AFC Championship Bengals vs. Chiefs Injury Preview
The last time these two teams squared off at Arrowhead Stadium, almost a year ago to the day, Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals won on an overtime field goal by Evan McPherson. This time around, Cincinnati is down three starting offensive linemen, while Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes will play through a right high ankle sprain he suffered in the Divisional Round.
Cincinnati Bengals - SIC score 83.8
The same injury issues persist on the offensive line with replacements at left tackle, right guard and right tackle. Jackson Carman, Max Scharping and Hakeem Adeniji fared well on the snow in Buffalo, but now face star defensive lineman Chris Jones on even footing.
Earlier this week, our staff detailed why the lack of snow could expose the replacements on Cincinnati's offensive line.
Another injury issue popped up in practice this week with tight end Hayden Hurst. The former Baltimore Raven was listed as a limited participant on Thursday with a calf issue, but practiced in full on Friday and has no injury designation heading into the game.
Hurst missed three games late in the season with a calf issue, although it’s unclear if this recent calf issue is related. Either way, he may not be available much in the passing game if the Bengals choose to help him stay in a chip against the Chiefs’ edge rushers.
The defense is healthy except for Chidobe Awuzie, who was lost to a torn ACL on Halloween.
With Awuzie out, Eli Apple has stepped up to be the No. 1 cornerback.
Kansas City Chiefs - SIC score 91.7
All eyes have been on Patrick Mahomes this week in practice and he has looked reasonably healthy on his injured right ankle.
With the injury, it remains to be seen if he can be as elusive as usual in the pocket and he may have limited ability to drive the ball down the field on deep throws, according to the Pro Football Docs.
That being said, Mahomes should be used to making off-axis throws and can get by on arm talent alone to make all the underneath throws. The Bengals will need to get pressure on the MVP-frontrunner with defensive ends Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard to disrupt the passing game.
Star tight end Travis Kelce is a surprise questionable for the game after popping up with a back issue during Friday’s practice. He will undoubtedly play and should not be limited unless the back issue emerges again mid-game.
Kansas City may also get Mecole Hardman back for the first time since Week 9. Hardman has missed the past 10 games with a likely core muscle issue and will likely be used sparingly if he suits up.
Kadarius Toney has helped fill the gap in his absence and should continue his gadget role even if Hardman is active.
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