Kansas City @ Cincinnati
Power rankings: KC 3, Cincy 12
It may surprise you to know that Kansas City has an elite offense, ranking 5th in DVOA and 3rd in EPA/play. Pat Mahomes has had his ups and downs, ranking 14th in PFF passing grades (74.3) while completing 66.1% of his passes (2.2% below expectation) and gaining 7.4 yards per attempt. I've noted on this site previously that Mahomes's issues are not turnover related per say -- though he has 13 picks on the season, just one behind 5 different QBs who have 14, his turnover worthy play percentage of 2.6% is 9th best in the NFL and on par with previous seasons. His true issue is his lack of "big time throws" - a stat from PFF that separates out truly difficult, high leverage passes. Mahomes has a BTT rate of just 3.2%, which is 27th in the NFL, and far off his marks from previous seasons. He plays behind an elite offensive line, complete with two rookies playing at a high level. C Creed Humphrey, an Oklahoma product who was taken 63rd overall in this year's draft, is PFF's highest graded center. RG Trey Smith, who was taken in the 6th round this year, has also played well, in particular in the run game. They spent big at LG (Joe Thuney) and LT (Orlando Brown), both of whom are playing at a high level. The biggest weakness is at RT, as the Chiefs had to bring in Andrew Wylie after Mike Remmers went down with a knee injury week 7. Mahomes, as usual, will rely heavily on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, as Kansas City continues to struggle to find a viable 3rd option -- though that hasn't slowed them down one bit. Clyde Edwards-Helaire injured his shoulder last week and hasn't been practicing -- if he can't go Darrel Williams will handle the bulk of the carries with Derrick Gore chipping in. The Chiefs are better throwing (4th in DVOA) than running (15th). They rank 2nd in the NFL in early-down situation neutral pass rate, fitting into their pass game efficiency. The Bengals on defense are 14th in DVOA and 9th in EPA/play. The Bengals hardly ever blitz -- they're blitz rate of 21.0% is 7th lowest in the league, which plays well to their matchup against the Chiefs. Teams have long since figured out that Mahomes is essentially unblitzable. Mahomes is being blitzed 15.5% of the time, by far the lowest in the league (Big Ben is 2nd at 19.2%). Despite the lack of blitz, the Bengals do still generate pressure at a rate of 25%, 14th in the league. Their pass rush is led by Trey Hendrickson (71 pressures) and Sam Hubbard (52) on the outside, and Larry Ogunjobi (37) and DJ Reader (24) on the inside. Reader, who holds the highest PFF grade on the defense, is also strong against the run. The problems are they're incredibly weak at the linebacker position while Eli Apple has struggled at outsider corner. They do have a Chidobe Aquize (outside) and Mike Hinton (slot), who have both played well this season. SS Von Bell has also been above average and in coverage, but FS Jessie Bates is having a dreadful season. They're far better against the run (7th in DVOA) than the pass (22nd).
The Bengals on offense are 19th in DVOA and 22nd in EPA/play. They're led by Joe Burrow, who is now holds PFF's highest passing grade at 90.7. He's completing 69.9% of his passes (nice, and a full 5.5% above expectation for the memes) while gaining 8.7 yards per attempt. Burrow has a league leading 14 INTs this season, but like Mahomes, his turnover worthy play percentage of 2.6% shows that he's suffered from bad INT luck. He plays behind an offensive line that is far better run blocking than pass blocking -- they rank 14th in ESPN's run block win rate and 20th in pass block win rate. They're significantly stronger on the left side (LT Jonah Williams and LG Quinton Spain) than the right, particularly after RT Riley Reiff was placed on IR with an ankle injury on 12/16. The passing attack relies heavily on the trio of Ja'Marr Chase (outside), Tee Higgins (outside), and Tyler Boyd (slot). Burrow distributes the ball evenly between the three, and not many others are involved in the passing attack save for a few targets here and there. Joe Mixon will handle the bulk of the carries on the ground. The Bengals rank 18th in DVOA throwing and 20th passing. The Chiefs on defense rank 16th in DVOA and 17th in EPA/play. Led by Chris Jones (58 pressures), Frank Clark (43), and Melvin Ingram (38), they generate pressure at a rate of 26.5%, 7th highest in the league. They also have a decent collection of corners, between Mike Huges, Charvarius Ward, and L'Jarius Sneed. Juan Thornill and Tyrann Mathieu is also an above average safety tandem. They do have poor linebackers, and as a result struggle against the run (21st in DVOA), though they are 13th against the pass.