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The Cincinnati Bengals have overcome incredible odds to get to Super Bowl 56 on Sunday, February 13, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Cincy goes into the game as an underdog against the NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams. But we’re here to give you eight reasons why we think they can pull off the upset to become 2021-22 NFL champions.
In a season of unpredictable outcomes in the NFL, the Bengals making it to Super Bowl LVI might just take the cake. The Bengals were coming off four wins a year ago and three straight finishes in the cellar of the AFC North. Now they are the AFC Champions following their stunning overtime upset of the two-time defending conference champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Joe Burrow and these young, hungry Cincinnati Bengals are Super Bowl-bound as unexpected and tenacious AFC champions. https://t.co/lsHxYmazJq
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) January 31, 2022
Many people might think that the Bengals will just be glad to have made it to the Big Game and won’t put up much of a fight. They’ve been installed as four-point underdogs to the Rams at the best gambling sites below.
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But we think that this is a case where the underdog has the edge and is bound for glory and their first-ever Super Bowl title.
Read on to find out why we believe that. In case you think we don’t have ample cause for this pick, we’re going to give you eight reasons why we think the upset is in the cards. You can then judge for yourself whether the Bengals will indeed shock the world one more time.
Reason #1: Joe Burrow Is the Next Transcendent NFL Star
We are witnessing a bit of a sea change in the NFL at the moment in terms of the superstar quarterbacks of the league. Gone are Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, not too long after Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, while Aaron Rodgers might not be far behind. Could Burrow lead the pack of those who are ready to step into that void, vaulting past guys like Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, and even Pat Mahomes?
He’s in just his second year in the league, a year where most thought he might be at the top of his game because of his rehab from last year’s season-ending injury.
Burrow was absolutely brilliant down the stretch of the regular season as the Bengals emerged from the pact to win the AFC North. The scary thing is that he really hasn’t played his best in the postseason, which should worry the Rams.
Even as he hasn’t peaked in the playoffs, he is making the plays needed to win, as evidenced by his brilliant 4th-quarter scrambles in the win over the Chiefs. He just has the indefinable It factor that all the greats possess. Much like Mahomes did two years ago, the time seems right for Burrow to win a Super Bowl at an extremely tender age to let the NFL know what’s in store for the next decade and beyond.
Reason #2: On The Chase
The Rams have a transcendent talent in cornerback Jalen Ramsey. But he is just one guy out there, and the Bengals have a lot of weapons for Burrow to utilize. Ja’Marr Chase, coming off his stupendous rookie season, is the guy who gets the most attention, and rightfully so after a rookie year with 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns.
If Chase were the only threat, then Ramsey could lock on him on most offensive plays, or the Rams could just double him constantly. But Tee Higgins is a second-year star coming off a 1,000-yard season and a huge performance against the Chiefs. And Tyler Boyd is a threat in the middle of the field on third downs who can also break long gains.
It would get even better for the Bengals if C.J. Uzomah, who enjoyed a breakout season at tight end, could return from the injury he suffered in the Chiefs game (he’s questionable right now.) Even if not, Burrow can pick and choose depending on whom the Rams try to take away. And any choice that he makes will be a winner.
Reason #3: Don’t Sleep On This Defense
Burrow, Chase, and company received a lot of the press after the win over Kansas City, but it was the Bengals’ defense that made the real difference in the game. After Mahomes and company torched them in the first half, they stood tall and held KC to just 3 points in the second. Their standout pair of safeties, Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III, then combined on a stunning interception in overtime to set up the win.
Cincinnati is strong on all levels, even if they don’t have the name recognition on defense that the Rams do with Ramsey, Aaron Donald, Von Miller and the rest.
Trey Hendrickson is a demon rushing from the edge to lead a stout front four, while Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson are tackling machines at linebacker. We told you about the safeties, and they’re joined by lockdown guy Chidobe Iwuzie and playmaking veterans Mike Hilton and Eli Apple on the corners.
This defense is going to yield a bit, but they keep stepping up with monster plays. If they can ride the momentum of the second half and the overtime of the last game against KC, they could be a real issue for the Rams. With the way Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford can be a little careless with the ball, you can expect a game-changing turnover or two created by this unit.
Reason #4 Mixon It Up
Neither one of these teams have shown all that much in the running game in the playoffs. But in Joe Mixon, the Bengals have one of the league’s finest running backs at their disposal. He found his groove a bit against Kansas City with 88 yards on 21 carries, and that could easily carry over against the Rams.
Mixon has also been effective as a checkdown option for Burrow, catching 15 passes in the three playoff games. The Rams will also have to account for Bengal second-stringer Samaje Perine, who made perhaps the key individual play of the AFC Championship with his screen-pass touchdown that brought the Bengals back into the game.
