PRESS BOX: Predicting the unpredictable — Super Bowl 56 preview

Illustration by Bailey Wood.

JJ Hendrickson, Contributing Writer

After a long, hard-fought season in the NFL, Super Bowl 56 is finally just a few days away. The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals will be facing off for the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 13. 

SoFi Stadium, the Rams’ home field, will play host to the game. This is the second time in Super Bowl history that a team will be playing at home, with the previous being Super Bowl 55 when the Buccaneers won at Raymond James Stadium. Super Bowl venues are selected years in advance by NFL owners through bids placed by cities, according to CNN.

The Rams finished the year with a 12-5 record and an NFC West title, while Cincinnati went 10-7 to win the AFC North. After winning in their first two playoff matchups, each team made a double-digit comeback in the conference championship round to get to the big game. 

Both defenses ranked middle of the pack for points allowed per game. ESPN’s team statistics show the Rams surrendered an average of 344.9 yards and 21.9 points per game this year, while the Bengals conceded an average of 350.8 yards and 22.1 points. Although both defenses are average, the Rams have been stellar at getting to the quarterback. They had 50 sacks on the season, which was third-most in the NFL, according to ESPN.

Additionally, the two squads provide an explosive, fun-to-watch offense. ESPN states both scored an average of 27.1 points per game, where they sit tied for seventh-most in the NFL. The pair do most of their damage through the air. The Rams’ passing attack accounts for 73.4% of 372.1 yards per game. The Bengals get 71.7% of 361.5 yards per game in the same fashion. 

Both offenses revolve around a star quarterback. Matthew Stafford, who was traded from Detroit just last offseason, has had a great year with the Rams. Pro-Football Reference recorded that Stafford had 41 touchdowns and 4,886 passing yards with a passer rating of 102.9, which is the sixth-best in the NFL. A passer rating is based on a quarterback’s overall performance. Despite the Super Bowl being the biggest game of his life, Stafford said he is not letting the big stage intimidate him.

“I think you treat it just like every other game,” Stafford told the media in a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 3. “You got a job to go out there and execute to try and lead your team to help us win. Once the ball is snapped, it’s going to be football. Settle into the game as quickly as you possibly can, trust your eyes, trust your teammates and go play.” 

For the Bengals, quarterback Joe Burrow has been phenomenal. The second-year LSU graduate has recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last season with 34 touchdowns, 4,611 passing yards and a passer rating of 108.3, which is the second-best in the league according to Pro-Football Reference. The quarterback duel will be one of the most exciting aspects of the game.

Although the two are similar on paper, Los Angeles should win by seven points. The Bengals’ offensive line will struggle against the Rams’ elite defensive front. This season, Burrow has been sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL — 51 times,  Pro-Football Reference states. 

To pass the ball, Burrow will have to extend plays by leaving the pocket. Cincinnati will have difficulty moving the ball if he does not. The offensive line issues, paired with the Rams’ home-field advantage makes it hard to imagine the Bengals winning. 

Matthew Stafford is likely to win the most valuable player. He has been performing consistently in the playoffs and four out of the last five winners of the award have been quarterbacks.

Stephen Kouevi, a first-year information systems student at VCU, agrees that the Bengals will have trouble with the pass rush.

“The Rams will terrorize the offensive line of the Bengals,” Kouevi said. “Burrow will be running for his life. The two juggernauts of Aaron Donald and Von Miller will be too much for them to handle.”

ESPN Sportswriter Kevin Seifert disagrees in the article Super Bowl LVI Preview. Seifert believes Burrow will be able to handle the pressure.

“He has been holding up well behind an offensive line that can’t keep him clean. On Sunday, he completed seven of 12 passes when under pressure and converted three third downs via scrambles, including two of third-and-6 or greater,” Seifert stated.

If Burrow can continue performing without a clean pocket, the Bengals will be able to give the Rams a contested game. However, this is unlikely. Donald and Miller, who are too elite to fail to perform in the Super Bowl, will be the reason the Rams leave SoFi Stadium with a ring.

1 Comment

  1. Great article. My head tells me the Rams, my heart tells me the Bengals. Joe Burrows’ rise has been remarkable and a super bowl win would cap off a fairytale story for the Bengals (one of the leagues worst teams 2 years ago) but Stafford and the Rams’ roster are built for the super bowl.

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