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  • Writer's pictureJosh Jenkins


Joe Burrow has been that dude.

It's exactly where we thought we'd be.

The Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams squaring off at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Cali.

OK - I'll accept not many of us had the Bengals representing the AFC but when LA went and sold the farm to acquire Matthew Stafford from snowy Michigan, that let us know these Rams were all in on a Super Bowl run.

Add in veteran additions - Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr - and the picture is crystal clear in Hollywood... only a Lombardi will suffice.

Cincinnati snapped a 33-year playoff win drought - the largest in major North American sports history. That was supposed to be enough. Snap the streak and call it a day.

But these Bengals believed.

They believed they could do more. So they went into Nashville and knocked off the No. 1 seeded Tennessee Titans despite them having a freshly returning Derrick Henry.

They then ventured into Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and had the audacity to come back from a 21-3 deficit to upend the highly highly fancied Chiefs in OT.

These Bengals are the cinderella story of this NFL season.

A 2nd year QB coming back from a harrowing knee injury. His rookie receiving team mate who has shattered rookie wideout records all over the place. An understated but play-making defence. A rookie kicker who was the only kicker taken in last year's draft.

All orchestrated by a 38-year-old coach who no one truly knows much about, including whether he's even a quality head coach.

That is the story of the 2021/22 Bengals - the last chapter is to be written in a few days time.

Then there are their opponents - the LA Rams.

Sean McVay has led them to a Super Bowl before, only for Brady and Belichick to ruin the party. So they reload and go again.

On that team was Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods (would be playing here except for injury), Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Brandin Cooks and Ndamukong Suh.

Leading this squad is Stafford, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Cooper Kupp. Mix in some Miller, OBJ and continued McVay magic and the Rams are back on the box office screens.

The tale of the tape is incredibly similar...

Both squads average exactly 27.1 points per game, ranked 7th in the NFL across the regular season. They've both given up 50+ sacks, which is all we've heard about for Cincinnati but perhaps there's an understated weakness in the same position for LA.

The Bengals average a tick over 100 rush yards per game, the Rams a tick under.

Both teams were penalised less than 80 times this season. Both ranking among the most disciplined in football.

The Bengals have a slight edge in time of possession, but they've been in more close games so that makes sense.

Cincy's home playoff win over Vegas was admirable but far from as impressive as what they've done to Tennsee and KC - both on the road, both ending with walk-off game-winning field goals.

LA thumped NFC West rivals, Arizona, before ending the season - and career - of Tom Brady. Then, the hoodoo was snapped when they got past San Francisco after losing the past six to them.

Now, a Super Bowl place awaits - on their home turf with a genuine upstart lying in wait.

This is an incredibly fun match-up.

Aaron Donald - the man who will be hunting Burrow.

Here are the FIVE keys to SUPER BOWL LVI as broken down on The Field - NFL, which featured guest selections from SEN & Fox Footy's Gerard Whateley, Channel 7's Andy Maher, Sky Racing's David Gately, TAB's Nick Quinn, former Adelaide Crow Tom Lynch, current Gold Coast Sun Rory Atikins and Brownlow Medalist Jobe Watson, plus a few who did not bother to pick up the phone.

The Bengals offensive line - can they hold up?


Cincinnati's tight ends and backs will need to be involved. Blocking Donald, Miller and Leonard Floyd with individual assignments is a recipe for disaster!

Burrow is smart, he will know #99 is hunting. Screens to Joe Mixon and the receivers will help slow the rush as will an ability for Mixon to run the rock.

The Bengals O lineman are overmatched, make no mistake, but they can execute a plan to keep Joe clean and give him a chance to shine.

ADVANTAGE - Rams, but the Bengals can keep them honest.

Ja'Marr Chase is not your ordinary rookie.


Chase is All-World as a rookie. Problem is, Ramsey has been All-World for a few years. (Just ask him)

I hope the Bengals offensive staff is crafty enough to give their stud rook some looks in the run game. Allow him to touch the ball without having to win on a route against Ramsey. He's deadly enough with ball in hand that he can make plays in the ground game like a Deebo Samuel.

Chase is a rare blend of everything. Ramsey is outstanding, utilising his length and strength.

ADVANTAGE - Ram(sey) but Chase is generationally great so we shall see.

Jalen Ramsey is not your ordinary cornerback.


Yes, kickers are people, too.

Gay and McPherson are weapons. Rookie McPherson is 16/16 these playoffs with two consecutive walk-off winning kicks. He had the yips once all season. An incredible run for a rookie K.

Statistically, Gay is even better - he goes at 86% on his career and 32/34 on the season.

ADVANTAGE - McPherson is in the zone.

Evan McPherson - the kick that sent Cincinnati to the Super Bowl.


150+ catches, 2,000+ yards. Kupp has had an unthinkably great season. 5 catches for 64 yards is the worst performance he's had all season. Mind-blown!

13 times (from 19 games) CK has surpassed 100 receiving yards. Add in 20 touchdowns and you being to see why Cincinnati's defensive backs will be spending extra time in front of the game film.

Eli Apple, Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates will all get a look. Can they contain Kupp?

You cannot stop him, but can you contain him?

ADVANTAGE - Kupp, easily.

Cooper Kupp has been other-worldly.


Quarterback battles are largely irrelevant.

Neither straps up the helmet and plays defence but one can very much leave the other dangling in the breeze, unable to keep the pace.

Stafford has thrown 47 TD passes and over 5,000 yards passing.

In 12 years as a Lion, he went 0-3 in the playoffs. In one season in LA, he's 3-0.

Burrow has played a decade less than Stafford but his recovery from that gruesome knee has been remarkable. His poise, tenacity and ability to make the correct decision has me calling him 'Baby Brady'.

IF the Bengals can keep his jersey clean, then Joey B can do what he did at LSU.

He can put a ring on that finger!


Lucky season No. 13 for Matthew Stafford?


Burrow was a No. 1 pick, so much was expected.

He's delivered in spades. A sophomore Super Bowl would ice a big ole cake which looks like lasting a further decade.

Chase, Higgins, Mixon, Boyd and maybe Uzomah - it's a talent-laden offensive squad.

Stafford has been more than I anticipated as a Ram. He's led his squad to the promised land.

The Rams are built for the now, the Bengals are built for the future.

But everyone forgot to tell Jackpot Joey, Ja'Marr, Joe Mixon and big Tee Hig.

I'm rolling with these CINCINNATI BENGALS.



MVP: Burrow, of course.

1st TD: Burrow.

Click the link for THE FIELD - NFL podcast preview.

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