These two are looking like a far stronger duo right now than the Rams pair of Cam Akers and Sony Michel.
The Rams are not an easy team to run against, as they come into the game in the Top 10 in every major run defense stat. Mixon is coming off a career year, however, with 1,205 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns. Cincy will be persistent with their running game and hope that it pays off dividends in the late stages of the game.
Reason #5: Doing the Little Things
When you look at why the Bengals are winning these close games in the playoffs and even before that, it comes down to some of the unheralded aspects of the game. They’re one of the best teams in the NFL in terms of limiting their penalty yardage. The Rams are pretty good in that department as well, so this could be a clean Super Bowl in terms of the yellow hankies.
Cincy has done an excellent job in winning the turnover battle as well.
They’re plus-5 in the playoffs, and they’ve committed just two turnovers in their last eight games overall.
In other words, they are not giving teams a lot of daylight when it comes to the hidden advantages of a game.
On top of all that, the Bengals have the luxury of a kicker who just can’t miss right now. Evan McPherson is putting one of the most memorable displays of postseason kicking that the NFL has ever seen. You just have to believe that if this game comes down to a key boot in the final seconds, Cincy has an edge with Money Mac.
Reason #6: Zac Taylor Will Learn From His Mistakes
If you watched the broadcast of the Bengals win over the Chiefs, you heard CBS color commentator Tony Romo bemoan over and over that Cincinnati was being too run-heavy on first downs. Considering their success was sporadic with those first-down plunges, Burrow kept finding himself in second-and-long. That was part of the reason he struggled to sustain consistent passing success.
Zac Taylor deserves a ton of credit for hanging tough with his job on the line and playing to the team’s strengths in this, his third season as coach. We understand that running the ball is a good way to stem a pass rush like the Rams. But as Romo pointed out, the down-and-distance situations made it much easier on the Chiefs to double the wideouts and pin back their ears on the pass rush.
Expect Taylor to come out much more aggressively in Super Bowl 56, with more throws called on first down. That should also help the running game, since he’ll be easy to sneak Mixon in on downs when the defense isn’t expecting him.
The overall result will be a better-balanced offense that will play to the level it showed at the end of the regular season.
Reason #7: The Rams Defense Can Be Had
We mentioned all of the talent that the Bengals offense has going for it. The Rams have a lot of talent on defense as well, but it’s a mostly top-heavy group. There are the superstar pass rushers (Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd), and there is a wonderful defensive back in Jalen Ramsey, but that leaves seven spots on the field, and many of those sports are manned right now by questionable players.
In particular, the 49ers took advantage of linebacker Troy Reeder and cornerback Darious Williams every chance they had in the NFC Championship Game. The Rams are also relying on Eric Weddle, just out of retirement, and Nick Woods, who started one game in his first three years in the league, to play big minutes at safety with Jordan Fuller out.
How will they hold up with Chase, Higgins and Boyd streaking in front of them across the middle of the field?
The key for the Bengals will be protecting Burrow, which is easier said than done against the Rams pass rush. If Cincy can get the right side of their offensive line to play a passable game, it should be more than enough for the mobile Burrow. He will find holes as long as he gets the time for more than one read when he drops back.
Reason #8: The Bengals Shouldn’t Be an Underdog
It’s easy to get caught up with a team’s past reputation when determining how they’re going to do in the present. To be sure, the Bengals recent history hasn’t been pretty by any stretch. But it’s time to start judging this Cincinnati team on what they’ve done this year, instead of conjuring images of the “Bungles” in your head.
It’s also important to consider the Bengals based on what they’ve done in the last quarter of the regular season and the postseason, when they’ve taken their play to another level. Take a look at what they’ve done in their most recent stretch of play:
That adds up to wins in six of their last seven games, with the one loss coming in a game where the Bengals rested their starters since they had nothing really to play for in that contest. As for the worries about the Rams playing Super Bowl LVI on their home field, keep in mind that the Bengals have now won two straight playoff games on the road. This team isn’t afraid of any stage.
Compare that to the Rams. In the last four games they’ve played, LA lost a crucial game at home to San Fran in the season finale, beat a Cardinal team that was a shell of its early season self, nearly coughed up a big lead to the decimated Buccaneers, and nipped the Niners in the rematch in a game that could have gone the other way were it not for a dropped interception. Cincinnati is the better team right now.
We’ve given you eight reasons why we believe that the Cincinnati Bengals are headed to a Super Bowl 56 victory. It would be their first-ever NFL Championship in their 54th year of existence. And it says here that it’s going to happen in defiance of the oddsmakers at the top Super Bowl gambling sites.