Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals (-4, 42.5)
It’s been a tough couple weeks for the Kansas City Chiefs (1-2, 1-1 road). They’ve suffered back-to-back losses against arguably the league’s best defense (31-24 vs. Denver) and best offense (38-28 at Green Bay) the last two games. Now they head to the Queen City to face one of the most balanced teams in the NFL, the Cincinnati Bengals (3-0, 1-0 home), at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday (10:00 AM Eastern).
The Chiefs were a popular pick to challenge the Broncos for AFC West supremacy this year, and those picks looked prescient when the team jumped out to a 14-0 lead against Manning and company in Week 2. But a second-half letdown, coupled with a Jamaal Charles fumble in the final minute of the game, saw Denver steal a win at Arrowhead.
Last week the KC defense simply had no answer for Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers (which is a trend you can start to bank on in this year’s NFL). Andy Reid and Alex Smith’s overly conservative game plan for the passing game killed any chance the Chiefs had of keeping up with the potent Packer offense, and the 38-28 final score doesn’t reflect how lopsided the game really was.
On the bright side, Smith was able to connect with WR Jeremy Maclin for a touchdown in the second half, giving the Chiefs their first TD pass to a wide receiver in over a year.
Week 3 was a very different story for Cincinnati. The Bengals traveled to Maryland and knocked off division rival Baltimore 28-24. Cincy dominated the first half and almost put the game out of reach when Tyler Eifert seemingly scored a TD to give the Bengals a 21-0 halftime lead. But the play was called back as Eifert failed to control the ball all the way to the ground. The Ravens were able to mount a second-half charge on the strength of 186 receiving yards and two TDs from 36-year-old WR Steve Smith Sr. and briefly took a 24-21 lead late in the fourth quarter.
But Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton connected with his own stud receiver, AJ Green, for an 80 yard TD pass on the very next drive, giving the Bengals a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
The Cincinnati brass is hoping that Dalton’s big game (20 of 32 for 383 yards and three touchdowns) against a heated rival represents a turning point in the fourth-year QB’s career. Dalton has put in similarly strong performances in games past, but has never been able to maintain a high level of play over the course of the season, particularly in Primetime and playoff games.
But with a full complement of healthy receivers and a sixth-ranked scoring defense, the Bengals don’t show any signs of slowing down.
Back in 2013, Cincinnati was able to go a perfect 8-0 at home, both straight up and against the spread. They were just 4-3-1 ATS at home last year, but got off to a strong start in 2015 by knocking off the Bolts 24-19 in Week 2. The Chiefs will be desperate for a win come Sunday in order to keep their division title hopes intact, but give Dalton the benefit of the doubt unless and until he lays another egg. Take the home Bengals and lay the points.
Pick: Cincinnati -4.
(Photo credit: emeybee (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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