Previewing Super Bowl LVI: Bengals vs. Rams

Joe Burrow makes pre-snap calls during a game. Burrow has led Cincinnati to their first Super Bowl berth in over three decades, facing the Rams in Super Bowl LVI. // Photo courtesy of Jamie Sabau Getty Images

The NFL season will reach its completion on Feb. 13 with the playing of Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams. The game is slated to kickoff at 6:30 p.m. and will take place in Inglewood, California at the brand new Sofi Stadium.

This year, the Super Bowl will host the two youngest head coaches in the NFL. Zac Taylor of the Bengals is 38 years old and Sean McVay of the Rams will be making his second Super Bowl appearance and is only 36 years of age. Both coaches are the offensive play callers for their respective teams and their teams have excelled on that side of the ball. If the Rams were to beat the Bengals on Sunday, McVay would become the record holder for youngest coach ever to win a Super Bowl. 

The Rams have an advantage in terms of experience at the quarterback position with Matthew Stafford. This is Stafford’s twelfth season in the NFL and he has thrown for almost 50,000 yards in his career. The Bengals quarterback is Joe Burrow and what he lacks in experience he makes up with swagger. Burrow has helped lead his team to the Super Bowl in only his second season. The quarterbacks have performed similarly this year and they are both at the top of the NFL in terms of passing yard total and QBR. 

The offense of the  Bengals features a strong trio of wide receivers and a versatile running back in Joe Mixon. Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has been the star of the offense this season with over 1,400 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Chase was drafted early in the NFL draft last offseason and has shown an impressive chemistry with Burrow as the two were college teammates at LSU. This connection has catalyzed the team to score the eighth most points per game in the NFL. The Bengals have a weakness on their offensive line though. Cincinnati has allowed 51 sacks, the most in the NFL this season. Although this has not stopped the Bengals from winning, Burrow will have to be ready to get the ball out quick especially against the Rams defense.

The Los Angeles defense is headlined by two superstar caliber players in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Both players will be involved in key matchups against the Bengals offense. Donald will be tasked with trying to expose the suspect opposing offensive line and add to his 12.5 sacks so far this season, a mark which leads the NFL at the defensive tackle position. Ramsey should have his hands full in his key matchup against Chase but he is known for shutting down the number one receiver on opposing teams. Ramsey has four interceptions on the season and is ranked third in the NFL in passes deflected. Outside of these two stars, the Rams defense is more open to opposing offenses. The defense is about average in the NFL and gives up more passing yards than most NFL teams, but they get a lot of sacks which will create an interesting dynamic against the Bengals strong passing attack and weaker offensive line.  

The Stafford led Rams offense is just as explosive as the offense of their opponents. The Rams score over 27 points per game which is good enough for fifth in the NFL. Their offense powered through the strong connection between Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Kupp is the NFL leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns this season and he has a strong argument in a case for the best wide receiver season of all time. In addition to Kupp, the Rams have another big name receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. who they picked up off the waiver wire in week ten of the season. At running back the Rams have a solid trio of players after the surprise recovery of starter Cam Akers’ Achilles injury. The Rams also have a strong offensive line that has given up only 30 sacks this season, a mark that ties them for fourth best in the NFL.

On the other side of the ball, the Bengals defense has been playing well recently. During the season the Bengals defense was like the Rams in that it was about average in most statistical categories. In the playoffs though, the defense has allowed less than 20 points per game and the defensive coordinator, Lou Anarumo, has been able to make very good adjustments mid game to bolster their chances of winning. In the past two playoff games, the Bengals have only given up six combined points in the fourth quarter which has been a major factor in their postseason success. 

The best player on the defense is defensive end Trey Hendrickson. Hendrickson had the fifth most sacks in the regular season and has brought his sack total to 16.5 in the postseason. He will be a key player for the Bengals to try and disrupt Stafford before he can get the ball into the hands of the Rams playmakers. In addition to football being played on Feb. 13, there will be a performance during halftime of the game which will include Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar. The odds for the game have the total points scored at 48.5 points and oddsmakers have the Rams as the favorites to win the game, with the spread favoring LA by 3.5 points.