The Green Bay Packers — who own a league-best 13-3 record — currently have the best odds (+350) to be crowned champions next month. Aaron Rodgers is also the odds-on favorite to win the NFL MVP award for the second year in a row.
The second-best odds to win the Super Bowl belong to the Kansas City Chiefs at +500. Kansas City has represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in the past two seasons and they are expected to make it three straight years with Patrick Mahomes at the helm.
Chase and Burrow were the undisputed stars of the game, and their legends have grown immensely just within the last 24 hours. Their reunion has completely altered the identity of this team, this franchise that has operated in ways that reflected what many fans have described their play-calling as: conservative. It’s only fitting that their final connection of the game would leave such an impact from a monumental day.
“We knew we were gonna have to score a touchdown,” Burrow said. “You guys know the guy on the other sideline [Mahomes]. We were gonna have to punch that ball in. We got a little lucky with the calls at the end, but we’ve been unlucky for two years, we’ll take a little luck on our side.”
The 30-yard play would eventually lead to the offense kicking a game-winning chip shot at the buzzer. They managed to use all of Andy Reid’s timeouts and keep Mahomes off the field for six whole minutes. And they wouldn’t have done so without turning that series of mistakes into the longest third down conversion in the last 12 years of Bengals football.
Receiver Tyreek Hill had six receptions for 40 yards in the Chiefs’ 34-31 loss to the Bengals. The second of those catches — a 17-yard reception in the first quarter — was the 106th of the season for Hill. That set a Chiefs single-season record, breaking tight end Travis Kelce’s mark of 105 receptions, which was set last season.
Hill now has 110 receptions this season, which is far more than any wide receiver in Chiefs history. Jeremy Maclin is second with 87. Hill also had 87 receptions in 2018 and 2020.
While Kelce gave up a record, he picked up another. In the first half, Kelce caught five passes, giving him 700 for his career.
Kelce is only the seventh tight end in NFL history to reach 700 receptions. And he did it in 126 games, which was faster than any tight end in league history, as the Chiefs noted.
Kansas City Chiefs
I know. It’s an odd suggestion, but hear me out: A loss combined with wins by the Bengals and Bills would drop the Chiefs down to the fourth seed. And while that might increase the team’s degree of difficulty in the wild-card round, it would help Kansas City avoid a divisional-round game against Cincinnati or Buffalo and set the Chiefs up with a matchup against the overachieving Titans, who came into the week ranked 20th in DVOA. The downside to this, of course, is that the Chiefs would have to go on the road in the AFC title game, but that might be preferable than having to beat the Bengals and Bills in consecutive weeks—if they can get past a potential matchup with Justin Herbert’s Chargers in the first round, that is.
What to root for in Week 18: A win over the Broncos and a Texans win over the Titans.
What to actually root for in Week 18: A loss to the Broncos; a Bills win over the Jets; and a Bengals win over the Browns.
The Titans are now the clear AFC favorites
The verdict: OVERREACTION. Due respect to what Vrabel & Co. are doing, I just don’t think there is a clear favorite in the AFC. The Chiefs just won eight in a row before losing a wild one by three points on the road to a red-hot team. Can’t downgrade them too much off that one. Buffalo has its issues but seems to be overcoming them, and it has the league’s most weatherproof quarterback for January. The Patriots are obviously going to be tough to play. The Colts too, if they get in. I guess the Raiders aren’t an easy out. You get the picture.
The #Cardinals are signing veteran CB Bashaud Breeland to the practice squad, per source.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 3, 2022
Breeland originally was supposed to sign a week ago, but tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival. Now cleared and Arizona gets some experienced depth.
Trent McDuffie DB
Even though McDuffie plays cornerback, we get Tyrann Mathieu vibes when we watch him. We love him as a slot corner who serves as an enforcer in run support and locks down short and intermediate routes, something he did regularly for the Huskies in ‘21.
Around the NFL
Awash in memories, Ben Roethlisberger was able to walk away from Heinz Field a winner, kneel out a victory and take a victory lap following his Pittsburgh Steelers’ 26-14 triumph over the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football.
“Um, you know what, it’s funny because, probably not the way you wanted it, other than the win,” Roethlisberger, holding back tears, told ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the game when asked how his final game at Heinz Field went. “And that’s all that really matters. That’s kind of been the story of my career. It’s not always pretty, but we find a way. Man, did our defense step up tonight and the guys, it was just so much fun to be out here. These are the best fans in sports and this is the best place to play.”
According to the league’s official website, Brown felt he was too injured to play so he refused to go in the game when Arians asked him to. Going into Week 17, Brown had been dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of practice on both Thursday and Friday. The same ankle injury had also caused him to miss multiple games this year.
By the time the third quarter rolled around, Brown apparently felt that he couldn’t help the team and that it wouldn’t do any good to put him in the game. Brown’s decision clearly didn’t sit well with Arians, who told him to “Get out” after the receiver twice refused to enter the game.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
2. The AFC’s margin for error is shrinking
After the Chiefs narrowly squeaked out an overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 15, I wrote that the margin for error in the AFC West was shrinking. After Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, it looks like the margin for error in the entire AFC is shrinking.
Many fans thought the media was overhyping Cincinnati’s skill players after they exploded for 575 yards of offense against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16. But the Bengals continued their dominant play against the Chiefs on Sunday. Quarterback Joe Burrow was 30-39 for 446 yards and four touchdowns. He has 971 yards and eight touchdowns in the last two weeks. Ja’Marr Chase caught 11 of his 12 targets for 266 yards and three touchdowns — a new single-game record for rookie receiving yards. A few times, blown coverages by the Chiefs gifted Burrow and Chase chunk yards. However, over the course of the game, the dynamic duo earned every bit of their hype — repeatedly connecting on contested receptions for game-tilting plays.
When you add Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and C.J. Uzomah to the mix, the Bengals have a young core of skill players who have the talent to go blow-for-blow with the Chiefs. While I’d still take Kansas City’s proven playmakers over anyone in the conference, it’s clear that the AFC is in an arms race. To stay on top, the Chiefs will need to stay sharp from the front office on down. A growing list of contenders is champing at the bit to take their place.