FOX Sports insider
Think of Patrick Mahomes’ right ankle, soon to be cocooned behind all those fat tires, and with the obsessive eyes of the American sports public focused on it with unrepentant curiosity.
Rarely has a single body part received so much sporting attention, but so it is this week, with all possible outcomes seeming to emanate directly from the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback’s damaged lower limbs.
The Chiefs’ hopes of a second Super Bowl in three years, the championship wishes of the Cincinnati Bengals, the fate of the Lombardi Trophy; they’re all connected—and not tangential—to that ankle, the one that was injured in last weekend’s divisional round victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A high ankle sprain is no small feat and a regular Joe (not Burrow) like you or me would spend a few weeks bouncing around awkwardly, 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 hadn’t heard, there are some pretty tasty football games going on – with one jaw-dropping main story.
Mahomes, who has carried the Chiefs all season, will be asked to once again carry the burden in the AFC Championship against the Bengals (Sunday 6:30pm ET), but this time the weight isn’t resting on those firm and tried shoulders. but on a tortured ankle.
Mahomes looks set to give Chiefs a win vs. 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 the National Football League teams have access to the very best and most expensive sports science, the rehabilitation and prep work will have been relentless all week and continue until game time.
And, let’s not forget, elite athletes are just wired differently as to what they’ll put themselves through, and Mahomes is the elite of the elite.
“In terms of injuries, Patrick is the main one,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters. “He’s been working hard on the treatment and he’s doing well. He told you he’s going to play, so that’s his mentality. We’ll take it day by day and see how it goes.”
All this perfectly sums up the reality of the situation. Reid was much more forthright than many head coaches would have been in the same place, but he won’t share every nuance of his player’s condition.
Heck, the Bengals, Sunday’s well-known foe, already have enough of an advantage just by the fact that Mahomes will have some degree of limitation. So there is no need to give them more.
Which means, despite all the research and questioning, the answer won’t come until Sunday, when we’ll see for sure what Mahomes can withstand, how much traction he can generate, how that golden arm is hit by his shifted balance, what his mobility is if, and to what extent, the Bengalis can temporarily benefit from the best in the business, anything short of that.
“No. 1 hands down, no one can argue after this weekend is Patrick Mahomes,” FS1’s Nick Wright told “First Things First” this week, when analyzing the best QBs in football. “It can’t be argued about. Joe Burrow is number 2 without a doubt.
“And now there’s a real question. Jalen Hurts was great this week. I thought [Trevor Lawrence] bravely played. The third best quarterback in football… is Patrick Mahomes on one leg.”
Sane or not, Patrick Mahomes is the best QB in the league
Nick Wright on whether he believes this injury will be a problem against the Bengals.
We’ll see on Sunday.
Back to the earlier point, why are we doing it? Why is so much thought, conjecture, speculation, airtime and, here we have it, column inches devoted to something that won’t be revealed until the action begins?
In this case, because of the unshakable feeling that this is it, here is the key to deciphering the result. That’s how good Mahomes is, as he approaches a fifth straight AFC Championship Game, being a rare player in that “only” Super Bowl ring at age 27 somehow feels like a slight underachievement.
This story is a bit unfair to the Bengals, who have beaten Kansas City three straight, but the reason the visitors are a 2.5-point favorite isn’t because of those previous wins, but because of Mahomes’ ankle.
So welcome to the last few days of AnkleGate. It is what it is. All about ankles – just one ankle really – all the time. For the rest of the week, every bit of information, every word Reid uttered, pretty much every question Reid asked, every glimpse of Mahomes, all pointed in one direction.
Not only is it the main topic of conversation, it might as well be the only one in town. It’s a strange focus for such an intense discussion.
It’s just one. But as it changed last weekend (sorry for the squeamish), did the season change with it?
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