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Bengals star trashes Chiefs' defense: There's no Jalen Ramsey on their squad

The highly-anticipated AFC Championship Game rematch between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs will finally take place on Sunday, in a New Year's Eve showdown that could be decisive for both teams.

Although the Chiefs are no longer mathematically in contention for the AFC's top seed, Kansas City needs one more win to secure another AFC West division title and a guaranteed home game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bengals' situation is more dire -- Cincinnati essentially needs a win to hang around the AFC playoff picture.

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The Bengals got some great news Thursday, as star receiver Ja'Marr Chase returned to practice after missing Cincy's week 16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chase is still recovering from a separated shoulder, but he is on course to return for week 17 -- and after practice on Thursday, he put Kansas City's defense on notice.

Chase's brutal honesty

The Chiefs' defense has received many plaudits in what has been a down season by the team's standards. While Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City's offense have endured an inconsistent campaign, the KC defense has allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL. The unit has been particularly impressive against the pass, ranking third in yards allowed through the air.

While some might consider that bad news for Bengals quarterback Jake Browning, Chase views the Chiefs' defense a bit differently. He told reporters Thursday that "nothing" stands out about the Kansas City D, and it is missing a superstar player like Jalen Ramsey to tie everything together.

When offered a chance to do so, Chase didn't walk back the comments and instead dug in further, remarking that the Chiefs players are free to take his criticism "how they want." Feeding bulletin board material to Kansas City sets up this game as an intense matchup between two teams that have battled injury and underperformance throughout the 2023 season.

Get the popcorn ready

Despite his tough talk, Chase appears to have respect, even if begrudging, for the Chiefs -- who have battled the Bengals to the bitter end in consecutive AFC title games. This regular-season installment won't have quite the same star power -- Cincy quarterback Joe Burrow remains sidelined with a wrist injury, for example -- but the energy and the trash talk will still be present.

The Chiefs are favored by a touchdown against the Bengals, who will see their playoff chances plummet to eight percent with a loss at Arrowhead. However, if Chase returns and powers the Bengals to a road win, Cincy's playoff probability will rise to 57 percent entering week 18.

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