The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals will meet in a Super Bowl LVI matchup that few saw coming at the start of the 2022 NFL playoffs. After pulling off two straight upsets to win the AFC championship, Cincinnati’s improbable run is about to come to an end in L.A.
The Super Bowl point spread favors the Rams by 4.5 points over the Bengals at DraftKings Sportsbook. The over/under is 48.5.
The last 13 NFL champions have covered the spread in the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl champion hasn’t won the game straight up and lost against the spread since the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 as seven-point favorites in 2009’s Super Bowl XLIII.
In the last 25 Super Bowls, only three favorites have won the title and lost against the spread.
Los Angeles has been better than Cincinnati all season long. Not only do the Rams have more talent, but they are playing their best football at the right time.
The Rams went 12-5 in the regular season and won a division that featured three playoff teams. L.A. dominated the Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round and did the same to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional playoffs before three second-half fumbles allowed the defending champs to put a scare into the Rams. In the NFC Championship Game, the Rams outgained the San Francisco 49ers by 114 yards.
The Bengals are playing great, as well, having won six straight games started by Joe Burrow. Cincinnati won the AFC North with a 10-7 record. All three of the Bengals’ playoff wins came down to the final play, including back-to-back game-winning field goals. It remains baffling how Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs blew a 21-3 lead against Cincinnati in the AFC Championship Game.
Cincinnati was led through the AFC playoff by gusty Burrow performances, key defensive plays and Evan McPherson’s 12 field goals. Burrow was under constant pressure and survived 12 playoff sacks after being sacked more than any quarterback during the regular season. The Bengals haven’t scored 27 points in regulation in three playoff games.
Tennessee and Kansas City had bottom-nine pass defenses. Las Vegas ranked 13th in passing yards allowed. The Raiders surrendered a 96.4 passer rating during the season, putting them behind 23 NFL teams.
The best pass defense that the Bengals have faced this season belonged to the Denver Broncos. Denver, which ranked sixth with an 85.0 opponents’ passer rating, held Burrow to 157 yards in a 15-10 Week 15 Cincinnati victory. Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II helped limit Ja’Marr Chase to just one catch for three yards.
The Rams have a shutdown corner of their own in Jalen Ramsey. Los Angeles’ 85.0 opponents’ passer rating was good for fifth in the league. In three playoff games against Kyler Murray, Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, L.A. has surrendered 220.7 passing yards per game for a 67.0 passer rating with four interceptions.
Aaron Donald remains the best defensive player in football. Von Miller, a dark-horse candidate to win Super Bowl MVP, has seven sacks in his last seven games.
Cincinnati’s defense has six playoff interceptions and a 73.5 opponents’ passer rating. The unit has taken advantage of some poor throws from Mahomes and Ryan Tannehill, who was picked off three times and lost the divisional round matchup for the Titans.
Matthew Stafford did lead the NFL with 17 regular-season interceptions. The Rams’ quarterback has only been picked off once this postseason. Los Angeles is 13-2 when Stafford throws fewer than two interceptions.
Stafford has the best numbers of any quarterback this postseason. The veteran has completed 72% of his passes for 905 yards, six touchdowns, one interception and a 115.6 passer rating. Los Angeles is scoring 28 points per game.
Burrow might be a better quarterback than Stafford, but he’s saddled with a poor offensive line and his No. 1 target has been eliminated on multiple occasions. That’s not the case for Stafford, who can always count on his best receiver to get open.
Cooper Kupp has incredibly posted more than 90 receiving yards in 18 of 20 games. Odell Beckham Jr. has 19 catches for 236 yards in the playoffs. The Rams were last held to fewer than 20 points on Nov. 15.
The Rams have Super Bowl experience at head coach with Sean McVay leading the team to Super Bowl LIII. Zac Taylor was the quarterback’s coach of that Los Angeles team and will be a head coach in the game for the first time.
Los Angeles is playing the Super Bowl in its home stadium. Cincinnati has been on the road for nearly a month.
Burrow and the Bengals should make more trips to the Super Bowl, but their first championship won’t come Sunday.
Score Prediction: Los Angeles over Cincinnati 27-20
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