Tee Higgins could turn the tide of Super Bowl LVI
The Super Bowl between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams is filled with compelling storylines: Young quarterback Joe Burrow vs. veteran Matthew Stafford, two head coaches both under the age of 40, a half-century of waiting for Super Bowl glory by the Bengals faithful, and the Rams playing in their home stadium.
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Among all those stories, though, there will be a few key moments that likely decide the game and ultimately determine its victor.
Let’s take a look at two of the biggest X-factors in Super Bowl LVI that could make all the difference in which team hoists the Lombardi Trophy.
Rams DT Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald is a highly emotional player who has been known to get a little aggressive after the whistle blows, but that same emotion and fire has motivated him to the point that he is one of the league’s best defensive players.
Donald already has three Defensive Player of the Year awards to his name and could earn a fourth for his play in 2021.
AARON DONALD CREATES THE TURNOVER. #RamsHouse #NFLPlayoffs— NFL (@NFL) January 31, 2022
📺: #SFvsLAR on FOX
📱: https://t.co/vywGt5Kgfz pic.twitter.com/pcltmPm9EP
As one of the greatest defensive linemen of all time, Donald demands a double-team almost every down. Certainly against a Bengals offensive line that struggles in pass protection with a 30th-ranked pass block win rate, Donald is sure to demand a lot of attention.
Whether Donald gets to the quarterback or not is likely going to be decided by whether the Bengals choose to neutralize him and force other defenders to make the big play, or whether they take their chances at playing things straight up and hope Donald has an off night.
Considering the stakes and the unimpressive offensive line he is up against, it is highly unlikely Donald is off his game.
He may not put up huge numbers, but the impact he makes in disrupting an offense is unmistakable, both on film and in the advanced analytics.
Bengals WR Tee Higgins
The Bengals are presumably going to have this year’s Rookie of the Year winner in wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. He led the team with 128 receptions for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns, so the award will be well-deserved.
But one player does not make an offense, and Chase wouldn’t have seen that same success if his counterpart Tee Higgins weren’t on the field as well, drawing attention from defenders.
Higgins is a 6’4” star out of Clemson, where he learned to win and earned a reputation as a dangerous weapon that can be utilized all over the field. A former high school finalist for Mr. Basketball, Higgins’ athleticism and ball skills make him a difficult matchup for many second and third corners.
Tee Higgins' 103 receiving yards led all receivers in the AFC Championship.— Austin Pendergist (@apthirteen) January 30, 2022
Big time player making big time plays in big time games. pic.twitter.com/qQPviZJunh
If Jalen Ramsey draws the top assignment and sticks with Chase, Higgins may see even more looks than he received in 2021, where he averaged just under eight receptions per game. His ability to line up at every receiver position is an added bonus.
Higgins hasn’t received the reputation or fanfare that his teammates Burrow and Chase have, but make no mistake, his athleticism and size can be difference makers. In averaging 14.7 yards per reception, he has all the makeup of a big-play receiver that can change the course of a game.