The 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals host the 1-2 Kansas City Chiefs Sunday in an interesting AFC clash that could have an effect on the playoff seedings come January. The Chiefs are coming off two tough losses — one where five turnovers did them in against divisional rival Denver, and another where they were thoroughly outplayed by the Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs have a lot of talent on their roster, but they have yet to put it all together in 2015.
Meanwhile the Bengals are off to another hot start, including last week's thrilling divisional victory in Baltimore that featured 31 total points scored in the fourth quarter. After leaning on tight end Tyler Eifert the first two games, A.J. Green reminded everyone of his superstar status against the Ravens, putting up 227 yards and two touchdowns, including an electric 80-yard touchdown late in the game.
The Bengals are looking to cement their status as an AFC contender while the Chiefs are looking to climb back into consideration and turn their season around before it's too late.
Kansas City at Cincinnati
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Line: Bengals -3
Three Things to Watch For
1. Can Jamaal Charles Get Going?
Jamaal Charles has 231 yards rushing on the season with four touchdowns, but once again he's been tasked with carrying the Chiefs' offense far too often. Any good offense is balanced between the run and pass, but even with Charles' strong start, ranking the Chiefs 13th in rushing yards-per-game, it has had limited effect on helping Alex Smith in the passing game. The Bengals have had a stingy run defense thus far, giving up a fifth-best 75 yards per game. If the Chiefs can't get Charles going it could be a long afternoon.
2. Stopping A.J. Green
The Chiefs were torched on "Monday Night Football" by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense for 448 yards. Andy Dalton isn't Rodgers, but the combination of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert is potent, and one or the other has come up big in each of the first three games this season. Can Kansas City come up with a way to slow down the Bengals' passing offense, which currently ranks sixth in the league? Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters already has two interceptions and is off to an impressive start, but the challenge of facing one of the league's best receivers in Green will be his toughest yet.
3. Can the Bengals Send a Message?
The Bengals got off to a hot 3-0 start in 2014 as well before getting their doors blown off by the Patriots and descending into a 10-5-1 season that saw a first round playoff exit at the hands of the Colts. This season, with the door seemingly wide open in the AFC due to the decline of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger's injury and slow starts by perennial contenders the Colts and Ravens, the Bengals have a chance to take a significant step forward. Defeating a talented but flawed team like the Chiefs is what good teams need to do at home. A 4-0 start would put Cincinnati into the conversation of the best teams in the AFC, if not the entire league.
The Bengals have stuck with Dalton and it's starting to pay off, but he can no longer fall back on any excuses. He has weapons around him and a defense behind him. The time to win is now. The Chiefs meanwhile are at a crossroads, still struggling with the inconsistent play that has haunted them since the Andy Reid/Alex Smith era began. A win over the surging Bengals could right the ship for the Chiefs, but it won't be handed to them and they'll have to hit a level of performance we have yet to see out of them. The Bengals looked primed to make a statement.