Super Bowl LVI

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If you had the Cincinnati Bengals appearing in the Super Bowl this season, congratulations. Hopefully you put a bet down on that before the season kicked off. They will be making their third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The last came in the 1988 season. They have yet to win a Super Bowl. For the Los Angeles Rams this will be their fifth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The last came in the 2018 season. The Rams only Super Bowl title came in the 1999 season. This will be the second consecutive Super Bowl where one participant will play on their home field. Last year we saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs. Will the Rams do the same at SoFi Stadium? The last time the city of Los Angeles hosted a Super Bowl was in 1973 when the Miami Dolphins completed their undefeated season. One team is having a ‘Cinderella’ type season, while the other has done everything to get to this point and remain title contenders. Don’t be fooled into thinking this will be a one-sided affair. That’s what they want you to think. It’s time to dive into this matchup.

Coaches

When Rams head coach Sean McVay made his first appearance in the Super Bowl three years ago, he was seen as the next great coach. A rising star if you will. When the Rams only scored 3 points in that game, a lot of questions were being asked about whether he could win a championship. Now that he has returned in a short amount of time, we will get to see if has learned anything from that first appearance. For one can he make adjustments on the fly? That was something he didn’t seem equipped to do against Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. The team he has now is more talented at many key positions. Let’s see how it goes this time with him under a tighter microscope.

As for Zac Taylor he was apart of that coaching staff for the Rams when they were last in the Super Bowl. The former quarterbacks coach under McVay was hired after that season by Cincinnati to be their head coach. It hasn’t been an easy ride so far, but he’s made it nonetheless. Records of 2-14 and 4-11-1 in his first two years at the helm had some questioning if he should remain the head coach. The Bengals brass stuck with him and it was no surprise as they kept former head coach Marvin Lewis for 16 seasons while he lost 7 playoff games. With Taylor getting to a Super Bowl he would be owed half of that tenure at least you would think? Anyways he hasn’t had many spurts of head scratching decisions as other coaches. His staff has kept a steady ship as they rode their franchise quarterback to this point in time. They’re banking on it coming through with a surprise championship.

Players to Watch

Joe Burrow just wins. There is really nothing more to it, but when you get sacked 9 times in a playoff game, you’re supposed to lose. He didn’t as they beat the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round in this current playoff run. I for one can’t wait to see what he does next in this finale. Can WR Ja’Marr Chase continue his stellar rookie campaign in the Super Bowl? Will WRs Tyler Boyd or Tee Higgins see lots of one-on-one opportunities as a result of the Rams defense focusing in on Chase? Will the Bengals be relentless in making sure to establish the run with RB Joe Mixon getting involved early and often? All of these playmakers will have something to say if Cincinnati is to win their first Super Bowl title. Trey Hendrickson was a fantastic free agent addition and he must continue to put constant pressure on the quarterback. Jessie Bates was a difference maker for the Bengals secondary against the Chiefs in the AFC title game. He’ll need to be again to slow down the Rams receivers.

For Los Angeles, QB Matthew Stafford has lived up to the expectation of getting to the Super Bowl. It would have been a failure not getting here, but now that he is it’s time to cash in. The Rams didn’t let up in acquiring help along the way with RB Sony Michel before the season when RB Cam Akers went down to an achilles tear. Now that Akers is miraculously back, they form a solid 1-2 punch on the ground. WR Odell Beckham Jr. was signed after he was waived from Cleveland. He has been a great complement to what Stafford has with his favorite target in WR Cooper Kupp. Van Jefferson has been a great slot option and deep threat for them and if WR Robert Woods wasn’t injured, this wouldn’t be fair. DT Aaron Donald and LB Von Miller have one task and that’s to pressure QB Joe Burrow constantly. CB Jalen Ramsey could be a factor on an occasional corner blitz, but expect him to man one side of the field against the Bengals top targets.

Key of the Game

The Los Angeles Rams would love to put to rest the questions that linger over their last Super Bowl appearance. The most obvious way they can do that in this game is don’t relent. If they get a lead early, they’ll need to keep it. I don’t believe they can muster a comeback with how they’re built. This means that Joe Burrow cannot beat them. They can afford RB Joe Mixon to get 20 touches, but Burrow can’t have any time to throw. Aaron Donald and Von Miller were a devastating combo late in the NFC title game against the 49ers. If that can be repeated for an entire game, that should be the end of it.

You can’t have a repeat of Burrow getting sacked 9 times again if you’re the Cincinnati Bengals. But this isn’t their more pressing problem. It’s can they slow down Rams WR Cooper Kupp? Jessie Bates can help provide help over the top as a safety, but the top 3 cornerbacks for the Bengals; Chidobe Awuzie, Eli Apple and Mike Hilton have to play their best football of their careers. Vonn Bell is the other safety opposite Bates, but he plays better in the box than as a center fielder on defense like Bates. This secondary has played great of late. If they want to hoist a Lombardi trophy, they will need to slow down Cooper Kupp.

Who Will Win?

Ultimately what I want out of this game, (especially when it doesn’t involve my favorite team) is for it to not be a blowout. Or even a 13-3 borefest i.e, Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. With that said this should be a solid matchup as it presents itself on paper. The Bengals while having clear weaknesses on the offensive line have managed to get to the Super Bowl. For the Rams they were expected to be here before the season started, but there were obvious growing pains along the way. Two franchises that had completely different paths to get here. When this game is all said and done, I believe that the Cincinnati Bengals will win their first Super Bowl in franchise history. QB Joe Burrow will be named the MVP throwing a late touchdown pass to WR Tee Higgins. 30-24 in favor of Cincinnati.

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