CINCINNATI — This time round, there won’t be tears. At least, Ja’Marr Chase doesn’t assume so.

On the sphere at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City final 12 months, as Evan McPherson hit a game-winning subject objective in additional time, Chase dropped down and put his palms on his knees, overcome by emotion. The tears flowed, with NFL Films microphones catching the sound of each uncooked second.

“It was my first time having that experience,” Chase mentioned. “Not too many rookies can say they went to the Super Bowl.”

This 12 months, for Chase, ought to really feel completely different.

“I’ve been through it,” he mentioned. “I should be more happy than emotional in that situation.”

Chase went on to level out how this week feels the identical because the one main into final 12 months’s AFC Championship Game. The Bengals are nonetheless having fun with the underdog really feel and using an inner confidence. Make no mistake, although, the identical method Chase anticipates extra happiness and fewer emotion on the finish of Sunday’s sport, his crew as a complete will land in Kansas City with a unique stage of anticipation about them.

The 2021 Bengals had been a Tesla: new, thrilling, maybe the way forward for the business. They had been filled with bells and whistles however an unknown relating to their sustainability, possibly even in want of some luck to be within the dialog with the incumbent GMs and Fords of the world.

The 2022 Bengals are a tank. They arrive with an aura of inevitability.


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They don’t want to select the proper path, merely to level the first weapon ahead. Powered by an elite quarterback, 4 years of employees continuity, championship expertise and at the very least $100 million in surplus cap worth tied up in rookie offers on the QB, WR1a and WR1b spots, this machine was constructed to depart destruction in its wake.

The Bengals have gained a franchise-record 10 in a row, approaching Groundhog Day having final misplaced on Halloween. They beat Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Tom Brady. Bested Bill Belichick, Mike Vrabel and John Harbaugh (twice). They’ve pressured a fourth-quarter turnover in seven consecutive video games. They’ve gained 13 straight in December and January, even overwhelmed Mahomes thrice previously 13 months.

They’ve delivered on the speculation that they need to arrive a greater crew at this spot, this 12 months, than the one which completed a drive away from profitable Super Bowl 56. Cigar smoke billowing out of the customer’s locker room at Arrowhead on Sunday would shock nobody.

Of course, neither would Mahomes including to his personal legend. Already a Hall of Fame lock at age 27, Mahomes going full Willis Reed and avenging final January’s upset on one leg, eliminating his new arch-nemesis at their strongest second, then hoisting his second MVP award in two weeks would match the superhero profile. Andy Reid concocting a artistic plan to offset his quarterback’s damage and shock Lou Anarumo and the Bengals can be extra on-brand than an outsized Hawaiian shirt.

The Chiefs and Mahomes have been the NFL’s gold customary — 5 consecutive house convention championship video games demand it.

You solely hope the ultimate 4 delivers two equally-matched, powerhouse matchups. Days like Sunday are why the NFL is the preferred sport in America (nicely, that and an obsessive playing tradition).

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Joe Burrow has thrown for 982 yards with 8 TDs and 1 interception in three video games vs. Kansas City. (Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

Joe Burrow’s heroics had been crucial final 12 months — enduring 70 sacks (19 within the postseason), scrambling for the security of life and nameplate, Houdini-ing an AFC title out of skinny air.

They’ll be wanted once more Sunday. The big-stage king of low coronary heart charge and excessive leverage should ship, simply as he did on a third-and-11 cross to Tee Higgins to shut out Kansas City in early December or when he escaped the grasp of Chris Jones on third-and-6 within the AFC title sport a season in the past.

High leverage: Red zone third/4th downs










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Last 12 months, Zac Taylor stood on the stage wheeled onto the Arrowhead grass, having obtained the Lamar Hunt trophy from proprietor Mike Brown, and talked in regards to the distinctive nature of all of it.

“It is a moment you will never be able to replicate,” Taylor mentioned that day. “We may get to do this again, hopefully, that is the plan certainly. I don’t know if it will ever be as special as the moment we had right there.”



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Indeed. You solely break by means of as soon as. You solely expertise shock to the purpose of being pushed to tears one time.

Last 12 months felt surreal. This crew performs completely different. It is constructed completely different. Its anticipation of this second is completely different.

“I wouldn’t say it’s surreal,” Burrow mentioned about being again a second straight season. “Winning is expected.”

All different facets of Sunday might really feel the identical, however the Bengals aren’t. They may need pulled off a miracle down 21-3 on the street final 12 months, however that gained’t occur once more. They gained’t want a miracle. They merely have to be the tank they’ve been.

That’s the distinction.

Prediction: Bengals 27, Chiefs 24.

Super Bowl 57: Cincinnati vs San Francisco, Part III. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice spend roughly 132 hours on Radio Row.

(Top photograph: Kareem Elgazzar / USA Today)

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