Who are you putting your money on in Super Bowl LVI?
We are just days away from what might literally be the most exciting day of the year.
On Sunday, Super Bowl LVI will be the stage for the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams to fight it out for the Lombardi trophy.
At 6:30 p.m. we’ll see the last kickoff of the season.
For the Bengals, this is the team’s first appearance in the Super Bowl since 1988.
The Rams last appeared in the Super Bowl in 2018 where they lost 13-3 in a defensive battle to the New England Patriots.
I feel I must preface by saying, this has to be one of the only Super Bowl matchups where both teams are so likable despite being so incredibly different.
It is a game where will get to see a fun, young, explosive team take on a team with a great depth of experience throughout their offensive and defensive units.
And let’s be honest, the best part is that both teams are led by extremely cool quarterbacks.
I wasn’t sure if I should talk about Joe Burrow’s Cartier sunglasses now or later, so I’ll just get it out of the way.
This dude is stylish on and off the field. That’s what you get with this new era of quarterback.
Burrow was drafted first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Bengals where he immediately was the starting quarterback. He was unable to finish his rookie season due to a knee injury, but bounced back this year and earned the Bengals a week one win over the Vikings.
From there, the Bengals went on to finish 10-7 in the regular season, the franchise’s first winning season since 2015.
While Burrow has registered impressive statistics in the regular season, he really shined in the playoffs. In the divisional round, Burrow threw for 348 yards against the top seeded team, and the 19-16 win over the Titans was the first Bengals win on the road during playoffs.
To seal the deal, Burrow led the Bengals to an 18 point comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship.
In three postseason games, Burrow has attributed 843 passing yards on 75 completions. He has been sacked 12 times, and has avoided having fumbles on his statline.
Burrow has been a hero for this Bengals team, but he has yet to face a defense as strong as the Rams. With a pass rush that has names like Aaron Donald and Von Miller, the pressure on the O-line to protect Burrow has never been higher, and I am sure we’ll see Burrow on the ground even more than usual.
Is Burrow capable of staying consistent and making the plays to overcome the Rams defense?
On the other side of the field, Matt Stafford.
A first overall draft pick himself, Stafford has spent a considerable amount of time in the league compared to Burrow.
Drafted to the Detroit Lions in 2009, Stafford has a long list of accomplishments with the Lions. None of which include winning a postseason game.
Throughout his previous 12 seasons, Stafford has only seen the playoffs three times, making this year quite special.
For the 2021 season, Stafford was acquired by the L.A. Rams in a trade where the Lions received Jared Goff, a third round pick, and two first round picks 2022 and 2023.
In his debut with the Rams, Stafford handily defeated the Chicago Bears 34-14, even earning the NFC Offensive player of the Week. Against his former team in week seven, Stafford threw for 365 yards in the 28-19 win, even with an injured finger.
The bright spots for Stafford’s regular season are that he led the team to a 12-5 record, passed for 41 touchdowns, and threw for 4886 yards. It does pain me to mention the 17 interceptions thrown though.
Stafford’s first postseason win was the wildcard victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams took the victory 34-11 to secure their divisional round appearance where Stafford rushed for one touchdown and threw for two in what was a stressful game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While that marked the end of the road for Brady, Stafford went on to play in his first career NFC championship and drive his team to a 20-17 win after being down 7-17 going into the fourth.
This has been a long time coming for Stafford, could his first year out of Detroit mean his first Super Bowl ring?
Kind of. Technically, the Bengals are considered the ‘home’ team but the game is being played on L.A. turf at SoFi Stadium where the Rams have gone 7-3 including playoffs. However, the L.A. Rams have yet to establish an intimidating fan base since the franchise moved from St. Louis, so home field advantage might not play a huge role.
I’ve talked about the Rams defense already.
But I cannot stress how important it is for the Rams to capitalize on the mismatch between their pass rush and the Bengals offensive line. Not to mention, they have Jalen Ramsey in the cornerback position. They have the tools to make it difficult on Burrow to get the ball out.
Use Odell Beckham Jr. to make it easier on Cooper Kupp
Stafford has targets, but it will be essential for OBJ to show up and take some pressure off of Kupp. Since leaving Cleveland and joining the Rams, OBJ has added depth to the receiving core. While this is his second time playing in the postseason, this is his first Super Bowl appearance in eight seasons.
This is not McVay’s first rodeo. The 2019 Super Bowl against New England was a loss for the Rams, but McVay’s experience in that game will definitely help produce a different outcome. McVay is a young, adaptable coach that understands the flow of the game.
That said, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has worked under McVay and the Rams as an assistant wide receiver coach and then quarterback coach.
I could leave it at that. As much as we can hype up Burrow, McPherson has been automatic. In a season where kickers seemed off, McPherson has gone 12 for 12 in the postseason, including two game winners in the playoffs. He’s been huge for the Bengals up to this point, and if it comes to crunch time, they’re going to need him to continue the streak.
The Rams have Ramsey.
But besides that, the Bengals should be able to outplay the Rams secondary. I’m looking to Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins. This trio has incredible athletic ability and needs to take advantage of the lack of options the Rams have to cover them.
Minimize Cooper Kupp’s effect on the game.
Too many times this postseason I’ve seen Kupp just by himself downfield. That should not happen. Yes, he’s one of the best receivers in the league right now, but be mindful of that. It’s impossible to completely shut him down, but in the Bengals favour, even with big games, the Rams have lost games.
There is no pressure
Sure, this is huge for the Bengals franchise and fanbase, but the Bengals really don’t have anything to lose compared to the Rams who have a long list of aging players that must get a ring this time around. The fact that the key players on the Bengals are young talent who have enjoyed the process of getting to the big game, they’re the underdog, and as long as they don’t overthink, it’ll be smooth sailing.
Who am I taking?
I can’t deny that I think the Bengals are capable of stealing the game from the Rams, but I must side with the players I think deserve to win.
Matt Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Odell Beckham Jr. have been contributing hugely to the game far too long to go without a Super Bowl in their accolades.
Plus, I want to see Sean McVay redeem himself from his first Super Bowl appearance just years ago.
Regardless of who wins it, I am still thinking about the Minnesota Vikings, and hoping that next season is ours.
Good luck to both Bengals and Rams fans out there, I wish you a happy Super Bowl Sunday.