Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Super Bowl LVI Preview: Will Joe Burrow’s Bengals Beat the Rams in LA?

Posted on 11 February 2022 by Josh Sim

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Held every February, the Super Bowl needs little introduction.

This Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams take on the Cincinnati Bengals at the SoFi Stadium at 3:30pm local time (11:30pm GMT).

Need a guide to this year’s game? Look no further: we’ve got you covered.

The Road to the Super Bowl

Let’s start with the Rams, who are run by Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke and topped the NFC West division with a 12-5 record.

In the first round of the playoffs, they comfortably beat the Arizona Cardinals before shocking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and narrowly defeating the San Francisco 49ers.

They’ll coincidentally be playing in their home stadium on Sunday and return to the Super Bowl after their defeat to the New England Patriots in 2018.

With a slightly worse 10-7 record, the Bengals also finished top of their division, the AFC North.

While the road to Sunday’s game wasn’t easy to navigate, they managed to overcome the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans. They then caused an upset by beating the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in the AFC Championship game.

This is Cincinnati’s first Super Bowl game since 1988. It comes just two years after they had the worst record in the league, winning just two games.

Interestingly, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was an assistant to his Rams counterpart Sean McVey for two years, before getting the Bengals’ coaching gig in 2019.

There are clear similarities between their playing styles, with both tending to be aggressive decision-makers on offense.

The QBs Making Their Super Bowl Debut

Both teams will be led out by quarterbacks making their first appearance at a Super Bowl.

The Rams will be guided by Matthew Stafford, a veteran who arrived in California in March 2021 following a trade made with the Detroit Lions.

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While he proved himself to be a great passer in Detroit, his team’s struggles elsewhere meant they failed to consistently make the playoffs throughout his stay.

LA then struck a deal with the Lions to land the 34-year-old in exchange for their QB Jared Goff, with draft compensation also sacrificed to bring him to the west coast.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s offense is conducted by Joe Burrow, who is incredibly playing just his second season as a professional.

Due to the Bengals’ past struggles, they were able to select him as the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. This was after a dominant season in college, which led to him winning the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the best player in college football.

Having overcome a season-ending injury in his rookie season, the 25-year-old has been superb in leading his team to one of their biggest games in history.

The two players have never played against each other, but it should be an even matchup.

Comparing their seasons, Stafford has racked up more passing yards. But he’s thrown the joint-most intercepted passes of all QBs, highlighting his vulnerability under pressure.

As for Burrow, he has the highest pass completion rate of all players in his position; yet he also has been sacked more times than any other player.

This will be encouraging for the LA defence, known to put ferocious pressure on opposing QBs.

Other Players to Watch

The Rams have a lethal pair of wide receivers for Stafford to throw to.

Cooper Kupp is coming off a career-best year, during which he has accumulated more receiving yards and touchdowns than anyone else in the league.

They also signed Odell Beckham Jr mid-season, who is an excitement machine and is known for his ability to make big plays on the offensive end.

Defensively, the trio of Aaron Donald, who’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller are key in stopping the Bengals offense on Sunday.

As for the Bengals, Burrow’s main passing target will likely be Ja’Marr Chase, a rookie who has received the third-most touchdowns of all players this season.

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Chase will be joined by Tee Higgins in the receiving corps, while Joe Mixon’s run will additionally be important in breaking past the Rams’ defence.

In defence, the likes of Logan Wilson and Mike Hilton need to perform if they are to keep LA out of the end zone.

The Halftime Show

This year’s halftime show promises to be a memorable one.

The acts set to perform are Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar.

That’s a combined 43 Grammys on display, and the trailer for the show already has racked up 13 million views on YouTube.

If that doesn’t intrigue you, well, we’re not sure what music lineup will.

Prediction

It should be a close encounter on Sunday, with many pundits struggling to pick a clear winner.

Ultimately, this writer believes it’s the Rams’ game to lose.

Despite Burrow entering the game in incredible form, the Rams defence is arguably the best around, with Donald’s presence alone making them an intimidating unit.

As a result, there will likely be a triumphant celebration led by Kroenke, who’ll be parading the biggest trophy a team has ever won under his ownership.

Sorry Arsenal fans!

Predicted Score: Rams 27-20 Bengals