Will the Kansas City Chiefs be the seventh team of the 2000s to be a home underdog in a conference championship game?
The Chiefs opened as slight favorites over the Cincinnati Bengals but are now 2.5-point underdogs at BetMGM thanks to Patrick Mahomes’ high ankle sprain and a wave of early money on the Bengals. Early bettors jumped at the chance to bet on the Bengals and the Chiefs are now +115 to win the game straight up as a result.
Bettors are also likely enamored with the Bengals’ recent success against the Chiefs. The teams played each other three times during 2022 and the Bengals won all three meetings. Cincinnati won both regular-season meetings at home this season and also stifled Mahomes and the Chiefs offense in the second half of last season’s AFC title game to reach the franchise’s first Super Bowl in over 30 years.
Another road playoff win for the Bengals would be a fourth for Joe Burrow as Cincinnati’s starter. The Bengals beat the Titans and Chiefs on the road to make the Super Bowl a season ago and easily beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday to set up the first AFC title game rematch since the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots played each other for the AFC title after the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
If the Bengals remain favored against the Chiefs at kickoff, they’ll be just the second AFC team since 2008 to close as a road favorite. The Patriots were 3-point favorites at the Denver Broncos in January of 2016 before the Broncos beat New England 20-18 to win the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s final season. The Broncos were also the No. 1 seed in the AFC that season like the Chiefs are this season.
The Steelers are the only other AFC home underdog of the 2000s. The Steelers were 3-point underdogs in January of 2005 against the Patriots and lost 41-27.
Four NFC teams have closed as road favorites in the 2000s. The most recent road favorite were the 2017 Minnesota Vikings as 3-point favorites at the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles easily won that game 38-7 with Nick Foles at QB and went on to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Eagles were the No. 1 seed in the playoffs that season as well after having the playoff seeding tiebreaker over the Vikings.
Overall, home underdogs in conference title games are 2-4 straight up and against the spread over the previous 14 seasons. If the Chiefs are underdogs by fewer than three points, they’ll be the smallest home underdog of the seven home dogs.
Home title game underdogs since 2000
2017: Philadelphia Eagles (+3) 38, Minnesota Vikings 7
2015: Denver Broncos (+3) 20, New England Patriots 18
2008: Arizona Cardinals 32, Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5) 25
2004: New England Patriots 41, Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) 27