The fate of the Bengals and Chiefs rests on the injured ankle of Patrick Mahomes


Spare a thought for Patrick Mahomes’ right ankle, which will soon be cocooned behind all that thick strapping, and with the obsessive eyes of the American sports public fixed on it with unrepentant curiosity.

Rarely has a single body part garnered such athletic attention, but it did this week, with all of the potential results seemingly coming straight from the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback’s damaged lower limb.

The Chiefs’ hopes for a second Super Bowl in three years, the Cincinnati Bengals’ championship desires, the very fate of the Lombardi Trophy; they’re all linked — and not tangentially — to that ankle, the one that hurt in last weekend’s Divisional Round victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A sprained ankle is no small feat, and a regular Joe (not Burrow) like you or me would hobble awkwardly for a few weeks, or, most likely, use it as an excuse to spend even more time on the couch and in front of the television. Especially this weekend, when, in case you haven’t heard, there are some pretty tasty football games going on – with a headlining story.

Mahomes, who has carried the Chiefs all season, will be asked to carry the load again in the AFC Championship against the Bengals (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET), but this time with the weight not resting on those strong, tried and tested shoulders. . , but on a tortured ankle.

Mahomes looks to bring Chiefs win over Bengals on injured ankle

Mahomes looks to bring Chiefs win over Bengals on injured ankle

Can he make it to the Super Bowl against Joe Burrow and the Bengals without being 100%?

That Mahomes is even involved is remarkable in itself, but National Football League teams have access to the best and most expensive sports science, rehab and preparation work will have been relentless all week and will continue until ‘at the match.

And, let’s not forget, elite athletes are just wired differently in terms of what they’re going to come out on top, and Mahomes is the elite of the elite.

“When it comes to injuries, Patrick is the main one,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters. “He’s been working hard on treatment and he’s fine. He told you he was going to play, so that’s his mindset. We’ll just take it day by day and see how it goes.”

This sums up the reality of the situation perfectly. Reid was much more candid than many head coaches would have been in the same place, but he won’t share all the nuances of his player’s condition.

Heck, the Bengals, Sunday’s familiar foe, already have enough upside with the simple fact that Mahomes will be at some degree of limitation. No need, then, to give them more.

Which means that, despite all the scrutiny and questioning, the answer won’t come until Sunday, when we see for sure what Mahomes can handle, how much traction he can generate, how that golden arm is impacted with his off-balance, which his mobility is like, and to what extent the Bengals can take advantage of the best in the business being something less than that, temporarily.

“Number 1 without a doubt, no one can argue with him after this weekend, that’s Patrick Mahomes,” FS1’s Nick Wright told ‘First Things First’ this week, when analyzing the top QBs. soccer. “That can’t be discussed. Joe Burrow is definitely number 2.

“And now there’s a real question. Jalen Hurts has been amazing this week. I thought [Trevor Lawrence] played bravely. The third best quarterback in football… is Patrick Mahomes on one leg.”

Healthy or not, Patrick Mahomes is the best QB in the league

Healthy or not, Patrick Mahomes is the best QB in the league

Nick Wright on whether he thinks this injury will be a problem against the Bengals.

Sunday, we’ll see.

Coming back to the previous point, why do we do it? Why so much thought, guesswork, speculation, airtime and, here we have it, columns, devoted to something that will only be revealed once the action begins?

In this case, it is because of the unshakable feeling that this is the key to deciphering the result. That’s how good Mahomes is, as he nears a fifth straight AFC championship game, a rare player in this ‘only’ a Super Bowl ring at age 27 somehow feels like a slight underperformance.

This narrative is a bit unfair for the Bengals, who have beaten Kansas City three times in a row, but the reason the visitors are a 2.5-point favorite is not because of those past wins, but because of Mahomes ankle.

So welcome to the final days of AnkleGate. It’s like that. All about ankles – actually an ankle – all the time. For the rest of the week, every snippet of information, every word Reid said, virtually every question Reid was asked, every glimpse of Mahomes, all pointed in one direction.

It’s not just the main talking point, it might as well be the only one in town. It’s a strange subject for such an intense discussion.

It’s just an ankle. But as it turned out last weekend (sorry for the fussy ones), did the season turn around with that?

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