Super Bowl Preview

Super Bowl 56: Bengals – Rams spread history favors underdog Cincy

We’ve finally arrived at the end of the road. The 2021 NFL Season began back in March, with free agency. It carried through the draft, mini camps, training camp, pre-season and an 18-week, 17-game regular season. Then came the playoffs, a Super Wild Card Weekend, incredible Divisional Round and two Championship Games. All that’s left us with the Cincinnati Bengals, who went from worst to first in 2021, and the Los Angeles Rams, who pulled off a blockbuster trade last January, competing for the title.

Who will win? What will the half time show be like? Will the commercials be any good? How many chicken wings can one human consume in a 12-hour period? The big questions will be answered on Sunday. The Super Bowl is more than just a game—it’s an event. It’s also one of the biggest parties of the year, and it’s upon us.

While there is plenty of time to plan your party, place your bets and prepare for hours of fun on the couch, I’m going to look at the matchup. And it figures to be a good one as the upstart Bengals, with second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, are battling the home town Rams and veteran Matthew Stafford, appearing in his first Super Bowl.

The Bengals are the Cinderella story here. The team hadn’t won a playoff game in decades, and had never won a road battle, before fighting their way through the AFC. After a 10-7 season that earned them the AFC North title, the Bengals bested the Raiders in the Wild Card game, knocked off the top-seeded Titans in the Divisional Round and outlasted the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes in the AFC Championship Game.

The Bengals’ line is a work in progress, but the weapons on offense are top-notch. Burrow leads the charge, with veteran Joe Mixon in the backfield. The Bengals also have a trio or receivers in veteran Tyler Boyd, second-year man Tee Higgins and super rookie Ja’Marr Chase who all figure to be a huge factor. The connection between Burrow and Chase has been solid all year and will be a focal point of the Bengals attack and the Rams’ defensive efforts.

The Rams, meanwhile, are a team built to be in the Super Bowl—which is taking place in their home stadium. The Rams made a blockbuster trade last winter to acquire Stafford, then made a mid-season trade to acquire veteran pass rusher, and Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller, to bolster the defense. The Rams also signed veteran Odell Beckham, Jr. when he was released by the Browns. The Rams are all in on the Super Bowl and got there by beating the Cardinals and Buccaneers, then snapping a six-game losing streak to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

The Rams will be relying on Stafford and his connection with Cooper Kupp—who had a career year—and Beckham in the Super Bowl. The Rams also have backfield options with Darrell Henderson, Sony Michel and second year back Cam Akers, who made a miraculous recovery after tearing his Achilles during the summer. But it will likely be the Rams’ defense, led by Miller, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, that will prove the difference. If they can smother and contain the Bengals, coach Sean McVay could finally earn his first Super Bowl title.

I suspect the Rams are the better team and will find a way to win it. In any case, I hope for a livelier offensive performance than three years ago when the Rams and Patriots clashed in the Super Bowl.

The Pick: The Los Angeles Rams

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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