By Conrad Clowers
Herald Sports Writer
The Cincinnati Bengals woke many up NFL fans around the country this past weekend. I don’t mean the kind of wake up you have when you decide to get up for the day. I mean the kind of wakeup when you are in a deep sleep and someone blares a loud horn in your ear. Cincinnati proved to everyone last season was no fluke. For the second straight season the team has advanced to the AFC championship. For the second straight year they will face the Kansas City Chiefs. For the second straight year the game will be played in Kansas City.
This has been an odd NFL season to say the least. With Buffalo and Cinti unable to finish a regular season game, two of the top AFC teams finished with an uneven number of games played. As a result, on the fly scenarios were made by the NFL for playoff sites. More than 50,000 tickets sold in advance for a Buffalo/Kansas City AFC championship. This enraged the Bengals and their fans.
“I feel disrespected,” said Bengal running back Joe Mixon. Mixon took his rage out on the Buffalo Bills running for over 100 yards. Cincinnati jumped on Buffalo for a 14-0 lead and never looked back. Final score Bengals, 27, Buffalo, 10. All of a sudden more than 50,000 people who thought they’d witness a Buffalo/Kansas City playoff in Atlanta now have their money due back in their accounts. Cincy spoiled the party.
The Kansas City Chiefs are an NFL power. They went to back to back Super Bowls in 2020 and 2021 winning in 2020. If not for the Bengals stopping that streak in 2022 it would have been three straight.
It’s not a coincidence the two best teams are led by the two best quarterbacks in the league. Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes are the engineers of the two most dangerous teams in the AFC. Cincinnati has had Kansas City’s number. The Bengals defeated Kansas City three times in 2022. Twice in January and once in December. It will be the fourth time the two teams have met in a year.
Cincinnati has waited a long time for sustained success. Yes, they would have a good year here and a good year there. It always inevitably ended in disappointment. Most of the time in the first playoff game.
Times have changed. The faces,..the philosophy,..the attitude. The new breed of Bengal is here to stay. Sky is the limit, and now championships are in eyesight.
Cincinnati is two steps away from the biggest prize in Western civilization. It will not come easy. Kansas City is out to prove they are not owned by Cincinnati. The stakes are high. It took overtime to determine a winner last year, and it may take overtime to determine a winner this year. No matter what outcome, odds makers know better now than to overlook a franchise that long underachieved. Those days are over. Cincinnati is ready to now stake it’s claim as a contending champion.