After the maiden 17-game regular season and a thrilling set of playoffs, the stage is set for Super Bowl LVI at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles with the LA Rams set to welcome surprise outsiders, the Cincinnati Bengals, to their home field for a fierce battle for the sought-after Vince Lombardi Trophy.
It’s a matchup that nobody could have predicted ahead of the postseason getting underway last month, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers all much more favoured in the outright betting on the Super Bowl, while even the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans would have been tipped to win the AFC Championship ahead of the Bengals.
Since beating the Las Vegas Raiders at the Paul Brown Stadium as expected on Wild Card Weekend, Cincinnati have had to win against the moneyline and on the road in their last two games — narrowly edging past the Titans in the Divisional Round before stunning the Chiefs with a game-winning field goal in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium.
If you thought last season was a true underdog story as Brady arrived in Tampa Bay guided the Bucs to Super Bowl glory, then think again as it will be hard for the Bengals’ fairy tale to ever be topped. Zac Taylor’s side were as far out as 150/1 to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy preseason, as far out as the likes of the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Las Vegas oddsmakers also gave them a zero percent chance of winning the AFC.
They’ve fought in the face of adversity all year, but Joe Burrow and his teammates will need to give a final big push in California on February 13th if they are to overcome the odds one more time and add a prestigious Super Bowl ring to their jewellery boxes with a victory over the Rams.
While the SoFi Stadium won’t exactly feel like home on the night for the Rams, as they are technically counted as the away team and the 70,000 crowd will be split down the middle, they are still heavily expected to prevail in LA. Sean McVay’s side are currently the 40/85 favourites, while the spread has them at -4 — meaning more than a field goal is tipped to separate the two sides come full-time.
That won’t faze the Bengals in the slightest though and they certainly won’t let it be a one-sided affair. At this stage, it’s worth noting that the bookmakers had the Chiefs at -7 in the handicap betting market ahead of their AFC Championship match with Cincinnati, and while that looked fair when the Bengals trailed 21-3, just look how it turned out after overtime.
Yes, the Rams have the better overall roster and the edge both offensively and defensively, but so did the Titans and the Chiefs and the Bengals came out on top on both of those occasions — even if it wasn’t always pretty. The Rams will really test the Cincinnati defence with the likes of Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. all on form, but they proved against Kansas that they can adapt when in sticky situations and come up with defensive solutions in-game.
Offensively, Burrow won’t have a lot of time to make big decisions with the Rams’ defence boasting the best pass rush pressure during the regular season. But the 25-year-old QB has a better-than-expected pass completion rate when factoring in things like pressure, distance and location, so he won’t be scrambling when the likes of Aaron Donald and Von Miller come charging at him.
It will be a hotly-contested Super Bowl and we truly believe it could go either way on the day. Just because all the odds are stacked against the Bengals, don’t rule them out!