NFL AFC Championship Picks: The Patrick Mahomes Injury Opens Door for the Cincinnati Bengals

NFL AFC Championship Picks: The Patrick Mahomes Injury Opens Door for the Cincinnati Bengals

The NFL AFC Championship features an incredible matchup on paper. Who doesn't want to see the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Cincinnati Bengals, two teams helmed by superstar quarterbacks, in Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow, respectively?

What's more, the storylines are drool-inducing. The Bengals are fresh off a Super Bowl appearance last season. The Chiefs, meanwhile, won the Super Bowl in 2021. Both teams have played and won at this level before. That should make for an astoundingly compelling chess matchup.

And yet, an ankle injury to Patrick Mahomes threatens to undermine the entire showdown. He was able to finish out the Chiefs' playoff victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, but he was visibly limping off the field when the final whistle blew. Though everyone expects him to play against the Bengals, the NFL AFC Championship betting odds are noticeably impacted by his status.

Take a look for yourself. Here are the latest NFL online betting odds for the AFC Championship tilt between Cincinnati and Kansas City, courtesy of BetOnline:

Cincinnati Bengals-116-102Kansas City Chiefs

Please remember to double-check these online NFL betting odds until you actually make your NFL AFC Championship predictions. Our odds for Chiefs vs. Bengals are accurate entering Tuesday, January 24. That gives bookmakers plenty of time to make line adjustments before opening kick-off on Sunday, January 22, at 6:30 p.m. EST.

Of course, remaining up to date with the latest online betting odds for NFL conference championships will be a breeze if you're taking your business to the right sportsbook. And that means it's a great time of year to go through our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. We have pored over every detail of the user experience so you can find the best online betting sites for the NFL playoffs.

Without further ado, let's get to our NFL AFC Championship picks!

Should the Cincinnati Bengals Be Favored to Beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL AFC Championship?

It wasn't long ago the Bengals had fans and analysts worried that they wouldn't deliver an adequate follow up to winning the AFC and making the Super Bowl last year. They have truly been on a tear through the second half of the season, a scorching-hot stretch that has continued through two playoff matchups. Joe Burrow looks like a superstar under center, and the defense has made it virtually impossible for opponents to move the chains on the ground.

Kansas City should pose a uniquely challenging matchup because of how adept they are at moving the ball through the air. Cincinnati's secondary is much improved, but they've been susceptible to bigger-yardage plays; they rank 18th in net yards allowed per passing attempt. That's not ideal when you're going up against Patrick Mahomes, an MVP and Super Bowl champion.

And yet, nobody expects Patrick Mahomes to be Patrick Mahomes. He suffered what looked like a gruesome ankle injury early in the Chiefs' win over the Jaguars. When he returned, you could tell he wasn't anywhere near 100 percent. He moved with a visible limp and didn't have much mobility inside the pocket, let alone on the run.

That opens the door for Cincinnati, which has done an excellent job of pressuring mobile quarterbacks for much of this season. The Chiefs' offensive line is worlds better than it was last year, and Mahomes is a whiz at getting rid of the ball quickly. But there's only so much you can do against a Bengals front seven blitz.

Oddsmakers appear to be thinking along the same lines. They aren't confident enough in the Bengals to leave the Chiefs as better-than-even-money underdogs, but the fact they have the Bengals favored at all speaks to the concern level surrounding Mahomes' ankle. It is also, of course, a nod to how complete of a team Cincinnati has become. They'd have a chance to win this one even if Mahomes was fully healthy.

OSB Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals (-116)

Cincinnati Bengals To beat the Kansas City Chiefs

What's the Better Value NFC Championship Bet: Bengals or Chiefs Point Spread?

Below you can see the latest NFL point spread betting odds for the AFC Championship game between the Chiefs and Bengals:

  • Cincinnati Bengals, -1.5 (-126)
  • Kansas City Chiefs, +1.5 (+108)

The Bengals moneyline is a better bet, since it pays out -116 compared to -126. But if you're a Chiefs believer, you'll want to take the 1.5 points and the better-than-even-money payout. It is rare that an underdog spread pays out better than their moneyline, but these numbers are a reflection of the early-market action.

Risk-takers are free to monitor the injury report and see whether we get any more concrete updates on Mahomes' ankle. But that won't materially change how to view this matchup.¬†The Bengals aren't just favorites because Mahomes is injured. They are favorites because they've won 10 straight games‚ÄĒall by an average of nearly 10 points per contest.

OSB Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals, -1.5 (-126)

Philadelphia Eagles To cover the point spread against the San Francisco 49ers

Will the Patrick Mahomes Injury Deflate the Final Score of Chiefs vs. Bengals?

Here are the latest NFL over/under betting odds for the AFC Championship game between the Bengals and Chiefs:

  • Over 47.5 (-106)
  • Under 47.5 (-114)

You can very much tell oddsmakers are accounting for Mahomes' injury in this over/under line. With the Bengals averaging 28.3 points per game during their winning streak, this is a matchup that would otherwise have a 50-plus-point threshold.

We ultimately think this over/under skews too far towards the lower end of the spectrum. The Chiefs still hung 27 points on the Jaguars despite the Mahomes injury, and he should be able to make quick-fire throws out of the pocket that move the chains. Kansas City also doesn't have the rushing attack to use the ground game as a crutch‚ÄĒand, frankly, would be foolish to attempt doing so against Cincy's defense.¬†

The "over" is calling to us pretty loudly.

OSB Prediction: Over 47.5 (-106)

Bengals and Chiefs To score over 47.5 points combined

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use for all of your NFL betting:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan is a sports betting writer who can tackle any topic from presidential elections to changes in the sports betting legislation federally and on the state level. He also writes picks for NFL.