Thirty-two teams started this journey with dreams of glory. After six months of competition, only two remain. The Cincinnati Bengals emerged from the AFC and the Los Angeles Rams who conquered the NFC will do battle for the ultimate honor. One game to determine who will grab the ultimate glory and who will wonder what could have been. Both teams have earned their way to this moment. Let’s take a look at each team’s road to the Super Bowl and who shall win.
Los Angeles Rams: NFC Champions
The moment their season ended last year the Rams went all in on winning the Super Bowl this year. Trading for Matthew Stafford was a statement of intent. Add to the fact that their Rams home stadium would be hosting the Super Bowl and you can understand why they were so desperate to reach this stage. With sky-high expectations the Rams started the season on fire. Winning seven of their first 8 games, this team emerged as a legitimate title contender. Then the month of November happened. Slumping to three straight defeats the Rams lost their shine. However, the month of December proved to be the spark the team needed as they headed towards the playoffs.
Despite losing their last game of the season to the 49ers, the Rams emerged as the champions of the NFC West. This allowed them to host their first-round playoff game against Arizona. In that game there was really only one team that was going to win, as the Rams dominated the Cardinals. The following week they had to survive a late game comeback from Tom Brady. Thanks to Matthew Stafford, the Rams were able to advance to the NFC Championship game. The rematch with the 49ers went the Rams’ way thanks to 13 unanswered points in the 4th quarter.
So, now that they have made it this far, what advantages will the Rams enjoy in this game? Well, for starters the game is being played at their home stadium, and that alone will give them a boost. In terms of overall star power, it would seem that the Rams have the edge in this as well. The Bengals offensive line has been pretty shaky this year and the Rams have one of the best defensive fronts. This mismatch could end up being a huge advantage for the Rams. On the offensive side of the ball, Stafford is a clear upgrade at the QB position. His chemistry with Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham is a huge reason why this offense has been clicking. Whether these advantages lead to the ultimate prize remains to be seen.
Cincinnati Bengals: AFC Champions
The Bengals had a different set of expectations than their counterparts. After only winning four games the previous season the Bengals were just looking to get back on the right track. With their first round pick they hit the jackpot in selecting WR Ja’Marr Chase. He and Joe Burrow would form a deadly duo that would light the league on fire. The Bengals started off the season strong going 5-2 in their first seven games. Then they suffered back-to-back embarrassing losses to the Jets and the Browns. The Bengals then began a stretch of consistently being inconsistent, winning two games in a row, only to lose the next two games. They would finish the season 10-7, but thanks to the rest of their division slumping that was good enough to conquer the AFC North.
Winning their division allowed them to host the Las Vegas Raiders in the first round. A late defensive stand was the difference between the two teams as Cincinnati won their first playoff game in over 30 years. The Bengals then followed up that win by shocking the number 1 seeded Titans in Tennessee. A walk-off field goal clinched their ticket to the AFC Championship game. In the AFC Championship the Bengals overcame a 21-3 deficit against KC to force the game into overtime. In overtime the defense came up with a huge interception, which set the team up for yet another walk off field goal.
The advantages for the Bengals are they get to play with house money. Nobody expected them to get this far, so they won’t have to deal with the weight of expectations. They also have the superior QB, which is always a boost in this situation. Joe Burrow gives them a belief that will be hard to shake. This team has overcome big leads several times this season and won’t be overawed by the moment. Defensively this unit has been able to make game-changing plays when the team needs them most, and will be confident they can do the same on Sunday. Lastly, their kicker Evan McPherson has been automatic while the Rams kicker has been shaky. If this game is close, that could end up being the difference.
So, who will ultimately come out victorious? Well, this matchup feels eerily similar to last year’s Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Buccaneers. In that game the Chiefs had the better QB, but a poor offensive line ultimately spelled their doom. Cincinnati will be in the same situation, and it will likely take an all-time performance from Burrow to win. While that is certainly possible, it just feels like there are too many things pointing in the Rams direction. Hollywood gets its perfect ending as the Rams reign supreme in the end.
Verdict: Rams 30 Bengals 20
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