When the AFC Championship kicks off Sunday between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium both casual and dedicated football fans will likely focus their attention on the two starting quarterbacks.

The quarterback showdown is indeed tantalizing. It features the Bengals' Joe Burrow, who is 3-0 against Patrick Mahomes, and seeking back-to-back appearances in the Super Bowl, while Mahomes tries to avoid back-to-back home defeats in the conference championship.

It was almost a year ago this day that the young Bengals stunned the Chiefs, 27-24, in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium, overcoming a sluggish first half to deny the Chiefs a third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. Bengal fans have dubbed the Chiefs' home field as "Burrowhead Stadium."

Yes, it didn't take Burrow long to prove to be one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. After suffering an injury in his rookie season, Burrow led Cincinnati to the Super Bowl in his sophomore campaign, only to be edged by a Los Angeles Rams squad that was playing in their home stadium.

Mahomes, who at age 27 is just 15 months older than Burrow, already has a title on his resume, as well as an MVP. But Burrow has emerged as a budding star who thrived last week despite a depleted offensive line.

The matchup won't truly measure or decide which quarterback is ahead of the other but it offers a glimpse of two exciting playmakers competing with much on the line.

It's difficult to imagine either the Bengals or the Chiefs in the AFC title game without the stellar play of their quarterbacks. Burrow and Mahomes often look like magicians when pressured by opposing defenses, dancing past linemen and linebackers with ease to scramble for improbable yards or creating clever completions with precise and improvised passing.

The statistics have backed up the two stars' resumes, as well. Mahomes, who in 2022 set the NFL record for total yards in a season, led the league in passing yards (5,250), while Burrow finished fifth (4,475). Mahomes led the league in touchdown passes (41), while Burrow finished No. 2 at 35. Both quarterbacks had just 12 interceptions. Mahomes rushed for 358 yards, while Burrow rushed for 257.

There were some doubts about the Chiefs in 2022 after a strong run of success. But Mahomes quickly dispelled any notion that he may not be effective without star wideout Tyreek Hill, who left Kansas City for Miami, by still making great use of Travis Kelce, perhaps the best tight end in the league. Kelce finished with 1,338 receiving yards in 2022, and no other tight end was close. This is the pair's fifth-straight AFC title game and Mahomes is expected to maintain Kelce in his sights from the opening drive.

Even in the absence of Hill and with Mahomes nursing a bad ankle, some fans may overlook Mahomes' impressive season if he once again falls short to Burrow, who has been as effective as ever in his third season.

The Bengals took to the road last week and embarrassed the Buffalo Bills, 27-10, and Burrow's play was a key reason. He had little trouble finding different targets, hitting star wide receiver J'Marr Chase five times for 65 yards and a touchdown, while also completing passes to seven others. Burrow also rushed for 32 yards on six attempts.

Oddsmakers list the Chiefs as favorites by one point as questions linger ahead of the matchup.

Will Mahomes effectively overcome his ankle sprain? Can Burrow maintain his success against Kansas City? Can Mahomes find other targets aside from a well-covered Kelce? Will the Bengals' offensive line limit Burrow by not providing enough protection?