SB LVI Preview


Alex Hooper

This year, we get the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. This will be the first Super Bowl in Los Angeles since Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, when the game was played in the Rose Bowl. This will be the second time in five years that the Rams will be in the Super Bowl (13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII). However, the Bengals will be making their first Super Bowl appearance since 1988 (20-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII). 

How the Los Angeles Rams got here

The Rams have had quite a journey to get to this stage. Since their loss in Super Bowl LIII, they missed the playoffs in 2019 and got bounced in the Divisional round to the Green Bay Packers in 2020. 

Prior to this postseason, quarterback Matthew Stafford had never won a playoff game in his career (0-3 postseason record). He was traded to Los Angeles following the 2020 season (Jared Goff, two first round picks and a third round pick) after spending his entire career with the Detroit Lions since being the no. 1 overall pick in 2008. Along with Stafford, they have had a historic season from wide receiver, Cooper Kupp. Cam Akers had come back from a torn achilles in training camp, signing Odell Beckham Jr, and a midseason trade for Von Miller to join Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey in that ferocious Rams Defense. Their season culminated in an NFC West championship.

They breezed by the Arizona Cardinals with a 34-11 victory on wild card weekend. From there, it took some miracles.

In the divisional round against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles held a 27-3 lead in the 3rd quarter before Tom Brady and the Bucs would mount a comeback and tie the game at 27 apiece with under a minute in the 4th quarter. Stafford and the Rams got into field goal range, with Matt Gay kicking the game winning field goal as time expired (30-27 win). Tom Brady would go on to retire from his historic career after this game (congrats Tom!).

They had another tall task with the rival San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. Los Angeles lost their two regular season meetings to San Francisco (31-10 loss in week 10; 27-24 loss in week 18). The 49ers had pulled off upsets over the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers to get to the NFC championship. Los Angeles once again struggled against their rivals out of the gate, eventually falling into a 17-7 deficit going into the 4th quarter. The Rams finally got rolling in the 4th quarter with Kupp catching another touchdown and Matt Gay kicking two field goals to take a 20-17 lead. The Rams were able to catch an interception off Jimmy Garoppolo to secure their birth to a Super Bowl at their home stadium (20-17 win).

How the Cincinnati Bengals got here

The last few years haven’t been too kind for the Cincinnati Bengals. They were the worst team in football (2-14) in Andy Dalton’s final year in Cincinnati and the number one overall pick that resulted in quarterback, Joe Burrow. Last year ended with Burrow on the injured reserve with a torn ACL. They had a top five pick once again that resulted in Burrow’s former LSU teammate in wide reciever, Ja’Marr Chase. Both Burrow and Chase were a dynamic duo back in their college days; they led LSU to a historic season in 2019 that culminated in a national championship. The Chase pick was controversial at the time, as the Bengals had a more glaring need at offensive line help.

This year has been completely different in Cincinnati. The Bengals offense has been possibly the best in football. Burrow and Chase have picked up from where they left off from LSU to Cincinnati; playmakers like running back Joe Mixon and wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins have all had career years. The Bengals arguably had the best free agent signing in the 2021 offseason with defensive end Trey Hendrickson. He and star safety, Jessie Bates III, have energized that young Bengals defense. The Bengals also drafted stud kicker Evan McPherson, who has been nothing short of phenomenal this year. Their regular season culminated in an AFC North championship.

Going into the postseason, the Bengals hadn’t won a playoff game in over 30 years (1991). That was the longest drought in all four major North American sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL). They had the Las Vegas Raiders at home on wild card weekend. Like the Bengals, the Raiders have had a playoff victory drought, not winning a playoff game in nearly 20 years (2002). The Bengals had a 20-13 halftime lead, but as the 4th quarter was winding down, the lead was 26-19 with the Raiders marching down the field. With under 30 seconds left in the game, Las Vegas was at Cincinnati’s 9 yard line. The game ended with an interception by Derek Carr in the end zone. Paul Brown Stadium erupted with joy as Cincinnati won their first playoff game since 1991 (26-19 win).

Next up was the Tennessee Titans. The Titans were getting superstar running back Derrick Henry back for the game after missing the last eight weeks of the regular season with a broken foot. However, the Bengals defense kept the Titans offense at bay to start the game. The Bengals’ offense also got off to a slow start, but they went into halftime with a 9-6 lead. In the 4th quarter, the game was tied at 16 apiece, but Tennessee was looking to break the tie. However, Ryan Tannehill threw an interception at the 50 yard line, which led to McPherson kicking the game winning field goal (19-16 win).

The Bengals were then given a tall task with Patrick Mahomes and the mighty Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game. The Chiefs were hosting the AFC championship for the 4th straight year, with Super Bowl appearances in the last two years, including a Super Bowl LIV Championship. As the 1st half was winding down, it was looking like the Chiefs were going to a 3rd straight Super Bowl with a 21-3 lead. It was at this point that the Bengals finally woke up. They scored 21-10 going into halftime. Out of nowhere, the Bengals defense shut down Mahomes and the Chiefs offense and slowly but surely, Burrow and the Bengals tied the game at 21 apiece, and even took a 24-21 lead! However, Mahomes did what he did best and led the Chiefs downfield and they kicked the game tying field goal as time expired. Kansas City won the overtime coin toss (again) and got the ball first in OT. However, unlike last week against the Buffalo Bills, Mahomes was picked off at the Bengals 45 yard line, leading up to another Evan McPherson game winning field goal (27-24 win).

My Super Bowl prediction

The Bengals have been full of surprises this season, but I think their magical ride ends here. The Super Bowl stage will be too big for this young squad. The Bengals offense will get interrupted from playmakers like Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald. Stafford, Kupp, and the Rams offense will do just enough to win their 2nd Super Bowl in team history in their own SoFi Stadium. 

The pick: Rams 28-13 over the Bengals.

Super Bowl Halftime

Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Bilge and Kendrick Lamar take on one of the world’s biggest stages in the Super Bowl LVI halftime show presented by Pepsi. It looks like it’ll be a good one! The NFL has posted a link to the trailer.