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Joe Mixon, Joe Burrow say Bengals are the AFC’s team to beat

The defending AFC Champions must play in the Wild Card round — but do not lack confidence.

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs — by virtue of winning the AFC’s No. 1 seed — will not play in this weekend’s Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.

Their attention can turn to the AFC’s bottom four seeds. One of those teams will visit Kansas City for a Divisional Round a week from now. But one could also forgive the Chiefs — and their fans — if they pay a little attention to how the No. 2 Buffalo Bills and No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals look this weekend.

Both teams defeated Kansas City in the regular season. Should the Chiefs win and advance, it’s possible the Chiefs could host the Bengals — or play a neutral-site game against the Bills in Atlanta.

But based on rhetoric coming out of the Queen City, the Bengals fully expect to return to the championship game — where they defeated the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime last season to advance to Super Bowl LVI.

After quarterback Joe Burrow declared that the Bengals’ championship window would be open his entire career, running back Joe Mixon doubled down on previous comments that the Bengals are the conference’s top team.

The sixth-year pro did not play when the Bengals again topped the Chiefs 27-24 in Week 13. He also wasn’t exactly needed. Backup running back Samaje Perine had arguably his best day as a pro, totaling 155 scrimmage yards on 27 touches.

Speaking on Thursday, Mixon said that it would all depend on Cincinnati playing a clean game.

“At the end of the day — if we’re not turning the ball over and taking care of the little things — we can’t be beat.”

Similar hyperbole has been put on the Chiefs throughout the season. Kansas City finally turned in a turnover-free performance in Week 18’s 31-13 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. The result was arguably the season’s most dominant win — coming from a team that finally appeared to be flashing the “championship swagger” that propelled it to a Super Bowl title three seasons ago.

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