The most anticipated sporting event in the United States is finally upon us. The Super Bowl is easily the most watched television program in America annually, and over 100 million domestic viewers are expected to tune in for Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals. Neither team was expected to get here as both teams were the division winners with the worst records in their respective conferences, but either the Rams or the Bengals will prove the naysayers wrong by lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
History in the Super Bowl
This is Cincinnati’s third trip to the Super Bowl. The Bengals are happy that they won’t be seeing the San Francisco 49ers, as they lost to the Niners twice in the 1980s. They fell to San Francisco 26-21 in Super Bowl XVI, and Joe Montana etched his name in Super Bowl lore with a 92-yard touchdown drive to beat Cincinnati 20-16 in Super Bowl XXIII.
The Rams have gone to two Super Bowls while in Los Angeles and two Super Bowls while in St. Louis. They have yet to win a title in LA though, as they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19 in Super Bowl XIV and couldn’t move the ball effectively against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII resulting in a 13-3 defeat. Their lone Super Bowl victory came against the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV.
When the Rams Have the Ball
Cooper Kupp was the best receiver in the NFL this season. Kupp led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, and he came up big for the Rams in their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round. Opposing defenses have had a hard time shutting him down too as Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the best secondary receivers in the league and did a great job replacing an injured Robert Woods, while Van Jefferson can take the top off a defense with his speed.
Matt Stafford has been an upgrade from Jared Goff, but he has had some iffy performances this season. Stafford was great in the win over the Buccaneers, yet he looked mediocre in the win over San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game. The run game has been unable to help him much as the Rams are averaging just 2.9 YPC in their three playoff games.
Cincinnati has a decent defense, but the Bengals aren’t anything special on this side of the ball. Trey Hendrickson was a Pro Bowl pick, yet this defense ranked 20th in total defense and 24th in run defense. The Bengals have survived with smoke and mirrors and by playing two flawed offenses in Las Vegas and Tennessee.
When the Bengals Have the Ball
It’s been an incredible ride for Joe Burrow. The second-year quarterback has been great in leading the Bengals to their best season in over 30 years. Burrow’s rookie season was ended early because of injury, yet he showed no signs that he was still bothered by the injury by coming up clutch time and time again. He dwarfed every other quarterback in touchdown passes of 30 yards or more in this big play offense.
Burrow has been unstoppable at times with LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase by his side. Chase will be named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year barring something wild, and he ranked fourth in receiving yards, third in receiving touchdowns, and second in YPR as a rookie. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd have been solid alongside Chase, while Joe Mixon might be the most underrated running back in the NFL.
The big question coming into this game though is the play of Cincinnati’s offensive line. Burrow has been sacked over three times a game since entering the league, and Tennessee sacked him nine times in the Divisional Round. Aaron Donald is the best defensive lineman we have seen since the great Reggie White, and he makes things easier for Leonard Floyd and Von Miller. The Rams are one of the few teams with a player that can potentially take Chase out of the game too as Jalen Ramsey is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL.
Aside from Burrow and rookie kicker Evan McPherson, it’s hard to find a place where Cincinnati has a real edge over LA. The Rams have a much better defense, and they can harass Burrow throughout the game like we saw Tampa Bay do to Patrick Mahomes last week. Everyone is calling for a close game it seems, but this has the potential to be a Rams blowout.