Super Bowl LVI: The Winning Side to Bet Tonight
Super Bowl Sunday is finally here, and we are in for a treat. The Rams aren't so much of a surprise to be here, but the Bengals, on the other hand, are a different story. I'm confident that if you took a preseason poll on the teams in the Super Bowl, less than 1% would have said the Bengals, and most of those votes would have been from Bengals fans. Yet here we are. On the one side, you have Matthew Stafford, who we can all agree deserves this shot after all his time in Detroit and being constantly overlooked as a great quarterback. On the other side is second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, who has exceeded all his expectations and has led a postseason run that many will never forget. The storylines and narratives surrounding this game are loud, and there are reasons to back both sides. So let's dig in to see who will win or, more importantly, cover for us bettors in Super Bowl LVI.
Both teams are about as healthy as you can be after 20 games in this rough sport. However, there are some key inactives for the game tonight. Starting tight end Tyler Higbee and offensive lineman Joe Noteboom will miss the game tonight for the Rams. For the Bengals, it appears that tight end C.J. Uzomah will actually be active tonight after being a full participant in practice on Friday. Multiple players, including running back Cam Akers, safety Taylor Rapp, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, tackle Andrew Whitworth, and wide receiver Van Jefferson, were questionable early in the week. They were all full participants by Friday and are expected to play tonight. Some good news for the Rams is the return of running back Darrell Henderson off the IR, which adds another level to the rush attack for the Rams.
The Bengals shocked the world in an 18-point comeback against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. Joe Burrow certainly looks the part, but I would actually credit a lot of that game to the defense. They held Mahomes scoreless the entire second half until the last few seconds of regulation to tie the game with a field goal. However, the Bengals had the luxury of playing the Chiefs just a few weeks prior, which always helps prepare a defense. It's hard to tell whether the defense is playing well or the Bengals opponents are playing badly. Tannehill threw three interceptions in the loss to the Bengals and still only lost by three. Mahomes looked lost in the second half and threw two picks to help the Bengals come back and win. I'm not trying to discredit what the Bengals have done to get here, but they've forced seven turnovers in their three postseason games, and while turnovers help, you can't rely on them to win.
Joe Burrow and Ja'marr Chase have been something else. Ja'marr broke the Bengals franchise record for yards in his rookie season with 1,455, breaking Chad Johnson's record of 1,440. Chase also won the offensive rookie of the year award, and it's clear that this LSU duo is hard to stop. The Rams secondary will have their hands full today with this receiving core, especially with Uzomah set to go now. A balanced attack of Ja'marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and C.J. Uzomah gives Burrow many options on every dropback. This offensive power is exactly what gave the Bengals the tools to come back in the Chiefs game, and it's what can keep them in it even if they do get down early on the Rams.
You Have to be happy for Matthew Stafford. For years, he grinded in Detroit, only to be overlooked and underappreciated. Finally, he's had the opportunity to show his skill this season with the Rams, and he wasted no time getting comfortable by making it to the Super Bowl in his first season on his new team. This year, Stafford had the third-most passing yards with 4,886, and the second-most touchdown passes with 41, only behind Tom Brady. His connection with Kupp and mid-season addition Odell Beckham Jr. turned this offense almost unguardable.
Speaking of mid-season additions, The Rams have also excelled on the defensive side of the ball, partly in help by the other mid-season addition Von Miller. The acquisition makes up a scary defensive line, stacked with Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and Von Miller. These playmakers combined to give the Rams the third-most sacks in the NFL this year with 50, just behind the Vikings and Steelers. This matchup will test the shaky offensive line for the Bengals, who gave up nine sacks in the game against the Titans.
When breaking down every aspect of this game, it seems like the Bengals are entirely outmatched. However, I'm sure everyone said the same thing heading into the Chiefs game. The fact is, the Bengals have a dynamic offensive attack with many playmakers, just like the Rams. Defensively, I do give the edge to the Rams, but the Bengal's defense has stood the test and has forced turnovers while playing with grit in three straight postseason games. They have also forced at least two turnovers in every postseason game, which could be critical tonight. Stafford has put up impressive numbers, and I think he's a great quarterback, but if Jaquiski Tartt caught that interception that landed right in his hands in the NFC championship, the Rams probably wouldn't be in the Super Bowl. Stafford has had a knack of airing out those throws without much accuracy at times, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him picked at least once tonight.
In the big game, four points can be everything. We've seen a lot of games ending with field goals, including both conference championships. Every single game in the divisional round also ended by a one-possession margin. Even with the defensive edge for the Rams, I can't help but notice what the Bengals have done to get here. The defense has forced turnovers, which the Rams haven't been immune to, and they have shown the ability to come back, even from large deficits. With all the close games, I can't help but take points here. Especially at 4.5 points, it gives the backdoor possibility of the Bengals down late by 10 or 11 and scoring to cover. Or, the Rams win on another game-winning field goal, and we would still cover. There are more possibilities to win with the points tonight, and I think Burrow has a little more magic left in him in this cinderella run, even if it's just enough to cover the four and a half. Give me the points.