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Super Bowl LVI Preview: The Cincinnati Bengals versus the Los Angeles Rams.

DENVER – SEPTEMBER 16: A close up of the official NFL ‘The Duke’ game ball complete with commissioner Roger Goodell’s signature as the Denver Broncos defeated the Oakland Raiders 23-20 in overtime during week two NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 16, 2007 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Bengals and Rams took two different paths to this big game. The Rams are currently four-point favorites, but as the Bengals have shown us in the playoffs, anything can happen on any given Sunday.

Let’s take a look at how the two teams got here.  

The Los Angeles Rams built a super team this season through trades and free agency, mortgaging their future draft capital in hopes to avenge their loss to the Patriots four years ago. Scoring just three points in that game, the loss left a bad taste in the mouth of the Rams. The team realized their championship window would not be open forever and made every possible move to get back in the running and win.

Now they get a shot at the Lombardi Trophy once again.  

Jalen Ramsey, Matt Stafford, Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. were all brought in to join a plethora of homegrown talent. The Rams didn’t hold back when it came to improving the roster. They realized if they wanted a ring, they would have to explore every possible option, even if it meant not picking until the third round in the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s safe to say a Super Bowl title would make it all worth it.  

The Rams also have the benefit of playing the game in their home venue, SoFi Stadium. With a win, the Rams would be only the second team in league history to win in their home stadium, joining last year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad.  

Stafford, the number one overall pick in 2009, gets his first chance at the Super Bowl after three career playoff losses with his former team, the Detroit Lions. The swap of Jared Goff for Stafford continues to age wonderfully. Stafford is only one win away from football immortality.  

Cooper Kupp, put together one of the most incredible seasons ever seen, winning the triple crown (receiving yards, catches and touchdowns) and falling just 51 yards shy of Calvin Johnson’s single-season record. The signing of Beckham Jr. was a huge addition after the Rams lost their number two receiver, Robert Woods, for the season due to an injury. Since joining the Rams, Beckham Jr. has been a dynamic piece in the offense and has been a nightmare for opposing defenses.  

The defense for the Rams is one of the most prolific units in the league. Led by perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Aaron Donald, the Rams defense has no problem getting to the quarterback. Lined up across from Von Miller with shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey in the secondary, the Rams defense has averaged only 18.3 points per game allowed in the playoffs.  

There is no denying the talent dressed in blue and gold, but there is one man who can spoil the Ram’s season- Joe Burrow.  

The Cincinnati Bengals’ path to the big game was nothing like that of the Rams. The Bengals built their team through the draft and developing homegrown talent. That includes Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah, Evan McPherson, Sam Hubbard and Jessie Bates. The team acquired Trey Hendrickson in free agency, and he has made plays time and time again on the defensive line.  

Burrow has been receiving the majority of fame on the Bengal’s journey to their first Super Bowl since 1988, and rightfully so. His Bengals team defeated the Las Vegas Raiders, the number one seed Tennessee Titans and delivered an improbable 21-3 comeback in Arrowhead Stadium against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.  

Burrow, the number one overall pick in last year’s draft, has won a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and now has the chance to add another ring to his trophy case. With a win, Burrow would join Joe Namath and Joe Montana as the only players to win an NCAA championship and a Super Bowl as the team’s starting quarterback.  

The Bengals are the biggest underdog to make the Super Bowl out of the AFC in recent memory, with preseason oddsmakers giving them a +8000 chance to make it to the dance. They finished last season at 4-11-1, and now they’ve made it all the way to the Super Bowl. The resilient and “never say die” attitude displayed by the Bengals won them their division and conference titles. They just need one more win for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.  

The question remains, who will the confetti fall on when the game is over? Who will bask in the glory of hoisting the Lombardi?  

Find out Sunday, Feb. 13 when the 2021-22 season comes down to one final game.  

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    FxSmTIhlFeb 19, 2022 at 6:51 am