If you assume the Kansas City Chiefs are aware of the Cincinnati Bengals by now, think about how large receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster feels.
This Sunday’s AFC Championship can be Smith-Schuster’s tenth matchup with the Bengals, the primary eight coming within the years he performed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are some memorable moments between Cincinnati and him.
None of these video games have measured as much as the stakes this Sunday’s has: an opportunity to play within the Super Bowl. Smith-Schuster has by no means reached this far into the postseason, however this chance was one thing he seemingly imagined when he signed with the Chiefs this offseason.
He did not attempt to disguise his pleasure throughout his press convention on Wednesday — particularly when requested in regards to the Chiefs’ offensive game plan.
“It’s fireplace, it is fireplace,” Smith-Schuster stated between giggles. “It’s Andy Reid, it is Patrick Mahomes, it is good.”
The game plans on offense for Cincinnati have discovered success, particularly early within the contests. The Chiefs have had leads within the second half of every game however have failed to keep up them every time.
It’s an admirable trait of Cincinnati’s, one which the Chiefs are absolutely conscious of by now.
“They’re only a bodily staff,” Smith-Schuster recalled. “They simply play bodily from begin to end, for all 4 quarters. I noticed that they performed in Cincinnati; it felt like a playoff-atmosphere game. That’s what I’m anticipating to see right here.”
That physicality could be felt by the person gamers. Slot cornerback Mike Hilton can pack a punch together with his hits, whereas linebackers Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt appear to be in all places without delay. The unit is among the finest tackling teams within the NFL.
That places quite a lot of duty on the Chiefs’ skill-position gamers to beat the aggressive protection.
“The largest problem for us is to go on the market and make performs,” Smith-Schuster declared. “We should execute our performs. When the ball is thrown to you, make your performs, convert on third downs.”
“That’s essential for all of us: being on the identical web page, having the ability to learn coverages, figuring out when to cease, when to maintain working. That’s the largest factor for us, as a result of this protection is actually good. They’re bodily up entrance; they alter and transfer round lots. For us, we’ve got to be on the identical web page with Patrick Mahomes.”
Mahomes has been a sufferer of the Bengals’ defensive success — particularly in final yr’s AFC Championship, when the Chiefs’ offense failed to attain a landing within the second half, regardless of getting as shut because the four-yard line.
Part of what journeys Mahomes up is the blended bag that the Bengals’ defensive play calling appears to drag from. Mahomes additionally had a press convention on Wednesday and talked by means of the Cincinnati staff that has given him suits.
“It’s very game-plan particular, it is by no means the identical,” Mahomes mirrored. “It could possibly be the identical look, however a distinct protection. It’s what quite a lot of nice defensive coordinators do: they’re in a position to coach their staff up and do quite a lot of stuff, however nonetheless be sound in it… then they’ve nice gamers, which are extraordinarily coachable and do their job to one of the best of their means.”
The run game is one of the constant elements of the Chiefs’ offense on this sequence. In every of the final three matchups, working backs for the Chiefs totaled over 100 yards whereas additionally averaging at the least 5.3 yards per carry.
It wasn’t as huge part of final week’s Divisional spherical win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, not till it wanted to be.
“We undoubtedly should run the ball, that is big for us,” Smith-Schuster identified. “When (Chiefs’ backup quarterback) Chad [Henne] got here in, that was our huge emphasis: having the ability to get the run game going simply so we will throw the ball deep. It simply goes hand in hand, whenever you run and go the ball.”
If the Chiefs wish to keep away from an identical catastrophe as final yr’s AFC Championship, they’ll want big-time contributions from the gamers that weren’t part of it — like Smith-Schuster. The receiver has many memorable moments in opposition to the Bengals, however none in comparison with an enormous game in opposition to them when it issues most.