As I start my final preview article of the football season, I still can’t believe I’m looking at the top of my screen and seeing “Cincinnati Bengals” next to the words “Super Bowl LVI Preview.”
But this is now the standard, according to Joe Burrow. This was expected. That losing stuff? A thing of the past.
For the sake of Cincinnati, I hope it’s a thing of the past for at least one more game. A city coming together the way Cincinnati has during this postseason run is breath-taking. The Lombardi-less Bengals are on the verge of claiming their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. The city may burn down if the Bengals are able to finish the season on top in Los Angeles.
Not actually, but mayhem will ensue.
The job doesn’t come easy, though, as Zac Taylor, Frank Pollack and Brian Callahan are faced with the task of keeping the best defensive player of all time off of Joe Burrow for 60 minutes.
The Rams – who finished third in the NFL with 50 sacks – welcome a Bengals team who gave up a league-leading 55 sacks into their home stadium for a chance to win the most coveted trophy in football. Yet, Joe Burrow still has his team here. This game has emotional roller coaster written all over it. That’s what the theme of this entire playoff run has been and I don’t see it changing with one game left.
For two weeks now, all we’ve heard about is how Aaron Donald and Von Miller are going to win this game for the Rams by themselves. Here’s the thing – football is not that simple, and outside of those two and Jalen Ramsey, the LA Rams defense isn’t something to be afraid of. There are ways the Bengals can suppress the way the Rams want to attack.
Obviously the QBs are the highlight of this matchup, but it will also feature the NFL’s receiving leader (Cooper Kupp) and a rookie who finished 4th in receiving (Ja’Marr Chase). There are points to be scored, but I just don’t see a shootout happening.
X-Factor: 3rd Downs on both sides of the ball
Prediction: This game is likely going to have big 3rd down after big 3rd down for both teams. The Bengals finished 21st in the NFL giving up conversions on 41.3% of 3rd downs. The Rams finished 11th giving up 38.4%. However, I think the Bengals possess somewhat of a hidden advantage in this category. Trey Hendrickson should give 40 year old Andrew Whitworth all he can handle and then some. Mike Hilton will have his hands full with the task of chasing Cooper Kupp around, but I think Lou Anarumo will be throwing disguises around all game long that confuse Matt Stafford. Stafford, who lasers in on Kupp more often than he should, will likely give the Bengals defense a few chances to take the ball away. They’ve shown up all postseason and I expect no less in the Super Bowl.
When the Bengals are on offense, there is reason to worry. The game’s best corner lurking around, possibly taking away his side of the field at times vs Joe Burrow in his second year. A great defensive line vs a line who’s struggled to give Burrow time all year. Still, the Bengals seem poised to come out and score 35 since it’s been awhile, but that’s a big ask.
Here’s what I know – there’s one number 9 in this matchup that I trust with a very close game on the line. He’s wearing black on Sunday. He’s a National Championship winner in college. He’s been in games with this feeling. I sincerely don’t have a gut feeling for who wins this game. I just know it’ll be close.
A back and forth second half is coming to a close once again with the ball in Burrow’s hands. One of his infamous scramble plays comes at the right time to put the Bengals in field goal range. Relying on the rookie who’s won the Bengals their last two games, Zac Taylor opts to run the clock to 0:04 left. Evan McPherson hits a game winning 41 yard field goal and keeps his promise, doing the griddy as his team swarms him. The Bengals win 27-24.
Super Bowl MVP: Joe Burrow