By Nick Ratliff
The Super Bowl is one of the most exciting annual sporting events in the world. This year’s Super Bowl will feature the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. This Super Bowl has rejuvenated hope for NFL fans. NFL fans have wanted wider variety in the teams in the Super Bowl and now we have it. Both teams have become very popular throughout the United States.
Last year’s Super Bowl was played by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, marking the first time in Super Bowl history a team played in their home stadium. Following suit, this year’s Super Bowl will be played in SoFi Stadium, home of the LA Rams. Last year, playing in their home stadium gave the Buccaneers a massive home-field advantage over the Chiefs, but I do not think that will affect this year’s outcome. Throughout the playoffs, opposing teams have had more fans in SoFi stadium than the Rams.
The LA Rams have gone all in this season. They’ve traded for many big names and signed a big name in Odell Beckham Jr. The Rams finished the regular season with a 12-5 record. The Rams offense is headed up by quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was traded to the Rams from the Detroit Lions this year. This will be his first time playing in the Super Bowl.
Another star of this offense is wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who won Offensive Player of the Year. He almost broke the single-season record for receiving yards and catches. This duo has led one of the best offenses in the league this year. A big factor in this game could be wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and tight end Tyler Higbee.
Odell Beckham Jr.’s big-play explosiveness could shift the momentum of the game quickly. Higbee also has an opportunity to become a pivotal player in this game. The Bengals have given up the fourth-most catches to tight ends this season, which means we could receive a big game from Higbee.
The Rams’ defense is an intimidating one. Heading up this defense are two of the best defensive players and biggest names in the league, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Donald, who is a menace on the defensive line, wreaks havoc in every game he plays. Due to this, he often gets double-teamed, which opens his teammates to get to the quarterback. Ramsey will likely follow Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals’ best wide receiver.
Ramsey has been widely regarded as the best cornerback in the league for years and for many years to come. Another key factor in this game is Von Miller, who was MVP in Super Bowl L. With Donald drawing double teams, this will likely lead to Miller having one on ones the whole game. I could feasibly see him winning Super Bowl MVP again with a few sacks and even another forced fumble like he did against Cam Newton in 2016.
On the opposite side of the field, we have the Bengals, who have surprised everyone this year with their performance. NFL analysts had the Bengals finishing dead last in their division, but they have defied all odds this year. Leading the squad is quarterback Joe Burrow, who has a chance at being the only player in football history to win the Heisman, the College Football Championship and the Super Bowl. This would be a crazy accomplishment for the young quarterback. This will also be the first time in NFL history that two number one overall picks, Stafford and Burrow, will face each other in the Super Bowl.
The Bengals’ offense has some serious weapons. Some would say that the Bengals have the best receiving core in the NFL, headed up by Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. Chase is most likely going to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Burrow and Chase played together at LSU, and their chemistry has carried over to the NFL. The only major flaw is in the offensive line, despite efforts to upgrade it. Donald and Miller might have a field day with Burrow, but he can escape out of the pocket and extend plays. The run game of the Bengals with Joe Mixon, a top ten running back who has big play ability, might help them to win this game.
The Bengals defense is headed up by one of the best safeties in football, Jessie Bates III. He is one of the few bright spots on an otherwise average defense. That said, the Bengals’ run defense is above average. Trey Hendrickson and DJ Reader have been consistently good for the Bengals.
Eli Apple, a recent addition to the Bengals, has had a pretty good postseason this year. He had a rough career being released by a team earlier in the season, but he turned it around with the Bengals in the past few months. This game will determine if he has what it takes to be a good cornerback in the NFL.
In my opinion, this is a David versus Goliath game. For the most part, the Rams have more skill and experience than the Bengals. They have the big names like Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. The Rams have too many superstars to lose this game, but the Bengals have had a few miracles this postseason.
The Bengals beat the Titans on a last-second field goal to take them to the AFC Championship game. Then, the Bengals had to face, in my opinion, the best offense in the NFL and stopped them in overtime. Beating the Chiefs was the staple game for the Bengals. No one believed they were Super Bowl contenders the whole season, but here they are, competing for a World Championship.
My final prediction is that it comes down to the last few minutes of the game. Who will be the person to make a big play? Who will win their team the Super Bowl? I think it will be the Rams defense; Aaron Donald and Von Miller will be too much. Miller will look like his old self and win Super Bowl MVP once again. He’ll probably cause at least one fumble and get a pair of sacks. In the end, I think the Rams will win 28-24 in the biggest game of the year.
Nick Ratliff is a Junior business management major. He enjoys playing volleyball, basketball and video games.