Editor’s note: As we head into Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals, we welcome Patrick Judis of Cincy Jungle — our sister SBNation site covering the Cincinnati Bengals — for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1. What’s it like covering this team at the moment? After years of heartache, the whole of Cincy must be pinching themselves right now.
This was definitely not expected by anyone in Cincinnati. Even when I would discuss expectations, I thought if EVERYTHING went right they could sneak into the Wild Card and maybe get that elusive playoff win.
The other thing many outside of the Bengals Fandom may not realize is that this fanbase has had to defend some outright dumb narratives since the end of the Marvin Lewis era.
It started with many joking that head coach Zac Taylor was merely hired because he knew Sean McVay. Then there were those who suggested Joe Burrow would or should pull an Eli Manning and try and go to the Dolphins. How is Miami doing right now by the way?
Of course, there was also the criticism of the Ja’Marr Chase selection over offensive tackle Penei Sewell. I can get people disagreeing with it at the time, but we saw many analyst — people who get PAID for their football opinions — call it one of the worst picks ever and that the Bengals should be disbanded.
To see this team achieve what they have already is more than just a great story. It is honestly liberating and validating for fans who saw the vision of this team. That vision was to compete with teams like the Chiefs.
2. Where do you rank Joe Burrow amongst the top AFC quarterbacks? What does he need to be improved on?
That is really tough. It is funny looking back when many in Cincinnati said before the season that Burrow was the best quarterback in the division. Now, that pretty much goes without saying.
The meme going around right now is if you don’t have Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert you are going to not have a good time for awhile. The top two seem to clearly be Mahomes and Allen with Burrow and Herbert right outside. Those 4 are the best in my mind. I think Lamar Jackson is right outside of them. Then there is everyone else.
Burrow has improved on not trying to make too many plays when they aren’t there. We can see that with only one interception over seven games. That one interception was tipped up off the hands of a running back as well.
Most people will point to him holding onto the ball and taking sacks trying to make plays, but you have to live and die by that with him. Some of his biggest plays come when the defense brings that extra defender, and he is able to make them miss.
The only thing I’d like to see improved there is knowing the situation sometimes. Against the Titans he took a very long sack while on the verge of field goal range that cost them points. Other than that, the dude has been amazing.
3. Although the Bengals ran out of worthy winners, a lot had to break right for the Bengals to beat KC in week 17. How can the Benglas improve on that performance in order to win in KC?
I think they need to keep up pressuring this Chiefs defense with the vertical ball. Last time out it was clear that Chase and Tee Higgins were clear mismatches on the boundaries against the Chiefs’ corners. That appears to be where they need to attack.
4. How do you think the Bengals will try and stop the Chiefs offense?
They held Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in check as well as they did. But that has to continue. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and Tre Flowers did well in their matchups, but that was at home in the regular season.
Other than that, it seemed the Bengals weren’t afraid to send pressure at crucial times to rush Mahomes. Plus Trey Hendrickson routinely put pressure on the quarterback as well.
If that is repeatable remains to be seen, but the safest way to beat the Chiefs is to outscore them.
5. How does this one play out? Who’s going to the Super Bowl?
At this point, I can’t bet against Burrow. I’d probably feel way differently if Cincinnati didn’t already beat Kansas City.
I definitely see way more fireworks on the horizon with this one. Burrow is the kind of guy that once he figures you out, everything seems to slow down. I also don’t think the Chiefs will be able to get the same sort of pressure the Titans got past week. They’ll still get sacks and pressures, but not enough to turn the tide enough.
I think these young Bengals haven’t gotten the memo that they shouldn’t be prepared for this moment. I think we see a shootout that ends with Burrow holding onto the ball last.
Bengals 45 Chiefs 41
Be sure to check out the answers I gave to their questions by clicking here.