Wish I had jumped on this sooner, but I'll still double down on the Rams to merely win straight-up. This is by far the best defense Cincinnati has faced all season, and it won't hurt that the Rams are getting their starting nose tackle back. The Bengals are a great story, but they've been outgained in every playoff game. Look for the Rams' defensive front to be the difference.
These two teams averaged an identical amount of points scored (27.1) in the regular-season, but Cincinnati has been below that mark in all three playoffs games as it has resorted to kicking four field goals in each game. While we better remember the exciting Super Bowl slugfests like Eagles-Patriots, half of the last eight Super Bowls have featured a team scoring 10 points or fewer as well. With the Rams strong in the red zone and good at defending deep passes, I think this could be one of those games where the Bengals have to take the points too often to get the number Over the total.
The Bengals, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have been the season’s best story, but while it’s been fun watching and winning with Cincinnati, there’s plenty that makes me lean to Los Angeles in Super Bowl LVI. It starts up front where the Rams are stronger in the trenches. It continues with their overall defensive talent and scheme as L.A. runs zone, which Burrow is far weaker against than man coverage, and features a ferocious pass rush that should get him on the ground plenty. And then there’s the Rams being equally talented offensively with Matthew Stafford seeking a legacy win, Odell Beckham Jr. motivated to quiet his critics and Cooper Kupp looking to end his MVP-caliber season on a high note. Oh, L.A. also has a coach with more big-game experience and homefield advantage (as minor as that may be in SoFi Stadium). We missed the best line at 3.5, and I would buy that if I can get it at -115, but I’m still comfortable at -4. (Bonus: If you can get the Rams at -2.5 in the first half, that's a worthy wager as well.)
While he's seen as an offensive wunderkind, the truth is Sean McVay tends to get conservative in big spots, and it's hard to find a spot larger than the Super Bowl. On the other side, the Bengals will struggle moving the ball offensively with any consistency due to their offensive line's deficiencies. I don't think this game will be ugly by any stretch, but both defenses will drop into deep zones to limit big plays, and it's going to keep the score down.
This will be a game that'll come down to offense, possessions and who can maximize them. Bengals QB Joe Burrow and WRs Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase have played in championship games before, and I believe the moment won't be too big for them against the Rams. It's going to be important for the Rams to have their run game show up in order to take some of the pressure off Matthew Stafford. That's a tall ask in my opinion, so I look for the Bengals to shock the world.
The key to slowing down Joe Burrow is getting pressure on him, and I think the Rams can bring it strong with Aaron Donald pushing himself into the pocket and Von Miller and Leonard Floyd scooping up some sacks when Burrow escapes the pocket. The Bengals' offensive line is the weak link here. I'm betting against them. The Rams' offense will score enough to win and cover the spread. I’m on the Rams.
I was probably going to take the Bengals at +4.5 in case of a final score of something like 28-24 or 31-27 ... but with the Rams winning simply because I don't trust that Cincinnati offensive line -- no quarterback has been sacked more this season than Joe Burrow -- against Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Leonard Floyd & Co. I'm shocked this has dipped to Rams -3.5 at Caesars Sportsbook, so now I have to jump on LA. This is the only book where I've seen this number, and I don't expect it gets lower. Are you aware the straight-up Super Bowl winner is 47-6-2 against the spread? It has been 13 years since the favorite won (it didn't win all those games but in the ones it did) and not covered the spread. Cincinnati has averaged 24 points per game during the postseason while facing defenses that finished the regular season ranked 12th, 17th and 24th in defensive DVOA. The Rams finished fifth. Look for SportsLine odds early next week on which team the Super Bowl champion will host in the Kickoff Game.
The Cincinnati Bengals want to win Super Bowl LVI. The Los Angeles Rams HAVE to win Super Bowl LVI. This is it for Les Snead, Sean McVay and co. The Rams have leveraged their NFL Draft future for this very moment, in fact they don't have a 1st round pick until 2024. The picks have been traded, deals have been done. Not to mention for Matthew Stafford it's now or never as well. Mind you, this is nothing against Joe Burrow and the Bengals. Tremendous story and they'll be back (plus Burrow is the truth), but there's blood in the water for Los Angeles. The Rams have the better offense. The Rams have the better defense. I've ridden Los Angeles throughout the postseason under the exact same mantra, they have to win and everyone knows it. I'm certainly not stopping now.
What Joe Burrow and the Bengals have accomplished is extraordinary. Remember, though, they've faced the easiest schedule of opposing pass defenses and the second-easiest schedule of opposing rush defenses. This will be, by far, the best defense they have faced. Burrow has been pressured on 36 percent of his postseason dropbacks, a number sure to rise Sunday. While Burrow is deadly versus man coverage -- 15 TDs, 5 INTs, 10.9 yards per attempt on 145 dropbacks -- he's merely solid versus zone schemes: 12 TDs, 9 INTs, 8.5 ypa on 417 dropbacks. The Rams play zone 78 percent of the time, second-most in the NFL. Because they often use a 5-man front, the Rams are vulnerable on short passes over the middle. But Cincy could be without tight end C.J. Uzomah (knee), replaced by the far-less dynamic Drew Sample. Either way, I'm laying the points.
There's too much skill on these offenses to think this game will stay Under: Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Mixon on Cincinnati; Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. on Los Angeles. These teams both averaged 27.1 points a game in the regular season, which tied for seventh in the league. Also, unless you're expecting a game in the teens, there are very few score combinations that stay Under. We win with 23-23 or 24-24 in regulation. We also win with 26-23 or 28-21. I think this is pretty simple. Take the Over.
Cincinnati already has won at Tennessee and at Kansas City in the postseason. Both of those challenges were tougher than facing the Rams in a neutral-site Super Bowl, even if the game is in the L.A. area. And the Bengals defense absolutely shut down the Chiefs in the second half of the AFC Championship Game, and the Rams' offense poses less of a challenge. Officially, I'm taking Cincinnati to cover in a close game, and I wouldn't talk anyone out of also playing the Rams on the moneyline in an attempt to "middle" the game.
Aaron Donald vs. the Bengals’ O-line is an epic mismatch, but know what hasn’t been a mismatch this season? The Bengals against … anybody. Even when they lose they keep it close, and as of Feb. 2 they’re getting 4.5 points. Consider this: The Bengals had nine games against playoff teams (including three in the postseason) and if they had been 4.5-point ‘dogs in each, they would’ve gone 9-0 ATS. The Rams have had 10 games vs. playoff teams and if they had been 4.5-point favorites in each, they would’ve gone 3-7 ATS (they actually went 4-6 ATS). The Rams traded for an All-Star team and they’re facing a bad O-line, but ultimately I trust Joe Burrow to brush himself off and keep Cincy in it more than I trust the Rams’ stable of stars, who may already be planning the best L.A. parade route. Take the points.
It's been an unpredictable and thrilling postseason, with both No. 4 seeds battling through to reach the Super Bowl. Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford will garner the lion's share of the attention, but both defenses in this game have been critical to each team remaining alive. Ultimately, I believe the Rams defense is a bigger problem for the Bengals offense than vice versa. Jalen Ramsey and Co. can largely take away Cincy's deep passing attack, while the Rams defensive line is a major mismatch against Cincinnati's blockers. Sean McVay was overwhelmed in his first Super Bowl trip but I expect better from him here vs. his former assistant. Rams D carries the day as Los Angeles wins the Super Bowl.
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