It's that time of year where the two best teams in football are set to square off for the grandest prize in the game, the Super Bowl.
This year's game hosts one of the most likeable matchups in history.
The Rams are led by the underachieving Matthew Stafford, whom they mortgaged their proverbial future to acquire for this season in the hopes of getting over the hump in the big game.
The Bengals are being taken for a ride by their franchise saviour and hometown hero Joe Burrow, who's already taken Cincinnati to heights they haven't reached since 1989.
While Sunday's contest is being played for the world championship, there's even more at stake for both sides as legacies will be defined.
— NFL (@NFL) February 13, 2022
For LA, it will take years to rebound given their cap and pick situation which they ultimately sacrificed for this moment, should they fail to find victory on SuperBowl Sunday.
If the Rams manage to secure the victory they will stamp an assortment of inductions into Canton, whereas the Bengals will have the chance to mould into a dynasty given their youth and wealth of assets.
Both teams are legit contenders, as LA dismantled Kyler Murray and the high flying Cardinals, slayed the GOAT and finally got the win against their arch-rivals San Fransisco. Cincinnati took down both the one and two seeded teams in the AFC, Tennessee and Kansas City, in back to back weeks whilst overcoming a nine sack mauling and 18-point deficit in these encounters.
In the biggest game of the season, will it be an established Rams outfit or an up-and-coming Bengals squad that will prevail?
LA offence v Cincinnati defence
The Bengals defence is known to make the right plays in big moments (cue the Mahomes pick in OT), meaning that they are capable of hurting the Rams if Stafford starts forcing throws and Cam Akers gets shaky with the football.
INTERCEPTED BY VONN BELL.
THE BENGALS CAN WIN IT WITH A FG. #NFLPlayoffs
— NFL (@NFL) January 30, 2022
On the flip, Stafford has been excellent in these playoffs as he's thrown for 905 yards and six TDs, essentially rewriting the narrative that he isn't a big-game performer.
While the LA offence did manage to do everything in their power to let Tom Brady prance into retirement after another Super Bowl appearance, it was the lethal connection of Stafford to receiving beast Cooper Kupp that all but sealed the deal on the GOAT's storied career.
9️⃣ TO 1️⃣0️⃣ TO SET UP THE WIN! pic.twitter.com/1hrjkOa4lQ
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 23, 2022
Couple Kupp with the re-emergence of fallen star Odell Beckham Jnr. and the Rams can utterly destroy Cincinnati on the outside, especially if Stafford is afforded the luxury of time in the pocket.
Cincinnati offence v LA defence
This is perhaps the most lopsided area in the ball game given how horrendous the Bengals' O-line has been and the sheer amount of disruption the Rams can cause with Aaron Donald and Von Miller.
Factor in that LA corner Jaelen Ramsey essentially eliminates half the field, meaning that rookie reaching phenom Ja'Marr Chase will be nullified for great portions of the contest.
Burrow may be in for a rude awakening if he can't find his rhythm early.
Conversely, if Joey B can continue to get off quick screen passes to the likes of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, then the Bengals can progressively wear down the aggressive Rams D.
If they can stay on the field and get their other talented receivers in Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd involved, then big plays will begin to open up. Given that the Bengals were second in the league for big plays and Ramsey did give up a 55-yard score to Mike Evans in the NFC title game, anything can happen.
Quite frankly if this game comes down to the third phase of football either one of two things will happen:
- The Rams punting game will force the Bengals into terrible field position which will then generate additional pressure as their defence will pounce on any conservative or ill-timed Bengals play call.
- The game comes down to a field goal and it's LA's Matt Gay against Cincinnati's Evan McPherson… The kid who's made back-to-back game-winning kicks would put the Bengals ahead in this scenario.
— NFL (@NFL) January 30, 2022
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