Sunday, February 13th, 2022
SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Winner in Bold:
Los Angeles Rams (V) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (H)
For the second year in a row, and after it never happening in the Super Bowl era prior to last year, a team is playing for the Lombardi Trophy in its home stadium. For official purposes, due to the conference champions alternating as Super Bowl home team, Cincinnati is considered the home team. As much as I can tell, the only "advantage" afforded a home team in a neutral-site game is choice of uniform colour.
It comes as no surprise to me that the Bengals have chosen to wear dark jerseys.
LA is supposed to be in this game. They've been designed for it. They made the big game a few years ago, but the team didn't have the right players to execute Sean McVay's genius vision (just ask him). This season, the team went all-in to make a run at the title, beginning with the offseason trade of Jared Goff to Detroit for Matthew Stafford. During the season, LA was able to acquire Odell Beckham as a free agent, and Von Miller via trade.
LA is the team with the big names. Besides Stafford, Beckham, and Miller, they have multi-DPOY winner Aaron Donald, elite CB Jalen Ramsay, 2021 OPOY winner Cooper Kupp, and S Eric Weddle, who the team coaxed out of retirement after they were hit with multiple late-season injuries.
They've mortgaged their future, some say. They traded two first round picks for Ramsay, and two more for Stafford. They haven't had a first round pick since 2016, and they won't have another until at least 2024. They are a team built to win NOW.
Cincinnati isn't supposed to be here. Just don't tell them that. They won't believe you.
The Bengals have a slew of great players, but their players don't have the name recognition that the LA stars have. Joe Burrow was the number one pick in 2020, but he had his knee blown out during his rookie campaign, and was sidelined while Bolts' first rounder Justin Herbert stole the rookie spotlight.
In the 2021 draft, Cincy once again had a high pick. Most experts opined that they should take an offensive lineman, yet the Bengals opted for WR Ja'Marr Chase, Burrow's college teammate. Many experts thought that this was a mistake, though I doubt that any would say so now. Chase is a phenomenal talent, and he and Burrow have excellent chemistry.
Preseason predictions had Cincy finishing last in its division. They won it anyway, sweeping their nemeses Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and beating defending AFC champs KC along the way.
Before this season, Cincinnati hadn't won a playoff game since 1991. This Bengals team has won three playoff games, beating Las Vegas, top-seeded Tennessee, and KC again.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a team that no one thought would make the playoffs. They are four point underdogs. They are playing a "home" game in their opponent's home stadium.
The Cincinnati Bengals are not supposed to win this game.
Just don't tell them that. They won't believe you anyway.