Rams vs Bengals: Who Is Most Likely to Win?
The countdown to Super Bowl Sunday has begun. This year, it’s fans of the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals who are lucky enough to be in the market for Super Bowl tickets. But what team has the edge on the field? The Rams have been anointed as the favorites in the game, but that may not mean much. Based on how the NFL season has unfolded, especially with the last six playoff games being decided by a field goal or going to overtime, it’s clear that anything can happen. Let’s take a look at some of the key matchups, subplots, and X-factors for Super Bowl LVI to figure out how this game will end.
The first subplot of the game is that the two head coaches are familiar with one another. When Sean McVay became head coach of the Rams in 2017, he hired current Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor as an assistant. Taylor coached the wide receivers in 2017 and was the quarterback coach in 2018 when the Rams went to the Super Bowl but lost to the Patriots. He was hired by the Bengals the following year, and three seasons later, McVay and Taylor, two of the youngest head coaches in the NFL, are squaring off against one another in the Super Bowl. The question is: how much did they learn about each other in their two years working together?
Joe Burrow Magic
If the season had started in Week 15, there’s no question that Burrow would be the league MVP. He was sensational late in the regular season and has kept it going in the playoffs with four touchdown passes and two interceptions over three games. Granted, the numbers during the three playoff games aren’t that eye-popping. The Bengals also had to adjust after letting Joe get sacked nine times in the Divisional Round. But Burrow has been magical in crunch time, which is why the Bengals have pulled out three close wins. It’s almost hard to believe that this was his first full season after missing the end of his rookie season with an injury. The former Heisman winner has matured in a hurry and looks ready to play in a Super Bowl.
Is Matthew Stafford Trustworthy
On the other side of the ball, Stafford’s play will go a long way toward deciding what team wins the Super Bowl. Stafford surely has more arm talent than Burrow, so when he’s playing well, the Los Angeles offense can get humming and score points in a hurry. However, Stafford threw 17 interceptions during the regular season and was far too loose with the ball late in the season. The Rams also blew a lead in the Divisional Round thanks to four turnovers. When it comes to ball security, there are questions to ask about Stafford and the Rams that could dictate how the game unfolds.
Cincy O-Line vs Rams Pass Rush
As mentioned, the Bengals allowed nine sacks in their win over the Titans in the Divisional Round. It’s astounding that they managed to overcome those sacks and win the game. They had to make some adjustments in the AFC Championship Game and needed Burrow to do a lot more scrambling, which is why he was only sacked once. However, the Cincinnati offensive line remains a huge concern heading into the Super Bowl. On top of that, the Rams have one of the best pass rushes in the league. Aaron Donald is the most feared interior lineman in football while Von Miller (a former Super Bowl MVP) and Leonard Floyd are both elite pass rushers. That trio would be a challenge for a good offensive line, which is why the biggest question facing the Bengals in this game involves protecting Burrow with their lackluster offensive line.
Perhaps the most enjoyable debate ahead of the Super Bowl is discussing which team has better offensive skill players. The Rams boast Cooper Kupp, who was easily the best wide receiver in the NFL this season, while Odell Beckham made a significant impact after coming to Los Angeles in a midseason trade. The backfield duo of Cam Akers and Sony Michel is also better than most realize. On the other side, the Bengals have an excellent trio in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Chase has been the best of the bunch. But when teams focus on him, Burrow is happy to look elsewhere, with Higgins amassing 199 receiving yards over the past two games. Of course, the X-factor is that the Rams have an elite cornerback in Jalen Ramsey, who will surely be matched up against Chase. Meanwhile, Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates has been outstanding during the playoffs and could take advantage of any errant passes from Stafford.
On paper, this is truly one of those Super Bowls that could go either way. If the Bengals can protect Burrow, the edge could easily move in Cincinnati’s direction. At the same time, if Stafford is at his best, the Rams will be tough to beat. The Rams are the betting favorites and appear to be getting most of the betting action with more than a week left before the game. However, there is a significant number of pundits who are hesitant to pick against Burrow and the Bengals after the incredible run they’ve had. If the last two rounds are any indication, this figures to be a close game that could go either way and be decided by the smallest of margins.