Super Bowl LVI Preview: Home Team Set to Lock Horns with Midwest Predator

Super Bowl LVI Preview: Home Team Set to Lock Horns with Midwest Predator

Charlie Spungin, Copy Editor

On Sunday, Feb. 13, Super Bowl LVI is set to take place between the Cincinnati Bengals, the AFC Champions, and the Los Angeles Rams, the NFC Champions in Sofi Stadium.

The Bengals’ underdog season continued in the playoffs. Entering the season, many saw the team as one of the worst teams in the AFC and certainly the worst in the AFC North. However, they have overcome the odds and found themselves in the Super Bowl.

Entering the playoffs, the Bengals had not won a playoff game since 1990 and their last super bowl appearance was 1988. The team’s offensive firepower has been the catalyst for this. Joe Burrow has solidified himself as an elite quarterback in the league. Running back Joe Mixon stayed healthy the entire year after playing merely six games last year en route to his first Pro Bowl season. Ja’Marr Chase has had one of the best rookie wide receiver seasons in NFL history with over 1,450 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. His connection with Burrow was a catalyst for the team’s success. Tee Higgins also exceeded 1,000 yards, and their slot receiver Tyler Boyd reached the 800 yard mark.

Their team’s average defense has been enough to keep the team afloat. Edge rusher Trey Hendrickson had his first Pro Bowl season in his first season with the Bengals after having 14 sacks in the regular season. Safety Jessie Bates III is one of the league’s best safeties as well.

In the Wild Card game, the Bengals defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19. Then, they beat the Tennessee Titans 19-16 with a walkoff game winner from kicker Evan McPherson. Lastly, in the AFC Championship, the Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 with yet another McPherson game winner, this one in overtime after overcoming an 18 point deficit.

The Rams had hype coming into the season with their acquisition of Matthew Stafford in the offseason. With an elite quarterback, people envisioned the Rams to be legitimate contenders with their elite defense. Despite some rough patches throughout the year, the Rams have found their way to home field advantage in the Super Bowl. They are the second team to ever have this after last year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Rams most recently made the Super Bowl in 2018 with Jared Goff at the helm rather than Stafford. They came short, falling to the Patriots 10-3. The team’s offense elevated to elite status this year with Stafford throwing 41 passing touchdowns and Cooper Kupp winning the triple crown with 145 receptions, 1947 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. added an element to the Rams offense following wide receiver Robert Woods’ ACL tear. The Rams defense was not the league’s #1 defense that it was last year. This year, they were statistically average. However, the team has absolutely elite playmakers. Interior defensive lineman Aaron Donald is arguably the league’s best player, terrorizing interior offensive lineman every Sunday. Jalen Ramsey is arguably the league’s  premiere lockdown cornerback.

They destroyed the Cardinals in the Wild Card round 34-11. Then, they nearly blew a 24 point lead to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ultimately, they held on to win 30-27 with a walkoff game winner from kicker Matt Gay. Then, they finally got the best of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship 20-17.

In all major sportsbooks, the Rams are considered to be light favorites over the Bengals, thus potentially continuing the Bengals’ underdog story. Either of the two quarterbacks Stafford or Burrow will win their first Super Bowl. Chase and Ramsey should be an elite wide receiver vs. cornerback matchup. The Rams elite pass rush will look to tear apart the Bengals’ weak offensive line despite holding up against the Chiefs. The storylines are all set for an incredible Sunday night.