Scully's Super Bowl pick: Burrow will get his chance to shine
The upstart Cincinnati Bengals will square off against the star-laden Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI. Considering both teams were No. 4 seeds, few envisioned this matchup when the playoffs began.
Both feature high-powered quarterbacks, but defense has been key to each team’s success in the postseason.
Sun, February 13 2022, 11:30 PM
Stafford vs. Burrow
After failing to win a playoff game during a 12-year stint in Detroit, Matthew Stafford led the Rams to the Super Bowl in his first season at the helm of Sean McVay’s offense. He was a little turnover-prone down the stretch of the regular season, tossing eight interceptions in the last four games, but came up clutch in the playoffs.
Burrow took Cincinnati to the Super Bowl in his second season, and he’s overcome one of the worst offensive lines to do so, being sacked 51 times during the regular season and 12 more times in the playoffs. They call him “Joe Cool” because Burrow never loses his composure, always getting up off the mat to attack opposing defenses.
Rams pass rush a threat to Bengals offensive line
LA’s biggest edge comes up front defensively, as they can dominate opponents with relentless pressure. Ranked first in pass rush win rate (53%), the Rams shut down Arizona in the Wild Card Round by constantly swarming Kyler Murray.
Shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey anchors a solid secondary, and the Rams have four interceptions in three playoff games.
Bengals defense has been opportunistic
Trey Hendrickson ranks third in total sacks the last two seasons, behind T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett, and he combined with up-and-coming defensive end Sam Hubbard to record 3.5 sacks in the AFC Championship Game, keeping Patrick Mahomes off-balance in the second half and overtime session.
Along with a respectable pass rush, the Bengals have become extremely opportunistic in the postseason, forcing seven turnovers, including five interceptions, in three games.
Super Bowl LVI prediction
Fans love offensive fireworks, and the Super Bowl features an abundance of playmakers. Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. can stretch defenses for LA, and the Bengals counter with a pair of downfield threats in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.
Joe Burrow (25): 4,165 yards— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 27, 2021
Joe Mixon (25): 1,159 yards
Ja'Marr Chase (21): 1,163 yards
Tee Higgins (22): 1,029 yards
The Bengals are the first team in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 2 1,000-yard receivers all 25 or younger in the same season. pic.twitter.com/esaVoV50YV
However, neither offense has been prolific in the postseason, and both teams will turn it over. The Rams had only seven points entering the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game, and the Bengals recorded only three points in the fourth quarter of each playoff game.
The teams fed upon defense to make it this far, and as a result, five of their combined six playoff games went under the total.
Cincinnati developed an identity late in the season, they grinded out first downs and controlled clock. They’ll slow down the Rams' pressure by mixing the run game and short passes in the first half, utilizing running back Joe Mixon and receiver Tyler Boyd, and will eventually create opportunities for Burrow to exploit.
Close games were a staple of the Divisional and Conference Championship rounds — there were no standouts in this year’s playoffs — and we can expect more of the same in the Super Bowl.
In a close, low-scoring game that will be decided by a field goal, Cincinnati and the Under (48.5 points) offer value.