For the second time in as many years, the Kansas City Chiefs will host the Cincinnati Bengals for the right to go to the Super Bowl. While this game should be an intense showdown between AFC rivals, there is no denying that one of the biggest factors in this game will be the ankle of star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The MVP favorite suffered a high-ankle sprain during Saturday’s 27-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and, although he was able to finish the game, he clearly wasn’t himself down the stretch. Mahomes plans on playing in the AFC Championship Game, but will he be healthy enough to finally defeat the Bengals?
Patrick Mahomes Ankle: Can The Quarterback Overcome Injury?
A Familiar Road
Astonishingly enough, this is not the first time we’ve seen Patrick Mahomes play football on a bad ankle and without Tyreek Hill. Week 1 of the 2019 season was a nightmare for Chiefs fans, as Hill suffered a shoulder injury and Mahomes suffered an ankle injury. While Hill’s ailment cost him a few games, Mahomes played through the pain and performed admirably in difficult circumstances.
Even when injured and without his top weapon, Mahomes was simply unstoppable during the first three weeks of the 2019 season. Overall, the quarterback completed 71.9% of his passes for 1,195 yards, 10 touchdowns, and no interceptions while leading the league with a staggering 0.508 EPA/play. The only real change in Mahomes’ statistical performance came in the rushing department, as he only averaged 3.3 yards per game during this stretch, and he didn’t have the same otherworldly pocket mobility.
— Justin Valentine (@JV_Sports_Talk) September 15, 2019
Now, to be fair, these are not identical situations. Mahomes’ most recent ankle injury is far more serious than his 2019 ailment, and the 2022 Cincinnati Bengals are much better than the 2019 Jaguars and Raiders. That being said, this stretch of play proves that Mahomes can not only survive, but thrive when stuck in the pocket and without Tyreek Hill. There might be fewer ridiculous highlights, but history shows that Patrick Mahomes at 80% is still better than most quarterbacks in the league.
Even if Mahomes was perfectly healthy heading into the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs would have their hands full. Ever since Joe Burrow landed in Ohio, the Bengals have steadily transformed from mediocrity personified to one of the best teams in the league. On top of the obvious talent throughout the roster, the Chiefs themselves have not fared well against the Bengals in recent years.
Kansas City is 0-3 against the Bengals over the past two years, losing each one of those games by a field goal. While there is definitely an element of bad luck involved with losing that many close games to the same opponent, the fact remains that Joe Burrow’s Bengals are the monkey on Kansas City’s back.
Of course, the Chiefs lost all of those games when Mahomes was healthy. Joe Burrow might not be as good as Patrick Mahomes when both players are 100% healthy, but there is a strong case to be made that Burrow at 100% is better than Mahomes on one leg. Even with home-field advantage, the Chiefs have never been at this much of a disadvantage against Cincinnati. If they’re able to pull off a win, it will go down as one of the greatest games in the history of the Mahomes-Reid Era.