Super Bowl 56 is set and storylines will come fast and furious over the next 14 days. The Los Angeles Rams will face the Cincinnati Bengals in an unlikely battle of No. 4 seeds.
Besides having a matchup that will have two head coaches that are under 40 years of age, the opening odds at sportsbooks like FanDuel were incredibly interesting, as soon as the Rams defeated San Francisco for the first in seven skirmishes.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl LVI
Sunday, February 13, 2022 – 06:30 PM EST at SoFi Stadium
Los Angeles opened as 3.5-point favorites with a total of 51. What made that fascinating is that it seems like the top-rated sportsbooks were asking for Cincinnati money to drop the number to +3. We are not saying that was true, but certainly something you could read between the lines and believe that might be true. That did not happen as the early money went the other way and L.A. was -4 on Monday, Jan. 31.
The total of 51 also has its own story, given how each team has played this season and in the postseason. If you look at the average score of a Bengals game this season, the total would be 48.2 total points. In the postseason, Cincy’s average score is 43.6 points. For Los Angeles, their season number for total points in contests is 48.6 points and in their three playoff contests, they are at 46.3. Based on these numbers the total would seem high. (Update: This proved prophetic with the total now at 49.5.)
Here are early aspects to consider for both teams.
Matthew Stafford vs. Joe Burrow will set the tone for the game. Stafford is the savvy veteran who made everyone who always said if he played on a really good team, he would show his greatness. The Rams scored 34 and 30 on Arizona and Tampa Bay respectively and when down 10 points to San Francisco in the 4th quarter in the NFC title game, Stafford led three scoring drives to give his club a chance to win.
Joe Burrow is the ultra-confident young guy who seems unfazed about his surroundings and has a Joe Montana feel about him, with a modern swagger. One cannot help but be impressed he led his team to a trio of postseason victories after Cincinnati went 0-for-the-playoffs in 31 years. Burrow outplayed Pat Mahomes in the second half and OT when it mattered.
Who Has What Apparent Edges?
The first thing that comes to mind is Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles front four against a below-average Cincinnati offensive line. The Bengals O-Line held up against Kansas City after being destroyed by Tennessee, but the Rams will be a different story.
The Bengals will focus mightily on protecting Burrow because there are holes in the L.A. secondary that can be exposed at one corner and at safety and they have the wide receivers to do it with a hot quarterback. Also, after beating the top two seeds in the AFC on the road, coach Taylor’s club is oozing confidence.
Reasons for Concern for Each Club
More than anything, the Cincinnati defense makes plays. The Cats have generated seven turnovers in three playoff games. This team is on a 7-0 ATS run, yet, one cannot help but wonder about the Bengals allowing an unbelievable 5.7 yards a rush, and if that catches up to them, especially the way the Rams like to run the ball. Also, how do they start to contain Cooper Kupp?
For Los Angeles, Stafford can have one of those starry-eyed games at any point as he’s shown in his career and against these opportunistic Bengals, that would spell doom. Though this feels wrong to say, Sean McVay can outsmart himself. On his last trip to the Super Bowl he was so badly outcoached by Bill Belichick it was laughable. Even against the 49ers, he had obvious lapses in judgment. McVay can’t place his club in a position to lose.
The Early Prognostication Winner
Though Los Angeles appears the better team on paper, there seem to be more questions about them than Cincinnati. This writer is not a big – team of destiny – believer until it happens, but make no mistake, something about the Bengals reminds me of the last two New York Giants teams that won Super Bowls.
Early on, not 100% convinced Cincy will overcome their shortcomings, yet, with the Cats on a 7-0 ATS run, this feels like a field goal game either way and I’ll take the points with the club from Ohio and lean Under.
NFL Pick: Bengals +4 (-112) at FanDuel
NFL Pick: Under 49.5 (-110) at FanDuel