NFL betting: Chiefs vs. Bengals under is a tough sell

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Conference championship Sunday is almost here. Four teams remain in the quest for the Super Bowl. The Kansas City Chiefs are the biggest favorite of the weekend, and as a result, they're currently the favorite to win the Super Bowl. Kansas City is a 7.5-point favorite over the Cincinnati Bengals, but it's the total that's worth a closer look.

High total, but is it high enough?

The total for Sunday's Chiefs-Bengals affair is currently set at 54.5 points. This is one of the largest totals of the season, but that's not stopping bettors from betting the over.

As of Friday morning, 74% of the betting handle at BetMGM is backing this game to go over the total.

After an insane 42-36 win over the Buffalo Bills, it surely feels like Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense can't be stopped. They've scored 84 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs, hanging 42 points on both the Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JANUARY 15: Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts after a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second quarter of the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Can Joe Burrow score enough against the Chiefs to push this game over the total? (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The Bengals offense hasn't been as dominant, but they've played in two tighter and more defensive games. Joe Burrow is still completing over 73% of his passes in the playoffs while averaging nearly 300 yards per game.

Mahomes puts up points at home in the playoffs

Patrick Mahomes is in his 4th season as starting quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs. He's appeared in the AFC championship game in all four seasons. Over those four seasons, he's played eight home games. Here are Kansas City's point totals over their past eight home playoff games with Mahomes at the helm:

  • 42

  • 42

  • 22

  • 38

  • 35

  • 51

  • 31

  • 31

In the eight home playoff games that Mahomes has played, the over is 6-2. One of the games that went under was the Browns-Chiefs game from last year where Mahomes left with an injury. The other game was Mahomes' first career playoff start, and he did his part by scoring 31 points.

The Chiefs have scored at least 31 points in seven of the eight home playoff games that Mahomes has started. The Chiefs are averaging 36.5 points per game in this situation.

We have to expect that Mahomes will be able to do his part especially when you consider his opponent this time. The Bengals rank 24th in pass defensive DVOA. Mahomes has already hung 42 points on Buffalo (ranked 1st in pass defense DVOA) and Pittsburgh (ranked 8th).

Burrow will have to do his part

Basically, there's only two ways this over doesn't hit in my opinion:

  1. The Bengals have success running the ball, keep Mahomes off the field and can play with a lead and continue to run the ball efficiently and use clock.

  2. The moment is too big for Burrow and he lays an egg in a 38-10 type of game.

Option 1 doesn't seem overly realistic to me. The Bengals ranked 20th in rush offensive DVOA so their ground attack isn't a juggernaut like you'd see from a team like the 49ers or Browns. It's highly unlikely they would be efficient enough to bleed this game down to a rock fight. The Chiefs are a 7-point favorite, so the more likely scenario is that the Bengals are playing from behind and will rely on the arm of Joe Burrow.

Based on Burrow's performance in these playoffs and in college, I'm not overly worried about him being overwhelmed either. This man is confident, borderline arrogant. He's got almost no pressure on him as an underdog here and he's performed well in every big game during his career.

The last three good quarterbacks the Chiefs have played are Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Burrow. Those quarterbacks have posted point totals of 36, 28 and 34. The Chiefs defense is better than they were at the start of the regular season, but I'm not convinced they're very good either.

If we project the Chiefs to score in the mid-to-high 30s, which is fair based on what we've seen in Mahomes' playoff career, then we only need the Bengals to chip in 20 or so points. I think they'll get there for us and push this game over the total.

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