By: Jordan Kendall, Senior Staff Writer
Views expressed in this column are the author’s own.
The 2022 Super Bowl features one of the most intriguing matchups in a while between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati will make their first Super Bowl appearance since 1988 while Los Angeles will make their second appearance in four years.
The game will be played at Sofi Stadium, the home of the Rams. This will be the second consecutive Super Bowl with a team playing in their home stadium after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played in last year’s game on their home field.
For this week’s column, I’m going to preview the game and give my predictions.
The headline matchup of this game is between the two starting quarterbacks, Matthew Stafford for Los Angeles and Joe Burrow for Cincinnati. Both will make their Super Bowl debuts, Stafford in his 13th season while Burrow makes it in his second year.
They have both played at a very high level this postseason. Stafford has thrown for over 300 yards in back-to-back games and has six passing touchdowns this postseason with only one interception. He had a lot of pressure on him entering the season, the Rams went all-in on acquiring talent including Stafford and it’s paying off.
Against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship, Stafford impressed me in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles was held to seven points in the first three quarters, but he led them to 13 points in the last 15 minutes. He faced constant pressure all game and was still very accurate and cautious with the ball.
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Burrow has had a breakout postseason. Against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship, he led the Bengals to victory after being down 21-3. While he did throw an interception early in the fourth quarter, three of the four drives in the second half and overtime were impressive. Each drive took over five minutes off the game clock and at least nine plays.
It is not easy to go into Arrowhead Stadium and win a game. It’s even harder when quarterback Patrick Mahomes is on the other sideline. He showed incredible poise for anyone, let alone a quarterback in his second year as a pro.
Each team also has a wide receiver who had a historic season in 2021. The Rams have Cooper Kupp who was the fourth player in NFL history to lead the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947), and receiving touchdowns (16).
The Bengals have Ja’Marr Chase who broke their franchise record for receiving yards in a season with 1,455. He also broke an NFL record with 279 receiving yards in a single postseason by a rookie. It doesn’t matter what you do on defense, they both find ways to get open and make plays. I expect both to have a big impact on this game.
While the play of the two quarterbacks and two leading receivers will definitely decide the outcome, I believe this game comes down to the trenches. The Bengals offensive line has been inconsistent at best this season while Los Angeles has arguably the best defensive line in football.
In the regular season, Cincinnati allowed the third-most sacks, and Burrow took a league-high 51 sacks. The Rams defense finished with 50 sacks which was also the third-best in the league. Against Kansas City, Burrow only took one sack. That is unlikely to happen with defensive tackle Aaron Donald and linebacker Von Miller both playing at a very high level.
Cincinnati is not going to stop Donald, he is going to get pressure on Burrow. If Burrow can get the ball out fast and let his playmakers do what they do best, that is their only chance to win. If he’s feeling pressure and has nowhere to go with the ball, it’s going to be a long day.
Last year I picked the Chiefs to beat Tampa Bay. I thought the Buccaneers could stop Kansas City, but not for an entire game. I went with my heart instead of my head which told me to never pick against quarterback Tom Brady.
This year my heart tells me to pick the Bengals. It seems like they’re a team of destiny and this is their year. No one expected them to be here, I was among many fans who thought they would finish last in the AFC North. They have proven me wrong time and time again.
However, my head tells me to pick Los Angeles. They are the better team on paper, they’re at home, and they have the best player in football in Donald. I think this game is going to be close. The only way this turns into a blowout is if Burrow is on his back every play.
My prediction is that the Cincinnati Bengals win the Super Bowl 27-24. I think kicker Evan McPherson wins it on a field goal. So far in the playoffs, he hasn’t missed an extra point or field goal. He’s also won back-to-back games for the Bengals on a game-winning field goal.
I think he does it again, and Cincinnati wins their first Lombardi trophy in franchise history. I am going with destiny and counting on the Bengals offensive line to keep Burrow on his feet. If they can do it, they will win this game.