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Mixon, Chase top scorers in Cincy
The Bengals stunned NFL fans and experts alike by turning a 4-11-1 campaign in 2020 into a 10-7 record and an AFC North title in 2021.
Throughout the season, running back Joe Mixon and rookie wideout Ja'Marr Chase did the brunt of the team's scoring, with Mixon accounting for 13 rushing scores and three receiving touchdowns, while Chase had 13 touchdown catches.
Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase already today: 11 catches, 266 yards, 3 TD.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 2, 2022
That's the MOST receiving yards in a single game by a rookie in NFL History!
The postseason has been a different story, as the Bengals have tallied just five touchdowns across three playoff games.
No player has recorded more than one touchdown in the postseason. The five who have found the end zone are tight end C.J. Uzomah (first quarter of the Wild Card Round), receiver Tyler Boyd (second quarter of the Wild Card Round), Mixon (third quarter of the Divisional Round), Samaje Perine (second quarter of the AFC Championship Game), and Chase (third quarter of the AFC title game).
Cincy has scored just once in the first quarter this postseason, and averaged 3.9 points in the first quarter in the regular season.
The offense scored nearly one rushing touchdown per outing and averaged two passing touchdowns per game, but LA's defense ranks second in opponent passing touchdowns per game (one), and allows 1.1 rushing scores per contest.
Look for a Rams receiver to score first
In the regular season, the Rams averaged fewer first-quarter points (3.7) than Cincinnati, but in the 2022 NFL Playoffs, they have scored a touchdown in the first quarter of every game.
In the Wild Card Round, midseason acquisition Odell Beckham Jr. was the first player to score on either team in LA's 34-11 beatdown of the Arizona Cardinals.
The following matchup against Tampa Bay, tight end Kendall Blanton racked up six points on a seven-yard pass from Matthew Stafford near the end of the first quarter.
In the NFC Championship Game, superstar wideout Cooper Kupp was the first touchdown scorer on a 16-yard pass from Stafford with 8:46 left in the first quarter.
With the Rams battling Cincinnati's bottom 10 pass defense, LA's receivers have an even better chance of reaching the end zone on Sunday.
The Rams are tied for second in passing touchdowns (2.4) per game but average 0.6 rushing scores.
Running back Cam Akers, who missed most of the regular season because of an Achilles injury, has yet to record a touchdown this year and will enter the Super Bowl banged-up, after he hurt his shoulder in the NFC title game.
Backfield mate Sony Michel has scored five times this season but has not reached the end zone in the playoffs.
The Bengals own one of the best run defenses and surrender 0.8 rushing scores per game, so don't expect the Rams' running backs to generate a ton of production.
Kupp is the best bet to score first in Super Bowl LVI
Where Cincinnati will likely get exposed is in the secondary, considering the defense gave up the third most passes of 20 or more yards this season.
That makes Kupp (30 catches of 20 or more yards) and Van Jefferson (four catches of 40 or more yards) dangerous to Cincy.
Jefferson had six touchdown receptions in the regular season, which was the second most of any Rams player, behind Kupp, who recorded a league-high 16.
Look for Stafford to target Kupp early and often on Sunday, and back the talented veteran to score the first touchdown of the game, at +475 odds.
For a longer shot, OBJ (+800) or Blanton (+1400) could sneak into the end zone first. Beckham caught a touchdown in five of his eight regular-season games with the Rams, while Blanton has emerged as a popular postseason target of Stafford's and will face a Cincinnati defense that struggled against tight ends all season.