Super Bowl LVI is upon us, and for the second consecutive season, we have a team playing in their home stadium. The AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals (13-7) will be taking on the home team Los Angeles Rams (15-5) in SoFi Stadium for the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday afternoon.
For the first 54 Super Bowls, no team had ever hosted and appeared in the Big Game. The Rams will be the second team to do both, joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who did the same thing last season. The Rams will also hope to match the Bucs, win the Super Bowl on their home field, and give the franchise its second Vince Lombardi Trophy.
This Super Bowl will be intriguing as the quarterback matchup between Joe Burrow, and Matthew Stafford will be good. Both will be appearing in their first Super Bowl. Another individual matchup to watch will be Ja’Marr Chase against Jalen Ramsey. These two matchups will be fun to watch. Now let’s look at what else we will see come to Super Bowl Sunday.
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Bengals Offense vs. Rams Defense
Burrow, Chase, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon lead the Bengals offense. They finished 13th in the NFL on total offense as they averaged 361.5 yards per game. Burrow threw for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns, while Chase and Higgins went over the thousand-yard mark in receiving yards. Moreover, Chase had 81 receptions for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Higgins had 74 receptions for 1,091 and six touchdowns. Mixon, meanwhile, rushed for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 42 receptions for 314 yards and three more scores. Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah, and Samaje Perine also play a significant role in the Bengals’ attack.
Of course, Cincinnati can score points, but the offensive line will have to step up on Super Bowl Sunday and protect Burrow. He was sacked 51 times in the regular season, which was the most in the NFL. In addition, they have allowed 12 sacks in the postseason, including nine to the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round. So the big guys upfront will have to play well to keep Burrow upright against Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Leonard Floyd, and the boys. If the Rams put consistent pressure on Burrow, it will be tough for the Bengals to do much of anything against the Rams’ defense.
Rams Offense vs. Bengals Defense
Stafford had an excellent season passing for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns, as the Rams finished ninth in the NFL in total offense averaging 372.1 yards per game. The Rams will sling it around and have different weapons that Stafford can choose from. These include Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Van Jefferson, and Odell Beckham Jr.
Stafford’s favorite target is Kupp, who had a fantastic season, finished with 145 receptions for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. Higbee caught 61 passes for 560 yards and five touchdowns. Jefferson finished with 50 receptions for 802 yards and six touchdowns. Beckham Jr., who came over midseason from the Cleveland Browns, appeared in seven games for the Rams and caught 27 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns.
As good as the Rams are at passing, their run game did not enjoy nearly the same success, but it has improved. After Cam Akers was injured and presumably done for the season, the Rams traded for Sony Michel, who led them in rushing with 845 yards while adding four touchdowns. Darrell Henderson, who finished with 688 rushing yards and five touchdowns, has been out since Week 16 with an MCL sprain. However, the running game received a boost in the playoffs with the return of Akers.
Trey Hendrickson, Logan Wilson, Vonn Bell, and Jessie Bates III lead Cincy’s defense. They were ranked 18th in total defense, yet they have been outstanding in the playoffs as they have forced seven turnovers. In the AFC Championship Game, they allowed 21 first-quarter points to the Kansas City Chiefs. However, the second half was a much different story as they only gave up a field goal and forced two Patrick Mahomes interceptions. If the Bengals can pressure Stafford and force a couple of turnovers like they have all postseason, they will have a great chance to win their first Super Bowl championship.
On the Bengals’ sideline, Zac Taylor has been with the organization since 2019. He was an assistant under McVay on that Rams team and was a wide receiver and quarterback coach.
McVay is 55-26 in five seasons with the Rams. Taylor, at the same time, has won sixteen of his first 49 showdowns, also tying one, in three seasons in Cincinnati. Both of these head coaches are offensive-minded, and this will be a good chess match between the master and his apprentice. I am giving McVay the edge because he has already coached in the Big Game. However, they are both familiar with one another, and after the kickoff, McVay’s experience in the Super Bowl will not matter as much.
This game will come down to whether or not the Bengals’ offensive line can contain the Rams pass rush and protect Burrow. He was sacked the most times during the regular season. On the flip side, the Cincinnati’s defense has been playing well this entire postseason run. They already beat the Chiefs, who many considered the best team in the NFL. However, they will have to stop another top offense to win their first title. The AFC champions are playing with house money since no one expected them to make it here. But they will have to beat the Rams at home to win it all, which will be a challenging task.
The underdogs’ run through this postseason has been impressive. Joe Burrow has now moved into the discussion of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL. It is tempting to say the Bengals will win this game, but I cannot go against the Rams, especially with them playing at home in front of their home fans. So I am going with the Rams in a close one and calling for Matthew Stafford to be the Super Bowl MVP and Sean McVay to become the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl Championship.
Final Score Prediction: Rams 28 Bengals 24
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