Bengals at Chiefs: 5 players to watch in today’s AFC Championship game

Credit: Charlie Riedel

Credit: Charlie Riedel


Drafted: First round (No. 5 overall), 2021

Career stats vs. Chiefs: 24 catches for 417 yards and 4 TDs on 29 targets in three games

2022 stats: 1,046 yards, 9 TDs, 87 catches over 12 regular-season games

Last week: 5 catches for 61 yards, 1 TD in a 27-10 win at Buffalo

Why he’s important: Chase’s versatility in the offense makes him a weapon wherever he lines up.

Quoting QB Joe Burrow on Chase’s development: “He just has more experience in the offense. And, you know, maybe where, I’m sure he could have done a lot of that stuff last year, maybe we didn’t ask him to. But you know, this year, we’re putting him in the backfield, putting him in the slot, we’re putting him out wide, just because you know, makes it harder to double him and cloud him and just take them out of the game. And so you got to find ways to get that guy the ball because he’s so dynamic with it.”


Drafted: Third round (77th overall), 2018

Career stats vs. Chiefs: 3.0 sacks, 17 tackles, 3 QB hits, 1 forced fumble in four games

2022 stats: 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 34 solo tackles, 22 QB hits

Last week: 1 solo tackle, 1 QB hit

Why he’s important: Hubbard had a quiet game last week after being the hero in the wild card win over Baltimore with his 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown. He played a key part in Cincinnati’s AFC Championship win last year when he had a pair of back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter to limit KC to a game-tying field goal instead of the go-ahead touchdown at the end of regulation. The Bengals dropped back in coverage and had Hubbard spying Mahomes, and it paid dividends.

Quoting Hubbard: “We were down at the half (in this game last year), but weren’t out by any means so whether we are up or down, we’ve got to keep going. We’ve gotten into all situations and that just helps you feel more comfortable the fourth time around.”


Drafted: Third round (72nd overall), 2019

Career stats vs. Chiefs: 12 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery in two games

2022 stats: 99 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 2 INTs

Last week: 5 tackles, 2 passes defended

Why he’s important: Pratt had a key turnover in the last meeting with Kansas City when he forced a fumble and recovered to set up the game-winning touchdown drive for Cincinnati. He also had eight tackles in the AFC Championship last year, and he’s quietly had an outstanding season and could be ready to make more noise.

Quoting Pratt: “We know what it takes to get there (to a Super Bowl). We’ve just got to focus on this week. We can’t overlook them because they are a good team.”


Drafted: Third round (63rd overall), 2013

Career stats vs. Bengals: 29 catches, 320 yards, 2 TDs in five games

2022 stats: 1,338 yards, 12 touchdowns, 110 catches

Last week: 14 catches, 98 yards, 2 TDs on 17 targets in a 27-20 win over Jacksonville

Why he’s important: Kelce is Patrick Mahomes’ favorite target and one of the toughest tight ends in the league. The Bengals did well stopping him in their regular-season matchups the past two years, but he caught 10 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown on 11 targets in the AFC Championship last season and will be the top threat to watch outside of Mahomes.

Quoting Bengals DC Lou Anarumo on Kelce: “Kelce caught a lot of balls last week, but a lot of them are check downs and now all of a sudden, he catches and turns it up for six, seven, eight, nine, 10. If you are playing any kind of zone, it looks like how come you are not paying attention to Travis Kelce? Well, you are, but he just happens to be a block and release guy and he caught the ball on a shot play down the field. We have to be careful with that and when and where we play man and all that stuff.”


Drafted: Second round (37th overall), 2013

Career stats vs. Bengals: 3.0 sacks, 15 tackles, 4 QB hits in four games

2022 stats: 15.5 sacks, 29 QB hits, 44 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, four passes defended

Last week: 1 tackle, 1 QB hit in a 27-20 win over Jacksonville

Why he’s important: Jones is the heart of the Chiefs’ defense and a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year for good reason. The Bengals have handled him well the last two games but he has the ability to wreck a gameplan.

Quoting Bengals coach Zac Taylor on Jones: “He’s a great player. He always gives teams a real headache to go against, run and pass. You can tell how smart of a player he is. I’ve never met him, but you can just tell his style of play. He’s a very intelligent player. And so again, he’s a real challenge to go against.”

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