The Kansas City Chiefs listed tight end Travis Kelce as questionable on the injury report, but he’s expected to start against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship.
The #1 Chiefs host the #3 Cincinnati Bengals in a rematch of last year’s AFC title game. The Bengals upset the Chiefs as +7 underdogs last year by a field goal in overtime.
The Chiefs and Bengals met during the regular season, and the Bengals defeated the Chiefs by the score of 27-24 in Week 13.
The South Point Casino in Las Vegas, as of Sunday morning, listed the Chiefs as a -1.5 favorite in the AFC Championship. The line fluctuated during the week as bettors speculated on whether or not Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes would play in the AFC Championship.
Mahomes suffered an ankle injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a victory in the AFC Divisional Round. Mahomes missed the second quarter due to a high ankle sprain, but finished the game after he played in the entire second half.
Bookmakers installed the Chiefs as a betting favorite in the AFC Championship, but early money poured in on the Bengals, which prompted the bookies to change the line in favor of the Bengals. On Tuesday morning, the Bengals became the new betting favorite, and the Chiefs went as high as +3 underdogs. When Mahomes appeared in practice mid-week, money began to flow back in the Chiefs direction.
The Chiefs adding Kelce to the injury report did not alter the point spread.
Kelce to Start in AFC Championship
Kelce tweaked his back in practice on Friday, which prompted the Chiefs to list him as questionable on the weekly injury report with back spasms. Yet, there’s no indications that he will not suit up on Sunday in the AFC Championship.
The Chiefs have three other tight ends on the roster including Noah Gray (34 receptions, 1 TD), Joey Fortson (13 receptions, 2 TD), and Blake Bell (2 receptions, 1 TD).
It’s been a career season for Kelce in a couple major statistical categories. He posted a career-best 110 receptions, which was third overall in the NFL this season. He caught a career-high 12 touchdowns, which was second-best in the league. He tallied 1,338 receiving yards and ranked #8 overall this season. He fell short of tying his career high by 78 yards.
Without a doubt, Kelce is the favorite target of Mahomes. Even though everyone in the stadium knows Mahomes is going to pass to Kelce on specific plays, he still finds a way to get open despite a double team from the opposition. His big-play ability is what makes him the most dangerous offensive weapon on the Chiefs.
During the AFC Divisional Round against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kelce caught 14 of 17 targets from Mahomes and backup quarterback Chad Henne. He tallied 98 yards and two touchdowns, including one each from Mahomes and Henne.
A tight end has never won the MVP in the Super Bowl, but Kelce aspires to become the first player at his position to win the prestigious award. In early Super Bowl LVII prop betting markets, Kelce is +2500 odds to win the MVP as the seventh-highest favorite on the board.
Kelce Rewind: History vs. Bengals
The Bengals are 3-0 against the Chiefs in their last three meetings, which includes last year’s AFC Championship. They met twice in the regular season in the last two years. Kelce scored just two touchdowns in three games against the Bengals.
In their previous meeting this season in Week 13, the Bengals kept Kelce in check in a narrow victory. He caught just four of six targets for 55 yards and zero touchdowns.
In last year’s AFC Championship, Kelce tallied 10 receptions out of 11 targets for 95 yards and one touchdown. Despite the strong performance from Kelce, the Bengals rallied back to beat the Chiefs and advance to Super Bowl LVI.
During the end of the 2021 season in Week 17, the Bengals defeated the Chiefs in a 34-31 shootout at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bengals held Kelce to only 25 yards on five receptions on seven targets. He scored one touchdown, but it was not good enough to put the Chiefs over the top in a loss.
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