After one of the most compelling NFL postseasons in recent memory, it all comes down to this. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams play in the Super Bowl Sunday night in a de facto home game for the Rams at SoFi Stadium.
The Rams are listed as four-point favorites, with the over/under set at 48.5 points.
Just like their counterparts, the Rams have endured some close games to get to this point. They nearly blew a big lead against the Bucs in the Divisional Round and then had to come from behind to beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. But back-to-back close wins have Sean McVay and the Rams in the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.
Of course, the Bengals took down the top two seeds in the AFC on the road to get to the Super Bowl. With those wins, Cincinnati has now won six of seven games heading into the Super Bowl.
However, this is unfamiliar territory for the franchise, as the Bengals haven’t been to the Super Bowl since the 1988 season.
Cincy’s hopes hinge primarily on the play of quarterback Joe Burrow. He hasn’t exactly been playing at an elite level during the playoffs, but he’s made all of the crucial plays in crunch time and has a great contingent of receivers around him.
Yet, the biggest question facing the Bengals is whether or not they can protect Burrow, who was sacked 51 times in 16 regular-season games and then again nine times in the Divisional Round.
Those offensive line woes could be a problem against the Los Angeles defense, which has one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Aaron Donald has long been one of the best defensive players in the league, while Von Miller and Leonard Floyd are both elite outside rushers.
The Rams could also have an answer to Cincy’s contingent of wide receivers, with Jalen Ramsey potentially locking down one of them.
This is the Moment
Matthew Stafford has gone from not making it past the first round of the playoffs for 12 seasons to playing in the Super Bowl in less than a year.
At his best, Stafford can give the Rams a potent passing attack with Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. at his disposal. But he was turnover-prone late in the regular season, and the four turnovers the Rams committed in the Divisional Round remain an area of concern for the LA offense.
On the other side, the Cincinnati defense has been surprisingly good during the playoffs. The Bengals figured out a way to slow down Patrick Mahomes in the second half of the AFC Championship Game, which most teams cannot say. They are led by a solid defensive line and an underrated secondary.
The Better Team
The Bengals are getting a lot of love because of Burrow’s recent play and the improbable run they’ve made over the last couple of months.
However, it’s hard to deny that the Rams are the better team, especially given Cincinnati’s problems along the offensive line, at least if Stafford can play mistake-free football.
Look for the Rams to get out of their own and rise to the occasion on Sunday, winning and covering in Super Bowl LVI.
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