When the 2021 NFL season began, all 32 franchises at least dreamed of appearing in Super Bowl LVI. For the majority of the league, such dreams are now dead. We’re down to the final two, and only the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams are still alive.
The Cincinnati Bengals were 125-1 preseason long shots to reach the Super Bowl, having won an NFL-worst two games in 2019 and then only four games last season. They’ve made the quickest turnaround from worst record to the Super Bowl in league history. They’ll face the Los Angeles Rams, who will now become the second consecutive team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
These are two teams that were constructed differently. The Rams on one hand sent draft picks away to acquire proven veterans such as Matthew Stafford, Odell Beckham Jr., Von Miller, and Jalen Ramsey, while the Bengals drafted most of their talent, hitting on players like Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja´Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins. While the Rams are favorites, the Bengals have done more than enough to prove that they deserve to be in the position they find themselves in, but standing in their way of a Lombardi Trophy is an experienced team that is very familiar with head coach Zac Taylor. Super Bowl LVI is sure to be a fun one.
Bengals Defense need to deliver
Lost in all of the underdog and comeback talk for the Bengals is a defense that has helped them defy odds and make it to the grandest stage of them all so early in the team’s development.
It starts with ends Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson and defensive tackle BJ Hill. They have fueled a pass rush responsible for eight sacks this postseason. Pressuring the opposing QB creates opportunities for turnovers, of which the team has seven in three playoff games.
Six of them are interceptions.
Safety Jessie Bates III anchors a ball-hawking secondary on full display in the closing moments of the AFC Championship when Von Bell picked off a Patrick Mahomes pass intended for Tyreek Hill. Those two join cornerbacks Eli Apple, Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton in disrupting passing games and getting the ball back for their offense.
Stafford has four pick-sixes in 20 games this season. If Hendrickson, Hubbard, and Hill can disrupt his momentum, there will be opportunities for the Bengals secondary to make plays on the ball. Should they do that, and the offense can play with the fearlessness it has at times this postseason, the Bengals will have an opportunity to pull off an upset and earn the franchise its first Super Bowl title.
Staffords the key to victory for the Rams
If Stafford has a clean game and does not turn the ball over against the Bengals, the Rams will win Super Bowl 56.
The veteran quarterback has thrived on the big moments thus far in the postseason, delivering when his team needed it the most. His 40-yard bomb to Cooper Kupp to set up the game-winning field game in the divisional round prevented an all-time bad collapse.
His heroics in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game, which saw him bring the Rams back from a 10-point deficit to exorcise the demon that was their six-game losing streak against that team, reflected a gutsy player willing to put the team on his back in the high-pressure situations and carry them to the promised land.
With six touchdowns, completing 72-percent of his passes, and a 9.1 average per pass, he is playing lights out football. That he has been able to find other playmakers besides all-world wideout Kupp has certainly helped.
Super Bowl Pick: Under 48.5 Points
With two defenses improving this playoff, the under seems like the best option. Jalen Ramsey has the ability to lock down Ja´Marr Chase. Look for both teams to start with a run-heavy game plan to open up for the passing plays. Go with the under for this years Super Bowl 56.