If the oddsmakers had their way, the Bengals would be nowhere near the Super Bowl
Two unexpected teams battling for football’s biggest prize
By Mo Hussain, Contributor
This Sunday will mark the culmination of what’s been the wildest NFL postseason in history. Whether it was Tom Brady playing his last game, the Chiefs and Bills overtime thriller, or the 49ers making it to the NFC championship, this year’s playoffs have been one for the ages.
Who would’ve thought the two teams that ultimately managed to make it through the chaos would be the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams didn’t even finish in the top three seeds in each of their respective conferences.
The Rams went from being just an above-average team last year to make risky moves that would propel them to their second Super Bowl appearance in four years. The Bengals on the other hand, went from not making it past the wild card round for 30 years, to somehow being on the verge of winning their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Here’s a brief breakdown of the two teams heading into the biggest football game of the year.
The LA Rams began to try everything and the kitchen sink last year. They wanted to win now, and it looks like that’s about to happen. The team started with trading their former starting Quarterback Jared Goff and multiple draft picks to the Detroit Lions back in March. They traded that in exchange for Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford is six years older than Goff and was on a Lions team that didn’t have sufficient support given his talent.
In November, the Rams then traded even more draft picks for former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller to give a boost to their defence. They then added the cherry on top when they signed three-time Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. These moves combined with having the NFL’s leading receiver in Cooper Kupp, and defensive stars like Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald gave them a solid roster to work with.
To start the postseason, the Rams dominated the Arizona Cardinals by beating them 34-11 in the Wild Card round. They then almost fell into trouble against the Buccaneers in the Divisional round. The Rams were leading the game 27-3 before the Buccaneers tied the game late in the fourth quarter. However, the Rams showed they would not fold to the pressure as two clutch passes to Cooper Kupp put them in field goal range to take the rest of the game.
The Rams then secured their spot in the Super Bowl against the 49ers in the NFC championship. Two field goals helped them come back from a 17-14 deficit with under seven minutes left in the game.
If the oddsmakers had their way, the Bengals would be nowhere near the Super Bowl. The team hadn’t made the playoffs since 2015 and were tied for the third-worst odds of making the Super Bowl before the start of the season. Even if they somehow made the playoffs, no one would think that they’d get anywhere. They hadn’t gotten past the first round of the playoffs in 30 years.
However, Bengals sophomore Quarterback Joe Burrow and the rest of their young team weren’t going to have any of it. Guys like Burrow, rookie wide receiver Ja’marr Chase, and rookie kicker Evan McPherson helped make the Bengals the seventh-best offensive team in the league during the regular season. They were 29th the year before.
They also have tremendous young talent on the defensive side as sophomore Linebacker Logan Wilson, and third-year player Germaine Pratt, are among the top four leaders in tackles this postseason.
The team not only broke a generational milestone by getting through the wild card round but also managed to get through the two best teams in the AFC. They beat the Tennessee Titans through a field goal in the fourth quarter of the Divisional round. Then they managed to tie for the largest comeback in AFC championship history, coming back from a 21-3 deficit against the Kansas City Chiefs. They’ve shown throughout this postseason that they can rise to the occasion when the pressure is on.
THIS GAME CAN GO EITHER WAY
There isn’t really a precedent to look to for this matchup. The last time the Bengals and Rams played was on October 27, 2019. Bengals Quarterback Joe Burrow wasn’t even in the league yet, and the Rams were still playing in their old stadium.
Throughout the regular season, both teams were ranked very close to each other on both sides of the ball. Offensively, both teams literally tied for seventh in points per game, with exactly 27.1. On defence, the Rams only edge out the Bengals by allowing 0.2 fewer points than them. It’s really hard to tell who’s going to win, especially with how these playoffs have already gone. Nonetheless, viewers are sure to witness history at the 56th annual Super Bowl.