ranging prop bets for the game, including on individual player performance. Bettors should also be on the lookout before Sunday’s kickoff for special bet boosts and bonus offers that many of the operators will provide, considering the prominence of the game and involvement of an Ohio team.
Much of the focus, naturally, is on the individual or comparative performance of Burrow and Mahomes, with the latter viewed as more likely to amass more throwing yards despite any potential limitation on his mobility.
Barstool Sportsbook places Burrow’s passing yards o/u at 276.5 (-114 either way), while it has Mahomes at o/u 281.5 (-115 to bet over, -113 to bet under).
When it comes to passing TDs, however, FanDuel flips the two star quarterbacks. It makes Mahomes -172 to throw for more than 1.5 TDs, while Burrow is a bigger favorite at -192 to do the same.
For those looking ahead to the Super Bowl, wagers can also be placed on the game’s MVP, with the two quarterbacks joining the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts as the heavy favorites, with the three closely bunched.
For anyone who wants to back Burrow with that wager now, the best price would be +350, which DraftKings, BetMGM, and PointsBet are among those offering.
Photo: Albert Cesare/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK