The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals are set to clash in Super Bowl LVI. There is the hope of witnessing the ultimate show among what has emerged as a series of great postseason showstoppers. The football gods could not have picked two better teams to face-off at the best possible time. Both teams appear to be playing their best football of the season right now. Unless you can’t admit it, both teams are also easy to cheer for. Mainly because of their tenaciousness.
Not long ago, a few short weeks to be exact, both teams weren’t considered serious contenders. Yet here we are with the beautiful changing of NFL kingdom landscaping that leads us magnificently into the unknown. The Rams find themselves taking part in this change with a major ushering in of who many consider tomorrow’s NFL elite royalty today.
Super Bowl LVI: NFL Royalty’s About to Get A Makeover
Fresh New Faces Should Overwhelmingly Be Welcomed
It was becoming somewhat mundane; Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and now Patrick Mahomes even. The same cast of leading characters taking up the majority of conversation throughout and feeling strangely like season in, season out it.
This season, that same elite cream was rising to the top yet again minus Drew Brees. The newest major addition Josh Allen filled in nicely and appeared to be the only threat to alter NFL royalty. The fact that someone named Brady or Mahomes captained a participating team in eight of the last ten Super Bowls is simultaneously amazing and annoying.
Rodgers hasn’t won a championship since 2011. Yet somehow he still manages to be among the main topics weekly, with all that comes with him. He’s had a great season and appears to be the inevitable NFL MVP for a fourth time. But he comes off as arrogant as ever and another championship could only add to such perception, right?
Brady drew widespread cheers when the Rams ousted his team and appeared plastered on the internet with a bloody-mouth glare by non-Rams fans. I’m not even sure if these people realized that they were passing up chants of “Beat L.A.!” If that doesn’t say folks are tired of one king collecting more jewelry while others starve, I don’t know what does.
This super season we all can take a breath, regroup and welcome newcomers to the top floor. We need to after that joke of an all-star touch football stage play known as the Pro Bowl. Who can remain in the NFL penthouse beyond this season is anyone’s guess. One thing isn’t; Super Bowl LVI will leave its mark on NFL history no matter who wins. The storylines here are too awesome.
Main Feel-good Storylines: Bengals
The Bengals, quite oddly, have most football fans still scratching their heads as to how this came to be their shot. A true team Cinderella story two years in the making while most fans outside Ohio might easily have overlooked year one.
Then rookie quarterback Joe Burrow was on pace to break Andrew Luck’s passing yards (4,374). He tore both his MCL and ACL and had additional structural complications. Buried early beneath the surge of new talent around the league the second time around. His 4,611 passing yards this extra-game season is extremely impressive. Without that one extra game added he still fell only 13 yards short (4,361 yards) this year. His latest numbers still shatter Luck’s second year.
The season capper, Burrow could become the first person in NFL history to win a Heisman trophy, the college football national championship and a Super Bowl championship.
Lastly, the rise of the Bengals LSU connection of Burrow and receiver Ja’Marr Chase. This combo is the most significant reason the team has gone from 2-14 to Super Bowl in only two years. Responsible for 37 touchdowns in that time, the Rams defense will have its hands full.
Main Feel-good Storylines: Rams
On the Rams side, Matthew Stafford joining the Rams is the biggest story by far. The comparable total numbers from his only other team to now are too mind-boggling:
In 12 seasons with Detroit Lions: 3 postseason games, 74-117 for 908 yards, 4 passing touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown, 3 interceptions, 0-3 W-L.
In 1 season with Rams (1 game to go): 3 postseason games, 72-100 for 905 yards, 6 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, 1 interception, 3-0 W-L.
Now that the initial pressure of “he can’t win a playoff game” has been muted, there is very little pressure on Stafford internally, in my opinion.
On the defensive side, no player in the NFL deserves a championship ring more than Aaron Donald. Not just because he’s been in the league long enough now and has accomplished so much. But because not only is he the best (quite possibly all-time) at his position as anyone has ever been but because despite being the best, he is continually driven to stay the best. His will to workout and get better all year round is well-known to the point of being legendary.
Jalen Ramsey and Odell Beckham Jr. bought in immediately. Their situations with ex-clubs earned them labels like troublemakers, selfish players, immature, and locker room cancers. It’s now almost just as documented that this is not how they’re perceived in Los Angeles. OBJ returning to the team with a new deal is also a major story poised to blow up post-Super Bowl.
Rams vs Bengals: Super Bowl LVI Odds, Analysis, and Prediction
Los Angeles Rams (15-5 overall – away) versus Cincinnati Bengals (13-7 overall – home)
Date: Sunday, February, 13th / Time: 3:30 PM (Pacific), SoFi Stadium – Los Angeles, California
In case it got past you, the Bengals are considered the home team despite the location. They are expected to be well-represented. This will mean very little overall because SoFi Stadium is “Rams House!” Ask any serious Rams fan. Seriously speaking, it is the Rams that will feel more naturally comfortable so “home” is nothing more than a game detail.
Rams on offense
Stafford has been hitting on all cylinders lately, feeling more comfortable with weapons not named Cooper Kupp. They will still miss the grit and uniformity that Robert Woods brings but they’ve gotten by.
It would be ideal if the Rams established play-action early and get Cam Akers in the flow of the game. Tight end Kendall Blanton is especially important if Tyler Higbee sits or can’t see significant time. This is because receiver Van Jefferson has a knee issue that could limit his mobility. If Akers is held in check and Ben Skowronek is the third option, things could get interestingly in favor of the Bengals.
Bengals on offense
It’s hard to omit the possibility of Burrow having to run for his life. That being said, he isn’t expected to run much at all. What he needs to do is take what the Rams defense gives him until they stop giving it. There won’t be much time to do much of anything else if his blocking fails to improve. Ramsey guarding Chase is the marque match-up folks are coming to see. Expect Burrow to try it out a time or two.
The Rams had better take their run-stopping as seriously as they took Deebo Samuel in the divisional round. Still, a healthy Joe Mixon is a dangerous one both by land and by air. Burrow spreads the ball very well and if Ramsey is their only concern, brace yourself for a wild-scoring event.
Defensive concerns for both teams
Bengals: Donald is where the Bengals start on the board, no erasable marker needed. But if they have success running plays just beyond the Rams pass rush they could get lucky in weak tackling pockets.
Rams: The Rams need to pay special attention to Trey Hendrickson. He has 14 sacks to Donald’s 12.5 and 2 more quarterback hits than Donald (27 to 25) which also leads anyone else on his own team by at least 10.
Final Thoughts for Bettors
The Super Bowl match-up most didn’t expect to see has a good chance of producing the Super Bowl results most don’t expect to happen, to sum it up in one sentence.
Turning around and beating the Kansas City Chiefs twice equates to the San Francisco 49ers beating the Rams twice. What if the Chiefs and Bengals played that third game? Perhaps it’s just a match-up issue some teams have with certain teams.
The Rams, meanwhile, have overcome their issue with the 49ers in a convincing fashion. They battered last year’s champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers twice this season. Handled the Arizona Cardinals the last two of three games this same season. And Stafford just started playing his best ball in the postseason. The NFC West is the league’s toughest division and the Rams are the best in it. It’s where they’ve sharpened all their tools to get here.
There’s no measuring ‘heart’ and the Bengals have tons of it so there’s that. The heart is a tough sell but it’s sellable. The problem is, the Rams do, too.
In the end, one noticeable observation sealed the deal for me and my money. The high-scoring 2021 Bengals have not topped the 30-point mark in five weeks. Correct, their won-loss record is 1-4 in 2022 with scoring 30 or more points. The Rams aren’t experiencing this problem at the moment.
Super Bowl LVI Prediction: Rams 34, Bengals 23
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