Cincinnati Bengals vs. Los Angeles Rams: Previewing Super Bowl LVI
With less than a week remaining before the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams face off in Super Bowl 56, millions of sports fans, both casual and extreme are preparing to watch the game. The Bengals are certainly the biggest surprise of the 2021 NFL season while the Rams are cashing in on their aggressive roster moves from the last year. Here’s your preview for Super Bowl LVI.
Sunday, February 13, 2022 at 6:30 PM, the Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Los Angeles, California to face the hometown Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 56. Until last year, an NFL team had never played the Super Bowl in their home stadium. That was until Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played host in Super Bowl 55, which they won. Now, just a year later, a feat that had never been accomplished is happening for the second time in as many years, as the LA Rams will host the Super Bowl. Will they have the same results as the defending champs? Will the Bengals come in and play spoiler? Here’s a look at each team, broken down by position group and coaching.Read More »
When Joe Burr was taken with the first overall pick in 2020 NFL Draft, no one expected him to take the Bengals to the Super Bowl in his second season. After all, Cincinnati hadn’t won a playoff game since 1990, and no second year QB had led a team to the promised land in history. When you combine that with the fact that Burrow’s rookie season was cut short by a major knee injury, the Bengals are the surprise story of the season.
While Cincy went with a new quarterback, the Rams picked up a seasoned veteran in the offseason when they shipped Jared Goff to Detroit along with draft picks to pick up Matthew Stafford. Stafford, who had spent 12 years in Detroit has never reached this level. Stafford had continually put up good numbers on struggling Lions’ teams, but had never received the kind of respect that he’s getting in LA.
Neither QB has any experience in the Super Bowl, but Stafford’s lengthy career gives him a slight edge over the young Burrow.
The Los Angeles Rams ascribe to the current trend in the NFL that teaches running backs by committee. With a mix of Cam Akers, Sony Michelle, and Darryl Henderson Jr. the Rams have multiple backs who can pick up the tough yards. This works in direct contrast to the rushing attack of the Bengals. While Cincinnati does rely on Samaje Perine for most third down situations, Joe Mixon is clearly the featured back in the Bengals offense.
Ultimately, Mixon is better than any of the Rams’ running backs. While it’s easy to point at the three-headed attack that LA relies on, it’s hard to deny that Mixon is a solid mix of speed and strength. The Bengals get the edge in this department.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
In the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bengals took Jamaar Chase, the former college teammate of Joe Burrow. Analysts and draft experts were left in awe, as everyone assumed that the Bengals would look to upgrade the offensive line that allowed Joe Burrow to get sacked more than anyone else in the games he played his rookie season. Eyes rolled, pundits complained, and the Bengals proved why Chase was the right pick. Burrow and Chase picked up right where they left off at LSU, becoming one of the top combinations in the NFL in only a year.
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The Rams also upgraded their receiving corpse during the season, trading for much maligned receive Odell Beckham Jr. OBJ who was vocal about his displeasure with the Browns finally got out of Cleveland in another aggressive move by the Rams. He didn’t show up a moment too soon, as Robert Woods went down with a season ending injury the week that OBJ arrived. In the meantime, Cooper Kupp enjoyed the best season of any receive, leading the league in yards, touchdowns, and receptions.
The Rams get the edge on the WR/TE front, primarily because of Kupp and Beckham. They also have Van Jefferson and Tyler Higbee. While Chase has been a great addition to the Bengals, their receiving corpse of Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd just don’t stack up. Combine that with the fact that tight end CJ Uzomah may be unable to play due to injury, the Rams have the edge.
This is one area that isn’t really close. The Bengals offensive line simply isn’t that good, especially in pass protection. The team did little to upgrade the line that allowed Joe Burrow to get injured last season but have somehow done enough to get to the big game. Conversely, Stafford gets to play behind one of the best offensive lines that he’s ever had in his career. The Bengals allowed 55 sacks in the regular season (third worst in the league) while the Rams had 50 sacks (also third most). Those numbers don’t bode well for Burrow.
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The Rams have a major advantage in this area. If you ascribe to the line of thinking that says that games are won in the trenches, the OL groups could be a major factor in determining who walks away with a Lombardi Trophy.
It’s impossible to talk about the offensive line without discussing the defensive line. Aaron Donald of the Rams is arguably the best player in football. With his versatility, he is able to line up in multiple positions along the defensive front and can be trusted to stop the run or get after the quarterback. There’s no denying the fact that he holds a clear advantage of any Bengals offensive lineman that he’s going to line up against.
The Rams also added Von Miller during the season, creating an added layer of pressure off the edge. When you combine those players with the Bengals deficiencies on the offensive line, the Rams have a major advantage.
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The Bengals have a bit of an advantage here, thanks in large part to second-year player, Logan Wilson. Not only did he post more than 100 tackles on the season, but he also led the team with four interceptions on the year, in addition to grabbing the game-sealing interception against the Titans in the AFC Divisional Round. In conjunction with Germaine Pratt, the Bengals have very quietly put together a great linebacking tandem.
Outside of Troy Reeder, the Rams linebackers aren’t exactly special. Reeder had a career year with 91 tackles and two interceptions, but this is the glaring weakness on the Rams defense.
Jalen Ramsey (Rams CB) is arguably the best corner in the NFL. His ability to shift his focus from man coverage to zone coverage depending on the situation makes him one of the best in the league. However, the Bengals are also solid on the backend of their defense. Their DBs were the major different in the game against the number one seeded Titans, where Ryan Tannehill was picked off three times.
With Rams Safety, Taylor Rapp out, Eric Weddle came out of retirement to help his former squad with their Super Bowl push. Weddle has played well. Even with Ramsey on the field, the Bengals have proven to be a clutch secondary, so we will give them the slight edge in this matchup.
Evan McPherson, a rookie punter out of Florida has become the most clutch kicker in this postseason. While the Bengals took a lot of flack for drafting a kicker in the fifth round of the draft, it appears that the investment paid off.
Conversely, Johnny Hekker, the Rams’ punter has once again proven to be one of the best in the league. But, punters don’t put up points, so we will give the edge to the Bengals.
Sean McVay and Zac Taylor know one another well. In fact, Taylor went to work for McVay five years ago, clearing his path to an NFL head coaching gig. McVay has been to the big game and lost, while this is Taylor’s first trip. We will give the edge to McVay here.
Both teams scored 460 points in the regular season. The Rams gave up the 15th most points on defense, while the Bengals gave up the 17th most. It’s a relatively even matchup, but we will take the Rams to be the second team in two years to win the Lombardi Trophy in their home stadium.
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