Chiefs vs. Bengals - Playoff Wildcard Round
If I were looking at this playoff scenario just two weeks ago, I would have said that the Cincinnati Bengals have absolutely no hope in winning a playoff game to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Quarterback Andy Dalton had done his two steps forward, one and a half steps back thing that he's been doing for the last three seasons, he had barely managed a touchdown without throwing two more interceptions and then there’s the running game which had been stagnant since the beginning of October. The Chiefs, on the other side of this game had only allowed 111 points total over the first nine games and it didn’t seem like it was going to let up anytime soon.
That was two weeks ago.
Now, the Chiefs look like a beatable team by any stretch of the imagination (well, maybe not the Jacksonville Jaguars' imagination.) Losing their last two games and giving up 68 total points in the process, including 48 points to an up and down San Diego Chargers team, it’s clear the Chiefs have become porous. The Chiefs also managed to put up 35 sacks over the first seven games of the season but have only succeeded in adding two to that in the last four games. A lot can be said for the fact that they lost Tamba Hali and Justin Houston early on in the game against the Chargers, but at the same time, that's just one game they have been almost sackless for three others.
On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs offense have been making a good run of it, Alex Smith completing 26 of 38 for 294 yards and three touchdowns in their loss to the Chargers, throwing only his first interception in four games. Running back Jamaal Charles has totaled 1343 total yards and ten touchdowns. The biggest downside for the Chiefs offense however is that Alex Smith is only averaging 222 yards per game passing, the second lowest of any quarterback who has started in every game this season (Geno Smith is the only one lower.)
At the same time however, the Bengals offense have had a few bad weeks. First, losing in overtime to the Miami Dolphins and then losing in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens.
These games had something else in common, they were both away. If the Bengals can hang in there and keep their lead of the AFC, then they'll be hosting at home, somewhere that they are unbeaten so far this season and a streak that looks as if it will continue until the end of the regular season, at least. They might actually be able to make a game of it.
Dalton, who was AFC Offensive Player Of The Month for the month of October has thrown eight interceptions and only five touchdowns in the month of November and if there were an award for worst player of the month, he would definitely be nominated for it as he's managed only 5.1 yards per pass and a 51.9% completion rate, shocking statistics for any supposed play off bound quarterback. Despite this, the offense are averaging 364.5 total yards per game (10th overall) but I would imagine it would have been a lot higher before their week 11 win over the Cleveland Browns when Dalton mustered just 93 measly yards.
The defense, on the other hand has been playing out of their socks in the month of November. Largely the reason for any sort of fight coming from the Bengals throughout the last three weeks has all come from the Bengals, who forced four turnovers in their last game alone.
The defense in fact, have been putting it up to every team, allowing just 313.1 yards of total offense per game all season (7th overall) and 18.6 points per game (6th overall,) Stats like that will probably worry a low yardage passing quarterback like Alex Smith, particularly when they are only allowing just 189.7 yards passing per game while managing five interceptions, 12 sacks and four forced fumbles over the past three weeks. They say that defenses can't win Super Bowls, but these guys are certainly going to make a stab at it.
Verdict: It's still early yet, and we'll have to see how the two teams fare over the final stretch of the season, but as it stands, I'll have to give this one to the Chiefs. I don't see their offense putting up big numbers, but I think their defense will do what the Bengals defense has been doing all season, and hand the offense the win. I would expect it will be a tight game though.
Simon Greene - Cincinnati Bengals Team Journalist for The Spot.
Be sure to follow Simon on Twitter @simongreene88